Tea Party Hypocrisy? Some Lawmakers With Tea Party Ties Are on the Government Dole

Which tea partiers are getting hundreds of thousands of government dollars?

ByABC News
March 30, 2011, 4:21 PM

March 31, 2011 — -- The Tea Party swept into the 112th Congress with promises of cutting government spending.

But according to a report out today, at least five lawmakers with Tea Party connections have been longtime recipients of federal agricultural subsidies.

"There's nothing too surprising about hypocrisy in Washington," Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, told ABC News. "This particular group, you not only have to look at the hypocrisy but you need to watch your wallet."

While the majority of American farmers receive no government money at all, at least 23 current members of congress or their families have received government money for their farms -- combining for more than $12 million since 1995 according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group.

The biggest recipient was Rep. Stephen Fincher, a Republican from Frog Jump, Tenn.

While the self-described Tea Party patriot lists his occupation as "farmer" and "gospel singer" in the Congressional Directory, he doesn't mention that his family has received more than $3 million in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2009, according to the Environmental Working Group.

When asked whether he would be willing to see all his subsidies go away, Fincher would not directly say he would no longer take any more subsidies.

"We need a good, better, we need a better farm program and we need to streamline it," he said. "We need to look at many many options. And that's a long way off."

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., who also was swept into office with the Tea Party movement, received $774,489 in farm subsidies over the same period, according to the EWG's numbers.

According to the EWG report, Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., received almost $180,000 between 1997 and 2009.

ABC News' Diane Sawyer grilled the lawmakers on the subject in January during her exclusive Tea Party interview with 10 freshmen members of the House and Senate.

"Are you ready to vote against all farm subsidies? That's $20 billion by one estimate, at least," Sawyer asked.

"Well, I think everything should be on the table," Hartzler said. "And, yes, there's a lot of us farmers that have participated in the program."

Sawyer then asked Rep. Stutzman about the more than $100,000 in farm subsidies he received and whether he would vote to cut them.

Stutzman told ABC News that he is in favor of eliminating farm subsidies, including his own.

"Yes, I would vote to eliminate farm subsidies. It manipulates the market," he said. "And that's the problem here in Washington: The adult conversation, I think, has to be, 'no.'"

Hartzler said she was open to "starting the discussion and look at it."

But she added, "I think we need to make sure that everything is looked at before we just pick on the farmers."

Republicans are not the only ones who received federal subsidies.

On the Democrats side, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., received $159,549 from USDA subsidies between 1995 and 2009, according to the report.

Listed as owners of T-Bone Farms, Tester and his wife Sharla received $282,754 in subsidies between the years of 1995 and 2009.