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The Tea Party's subtle transition from grassroots sign-makers into savvy fundraisers with DC addresses becomes more obvious once you look at how the groups are spending money. When you're left to defend your luxury townhouse's hot tub as not really being a hot tub, it's possible that you might have strayed from your original purpose a bit.

That defense comes from one of the more prominent — and politically active — groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund. SCF has been a consistent thorn in the side of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in part thanks to its on-again, off-again relationship with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and in part thanks to its backing McConnell's primary opponent. When McConnell attacked SCF in a campaign ad, referring to its "luxury townhouse with a wine cellar and hot tub in Washington, D.C.," SCF executive director Matt Hoskins defended the organization to Roll Call. “We don’t even have a hot tub,” he said. “It has a whirlpool bath tub, and I’m told that it doesn’t even work." ("I'm told.")

Again, SCF is better than other conservative groups, in that it spends money on townhouses, nonfunctional whirlpool bathtubs, and politics. It spent $1.3 million in independent expenditures during the last cycle, plus another $6.4 million in contributions through another PAC. And it spent $640,000 between 2010 and this January on Bold Colors, a consulting firm owned by a guy named Matt Hoskins, according to Roll Call.

Both Roll Call and The Daily Caller broke down spending by prominent Tea Party groups that's, in some cases, even more questionable. We graphed four of the groups' spending, as reported in the outlets, to give a sense of where the money is going.

In each graph below, costs are categorized. Gray pie slices are unknown costs. Blue slices are staff and overhead costs. Red slices are political spending. Green slices are costs spent on fundraising.

Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund

Data from The Daily Caller

Total spent: $5.3 million

Tea Party Express PAC

Data from Roll Call

Total raised: $10 million

Note: "[O]ne of [the PAC's] lead organizers, political consultant Sal Russo, handled the bulk of the group’s fundraising, travel, consulting, direct mail and ad production — earning his California consulting firm Russo Marsh & Associates a cool $2.3 million."


Data from Roll Call

Total raised: $15 million

Madison Project

Data from Roll Call

Total raised: $1.8 million

What the money symbolized by the large gray slices above is being spent on isn't clear. In many cases, it's probably additional staff and facility costs. But it's likely not politics. As The Daily Caller's Alexis Levinson wrote about the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund in February, "so far, no money has been spent to support those candidates" that the group supports.

The silver lining: SCF at least hasn't spent any money that could be used on campaigns to fix its broken whirlpool tub.

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