Lefties on Facebook have been flinging around the “corporate funded teabaggers” pejorative quite a bit lately (no doubt due to the orchestrated effort on the part of the left to demonize the Koch brothers), so I decided to stop by OpenSecrets.org to learn who, exactly, is funding the Tea Party Movement. This post will detail what I found.
At the home page, I entered “tea party” as a search term, and the site replied with the following list of organizations:
•2010 Tea Party USA PAC 2010
•Independence Hall Tea Party PAC 2010
•KONA TEA PARTY 2010
•Llano Tea Party 2010
•MCKINNEY TEA PARTY INC 2010
•Muskogee Tea Party 2010
•Ohio State Tea Party 2010
•Tea Party Coalition 2010
•Tea Party Conservative PAC 2010
•Tea Party Express/Our Country Deserves B 2010
•Tea Party PAC of the USA 2010
•Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC 2010
•Upstate New York Tea Party 2010
Outside Spending Groups
•Muskogee Tea Party 2010
•Tea Party Express/Our Country Deserves B 2010
•Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC 2010
•2010 TEA Party USA PAC 2010
•Cincinnati Tea Party 2010
•Sweet Tea Party of Missouri 2010
•Tea Party of Louisiana 2010
Let’s start with 2010 Tea Party USA. On the summary page, the website reports that 2010 Tea Party USA raised a grand total of $2,290 during the 2010 election cycle. This PAC did not make contributions to any federal candidates, and it received money from only four “large donors.” (“Large” is defined as greater than $200, by the way.) And who were these large donors? Two retired gentlemen, one self-employed political consultant, and a chairman of a metal goods manufacturing company. Ooh. Impressive.
- The Independence Hall Tea Party PAC raised $27,466. It contributed $2,000 to Christine O’Donnell’s campaign, $1,000 to Tim Burns, $250 to Michael Fitzpatrick, $250 to Anna Little, and $300 to Patrick Meehan. It received money from nine large donors, including three who described themselves as self-employed, one president of a banking company (who only gave $500), one owner of a rental company, one who declares himself a “businessman” associated with a steel bar manufacturer, one lady who works in a doctor’s office, and two who reported no occupation.
- The KONA TEA PARTY raised $3,623. It made no contributions to any federal campaigns. It received money from zero large donors.
- The Llano Tea Party raised $5,224. It contributed to eight federal campaigns, and six of those donations were well below $1,000 (the other two were just above $1,000). It received money from five large donors; three of them declared themselves retired, and the other two are hardly corporate CEO’s.
- MCKINNEY TEA PARTY INC raised $8,682. It did not contribute to any federal campaigns. It received money from zero large donors.
- The Muskogee Tea Party raised $2,177. It contributed $100 to Charles Thompson’s campaign. It received $322 from one large donor.
- The Ohio State Tea Party received $90,300, all from two law firms which specialize in worker’s compensation and medical malpractice cases. It did not contribute to any federal campaigns.
- The Tea Party Coalition raised $255. It did not spend money on any federal campaigns. It received one large donation from a lawyer.
- The Tea Party Conservative PAC raised $3,305. It made no contributions to any federal campaigns. It received money from three large donors, none of whom are corporate CEO’s.
- The Tea Party Express is the biggest Tea Party PAC. It raised over $7 million in the 2010 election cycle. It received money from 3,334 large donors. Who gave the maximum amount ($5,000)? Thirteen people, including Chuck Norris and, I guess, his wife (LOL!), the president and public affairs officer of a cookware company, one donation from an independent oil company, two donations from Davidson Kempner (an investment company), one donation from the late Mortimer Sackler (co-owner of Purdue Pharma), a couple homemakers, two who declared themselves retired, and a few other companies. There are some corporate donations here, but they’re hardly breaking the bank for Tea Party Express. Just over $1 million of TPE’s total receipts came from large donors, and those large donations are not 100% corporate. Not by a long shot. And what about this PAC’s spending habits? TPE directly contributed $16 K plus to seven federal campaigns, and another $16 K to non-federal candidates. It spent much of its millions on running independent ads for or against a whole slate of 2010 candidates.
