Sniffing Out the Conservative Rat PACshttp://www.hardhatters.com/2014/04/sniffing-conservative-rat-pacs/
by Jordan Long
The philosopher Eric Hoffer once remarked that “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”
Is this the current trajectory of the Tea Party and the conservative movement more broadly?
People who care about liberty, opportunity, and preserving the constitutional system bequeathed to us by the Founders are frustrated with the path American politics is treading. They want a course correction. Since Barack Obama’s assumption of the presidency, and all the dreadfulness that has entailed, lots of organizations have gain prominence promising to take action against the administration and its enablers on Capitol Hill. They have raised money from concerned, patriotic Americans for that purpose, promising to support congressional candidates who share their conservative values through Political Action Committees, or PACs.
Tea Party Rally
PACs have been influencing American politics since 1943, when the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), a labor union now part of the AFL-CIO, organized to spend money to support the reelection of President Franklin Roosevelt.
Not all right of center PACs are created equal. Before giving to just any group which sends an advertisement or an email, conservatives need to verify the sort of work that they do and how they are spending their money. By doing just a bit of homework, donors who care about freedom and the future of America can promote those groups which really are doing important work on behalf of liberty, and prevent the sordid degeneration of the conservative movement into a racket.
Here’s a breakdown of the financials for a few leading conservative movement and Tea Party PACs, except for Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC which is considered more establishment. Figures are for the 2011-2012 cycle unless specified.
Raised Spent % Spent – Operations % Spent – Independent Expenditures % Spent - Candidates & Campaigns
Club for Growth PAC $18,253,913 $17,931,937 7% 92.5% 0%
American Crossroads $117,472,407 $117,044,325 10% 89.9% 0.1%
FreedomWorks for America $23,453,198 $22,621,967 12.9% 86.8% 0%
Senate Conservatives Fund $15,944,858 $15,882,748 36.6% 22.3% 40.9%
Our Country Deserves Better PAC- TeaPartyexpress.org $10,166,906 $9,347,615 88.8% 7.3% 2.8%
Madison Project, Inc. $1,990,483 $1,779,968 92% 0.5% 5.5%
Sarah PAC $5,007,860 $5,186,776 93.6% 0% 5.9%
Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund (2013) $6,405,087 $5,335,162 100% 0% 0%
All of these groups list helping elect candidates to some degree as part of their mission statements.
Clearly, there is huge variation about how PACs choose to tackle this task. Club for Growth, American Crossroads, FreedomWorks, and to a lesser degree Senate Conservatives Fund are injecting large sums of money into campaigns either through direct donations or independent expenditures.
Our Country Deserves Better PAC, the action arm of Tea Party Express, says its mission is “identifying and supporting conservative candidates and causes that will champion tea party values.” However, almost 90% of spending went to operating expenditures on salaries, consulting fees, travel, and postage and shipping. Almost all of the advertising and fundraising efforts promoted the PAC, with only limited independent expenditures on media buys on behalf of actual candidates.
The Madison Project believes in “recruiting and supporting candidates who will not only effectively articulate all the tenants of constitutional conservatism, but have the courage to fight for those values in the face of opposition from Republican Party bosses.” But FEC records show the great majority of operating expenditures went to travel, consulting fees, mailings, advertisements on behalf of the Madison Project, and renting lists of potential contacts. The directors of the PAC, Jim and Drew Ryun, receive consulting fees from their own organization.
Sarah PAC tries “supporting fresh ideas and candidates who share our vision for reform and innovation.” But, most of the budget has been eaten up by operating expenditures on travel, consulting fees, mailers and online advertisements on behalf of the PAC, and legal fees. It gives proportionally little in direct contributions to campaigns.
The Tea Party Patriot Citizen Fund “is committed to equipping grassroots activists at the state and local level with the tools and resources needed to hold elected officials and government accountable and elect new and qualified candidates.” But, a staggering 100% of outlays from 2013-2014 went towards operating expenditures, of the same type that is by now familiar; consulting, renting mailing lists, and advertisements on behalf of the PAC.
Unfortunately, some of these groups fundraise off of anxious, well-meaning Americans who want to make positive changes in Washington. However, these organizations aren’t actually doing anything substantial towards that purpose. Others hew more closely to their stated goals and spend money trying to actually influence candidates and campaigns.
The donor’s task here is to separate the wheat from the chaff and find groups which align with your intent. Be leery of giving to just any group with an attractive name and flashy website.
As conservatives should know all too well, good intentions just aren’t good enough