To that end, it remains a largely leaderless, yet national collective composed primarily of conservatives and libertarians. They march and rally to promote limited government spending and decry politicians’ perceived socialistic tendencies. They tout enhanced individual freedoms. They trumpet their grassroots nature.
But since December, Tea Party backers have taken to decidedly more traditional channels of electioneering influence ahead of federal midterm elections, a Center for Responsive Politics examination of Federal Election Commission records show.
In all, seven federal political action committees employing the phrase “tea party” now exist, up from just one such political action committee in July.
Joining them are outfits such as the Liberty First PAC, which while not using the “tea party” name, is run by Tea Party activist Eric Odom. Other state-level Tea Party PACs have also cropped up in recent months, including the California Tea Party Political Action Committee.
Political action committees are widely used by corporations and special interest groups to raise, and then funnel money to political candidates.
And while these federal Tea Party-named PACs have not yet reported raising or spending a dollar, their leaders say that with 2010 midterm elections poised to heat up, they’re ready to begin politicking, too.
“At the end of the day, you have to vote — and vote for candidates. Rallies can only get you so far,” said Mark Skoda, who in July founded the Memphis Tea Party PAC, the first federal PAC on record to bear the “tea party” moniker. “Creating political action committees is a good thing for us. It’s a logical outcome of the growth of the movement.”
For Kimberly Curtis, who last month founded the North Carolina-based Tea Party PAC of the USA, contributing more than $1,000 a month to PAC-endorsed candidates’ campaigns ranks high among her goals.
“We’re small, but everybody on both sides of the aisle better take a step back and take notice to what’s happening here,” she said. “The PAC will help us get the word out and allow us to seek, endorse and support conservative candidates.”
Curtis acknowledged thinking twice before creating a PAC, explaining that her local tea partiers “were struggling to figure out the best way to move forward this year — should we start a PAC, or should we stay decentralized?”
In the end, she said, a PAC seemed to be the best vehicle to promote candidates in whom they believed.
The federal PACs founded by Skoda and Curtis are joined by five others: