Of the $37.5 million spent by major tea party groups in 2014, $7 million has gone to candidates. The bulk has been spent on fundraising, polling, expenses, and consultants, The Washington Post reported.
The Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express, and the Madison Project, for example, have used up 5 percent or so of their funds on election-related activity. The Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks have contributed about 40 percent of their funds to candidate-related expenses. Of the $7.4 million spent by the Tea Party Patriots, $184,505 has gone to boost candidates, according to the Post.
Many of the groups have spent heavily on overhead, including on consulting firms, retirement plans, and on an interior designer. In soliciting for funds, many of the groups do specifically say some donor money will be spent on ads.
Salaries are also a major cost. Jenny Beth Martin, president of the Tea Party Patriots, for instance, will likely earn over $450,000 this year, according to the Post.
The Tea Party Express has donated $45,000 to candidates and spent $162,000 on ads since 2013. It paid its consulting firm $2.75 million.
Consultant Sal Russo justified this money as reimbursements for staffing bus tours and rallies around the country. "Everything goes on our credit card. Sometimes there's up to 45 people that we've got to feed and house."
"People get excited to see that they're not alone, that people share their concerns," Russo said. "That's the niche that we think we can fill best."
Tea party groups say they need to invest heavily on "marshaling resources" and in training supporters rather than in directly channeling cash to candidates or spending on political commercials.
Dan Backer, treasurer of the Tea Party Leadership Fund, said that soliciting "grass-roots money" is costlier than raising money from individual wealthy donors.
Adam Brandon, of FreedomWorks, said that training activists for telephone and door-to-door outreach pays off politically. Spending funds on ads "would be a complete waste of our money. Training and arming an activist is a lot harder, but it's a lot cheaper."
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