Is the Tea Party Going Broke?

Or should fundraisers blame the awful economy?

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The Tea Party is having money issues, declares a Politico piece by Kenneth Vogel. Some activists are worried their work is being "undermined by a shortage of cash." This shortfall is "partly the result of a deep ambivalence within the movement's grass roots over the very idea of fundraising and partly attributable to an inability to win over the wealthy donors who fund the conservative establishment." Is it true that the Tea Party's coffers are almost bare? If so, what does it portend for 2010 and beyond? The piece throws a new twist on an old debate about the movement's staying power.

  • The Issue  "Many of the newly engaged activists who joined the movement regard traditional political fundraising as representative of the corrupt politics they abhor," explains Vogel, while "anecdotal evidence ... suggests that many groups are being financed out of the pockets of a handful of organizers and activists." That said, some think the Tea Partiers' strength was always supposed to be in its enthusiasm and work, not its pockets.
  • Tea Party Absorption Imminent  Vogel's colleague Ben Smith reads this as one more sign that "for practical political purposes, the Tea Party movement is likely to wind up as essentially a trade name of the GOP."
  • Tea Party Is Not a Single Party, Patrick at Political Byline reminds readers. In fact, calling it a party at all is a bit of a stretch. A conservative who considers himself outside the Tea Party movement, Patrick agrees that the Tea Partiers "are deeply suspicious of anyone who has a huge bank account." Colby Hall at Mediaite seconds the reminder that it is "almost impossible to define the numerous groups that come under the broader 'Tea Party' rubric."
  • Catch-22  The movement's "bootstrap quality attracts people to the rallies even if it does leave question about the movement's ability to survive," writes Ed Morrissey at conservative site Hot Air. He agrees that the issue of a few people funding most of the events "will lead to ... major issues sooner or later." But there's a "conundrum" or two to deal with: first, part of the momentum for the movement comes from the bad economy, which leads to difficulties with "grassroots fundraising." Second: if the Tea Party wants to stick around long enough "to help make Barack Obama a one-term President and put Republicans back in charge ... activists will have to start planning for long-term funding and embrace some of the parts of politics that has until now been distasteful for these grassroots."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.