Monday, August 9, 2010

The Tea Parties' dilemma

Does a grass-roots organization need to raise money? Or can it even survive if it doesn't? This is the question facing many Tea Party movements as they grapple with the fact that "money is the mother's milk of politics." * Here's what Kenneth B. Vogel writes in
Many tea party organizations have shied away from the heavy-handed solicitations that flood the e-mail boxes of political activists. And the handful of tea party groups that have raised substantial amounts, either by embracing aggressive fundraising or through pre-existing connections to wealthy donors, are viewed suspiciously within the movement.

Local groups have been left to literally pass hats seeking donations at their meetings or rely on their organizers’ bank accounts, while some national groups have failed to live up to their bold fundraising predictions.

“I don’t blame them, since most of these people are so new to the process, and they don’t know anything beyond the protests, but at the end of the day, the energy and the passion will only take you so far,” said Ned Ryun, president of American Majority, a nonprofit group that teaches grass-roots conservative activists how to influence the political process. “Without money, nothing quite works like it could.”

The Tea Parties themselves need money less than do the candidates they favor. It runs against the grain of libertarianism to funnel money to a Tea Party, which then distributes it to candidates the group collectively favors, but which an individual may not.

Tea Parties need to steer members into the campaigns of those it likes, some of whom will do fundraising for those candidates. It does not have to be a corrupt bargain, as long as the candidates and the donors have a natural community of interest. But to completely ignore this reality will cause the Tea Parties to become nothing more than a "flash in the pan."

Virtual buckeye to Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State Charlie Earl (in Facebook).

* California politician Jesse Unruh said this in 1966.

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