Tea Party Fundraising PACs Surge, but Cash Comes Slowly

Groups are proliferating, but most haven't raised much money.

ByABC News
June 17, 2010, 8:54 AM

June 17, 2010 -- The "Tea Party" movement that's staging rallies and shaking up GOP primaries with its anti-tax, anti-establishment message is using at least one conventional approach to politics: Its backers have established more than 30 committees to collect campaign cash to influence elections.

A dozen political action committees bearing the Tea Party name have been created since July 2009, filings with the Federal Election Commission show. Another 24 fundraising committees have been established with the IRS. Those groups, known as 527s for the section of the tax code under which they operate, can raise unlimited amounts of money for their political activity. Political action committees can collect no more than $5,000 a year from an individual.

Although the groups are proliferating, records show most haven't raised much money. Their leaders say they are building the political groundwork to aid Tea Party-backed candidates up and down the ballot in November -- from local sheriffs' races to congressional contests.

The new fundraising operations show that Tea Party activists "are serious ... and understand that parties, including small upstart parties, need money," said Costas Panagopoulos, director of the Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy at Fordham University in New York.

"At some point in time, rallies are enough. How many more signs can you make?" said Mark A. Skoda, who started the Memphis Tea Party PAC last year. "In order to change the political system, we have to be involved in the political system."

That sentiment also drove the Independence Hall Tea Party Association, which is active in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania, to launch its political action committee in February.

Since then, it has raised enough money to donate $1,000 to Republican businessman Tim Burns in advance of the Pennsylvania's May 18 special election to replace late Democratic Rep. John Murtha, said Don Adams, a part-time meeting planner from suburban Philadelphia who serves as the PAC's president.