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I have been involved in the tea party since its inception in February of 2009 and know most of the “players.” What has been a disturbing trend to me and other tea partiers is the rise of “professional tea party groups.” These organizations are not the grassroots organizations that came as a result of the grassroots movement, but are D.C. organizations that seized on the momentum and popularity of the tea party.
A recent article in Politico titled 'Professional Tea Party Cashes In,' states: “The groups – Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, Leadership Institute, and Tea Party Express – raised $79 million last year.” Unfortunately, the article fails to include the Tea Party Patriots and TheTeaParty.net, because they have not gone “pro.”
The decentralized nature of the tea party, which is often stated as its strength, has allowed for the takeover of the “tea party brand.” Most local tea parties have barely enough money to cover the costs of their websites and modest events while the professional organizations have salaries that would make Wall Street proud. The local grassroots groups make the calls, emails, and do all the work, while the “professionals” collect the checks.
This might be fair if money was flowing down from the “professional” groups to the local groups. Unfortunately, if you don’t count the sticker or button with a fifth grader slogan, most grassroots groups never get any kind of support from the “professionals.”
Grassroots tea party leaders must draw a line in the sand and start demanding financial support from the “professional groups.” If the “professionals” refuse to give money to grassroots organizations, the grassroots leaders need to tell their members of the situation. Making friends and building “coalitions” is only beneficial if all parties benefit.
If grassroots tea parties don’t stand up to D.C. professional tea party groups, I predict all the hard work by the real tea parties will be lost and manipulated by D.C. The time has come for tea party groups to evolve into the powerhouse they are and leave the professionals at home.