- The Tea Party PAC of the USA raised $1,020. They contributed very small sums of money to seven federal campaigns. They received money from one large donor: a housewife.
- The Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC is also a pretty large outfit. They raised $141,333 in the last election cycle. They received money from 99 large donors, but most gave less than $1,000. Among the top spenders, I see a few energy companies (and no, none of them are comparable to Exxon as far as I can tell), one printing company, and, weirdly enough, Gallery Furniture. I also see many individual donors. As for TTPP’s spending habits: $5 K plus was spent on campaign ads. No direct contributions were made to any federal campaigns.
- The Upstate New York Tea Party raised $15,631. It spent no money on any federal campaigns. It received money from twelve large donors. The maximum donation came from the president of Jeffords Steel, which also doesn’t strike me as a large, multinational corporation. More than half of UNYTP’s large donors were retired individuals.
- The Cincinnati Tea Party raised close to $270 K. About $50,000 of that came from donors contributing more than $1,000. The largest donor? The University of Cincinnati. The CTP spent $70 K plus on campaign and media expenses.
- The Sweat Tea Party of Missouri raised just over $5,000. Its one large donor was a political campaign. It spent $1,500 on campaign expenses.
- The Tea Party of Louisiana raised close to $12,000. Only $4,000 of that total came from large donors. Most of its expenditures were in the media category. $213 was spent on campaign expenses.
- I also looked up SarahPAC, as most people correctly associate Sarah Palin with the Tea Party. During the 2010 election cycle, SarahPAC raised roughly $5.7 million, which puts it on par with Tea Party Express. Roughly $1.5 million of that total came from large donors. Of the 81 contributers who donated the $5,000 maximum, about 20 declare themselves owners/executives/presidents/CEO’s. There are also quite a few $5,000 level donors who declare themselves to be retired/homemaker/self-employed. SarahPAC’s campaign expenditures total $800 K. $500 K was spent on political contributions.
Now, this is definitely not an exhaustive list of all the Tea Party groups which exist. Other groups may not have organized themselves in such a way as to be subject to the requirement that they report their donors, contributions, and expenditures. Moreover, there are some pre-existing conservative/libertarian groups that the left conflates with the Tea Party because said organizations share some of the Tea Party’s ideological goals. This is illogical thinking, of course — two groups with similar political leanings could still be entirely separate entities with different leadership structures and different approaches — but we should be aware of how the left is defining our movement. I’ve also seen lefties equate the GOP with the Tea Party, which is just as wrong-headed, as many in the GOP establishment look upon the Tea Party with a decidedly suspicious eye.
But let’s humor the left and examine this “corporate-funded” claim from a different angle. Let’s take a look at the political spending habits of the top ten members of the 2010 Fortune 500 to get a better sense of what the richest companies did with their money in the last election cycle:
- Wal-Mart – otherwise known as the Evil Empire – is pretty solidly Republican most of the time. Oddly enough, though, during the 2010 election cycle, Wal-Mart gave slightly more to Democratic candidates — and the company favored incumbent candidates by a ridiculously wide margin. Both of these facts suggest that Wal-Mart was not bankrolling many Tea Party upstarts.
- Exxon-Mobil – the most hated oil company in existence – is also solidly Republican most of the time, and the company didn’t break that pattern in 2010. It should be noted, though, that Exxon also favored incumbent candidates over challengers — including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who ran a successful write-in campaign against a Tea Party favorite backed by Sarah Palin.
- Chevron is another solidly Republican company — but in 2010, it too favored incumbents over challengers, including Lisa Murkowski.
- General Electric favored Democrats over Republicans and incumbents over challengers in 2010. I understand GE is a big player in the alternative energies market, so it makes sense that the company leans left. A leftwing government is more likely to hand out the alternative energy subsidies, after all.
- Bank of America favored Republicans in 2010, but it also favored incumbents over challengers and was not a 100% reliable backer of Tea Party candidates. BoA favored Mike Castle over Christine O’Donnell, for example.
- ConocoPhillips, while solidly Republican, doesn’t even make the Heavy Hitters list.
- AT&T favored Republicans in 2010, but – surprise, surprise – it favored incumbents over challengers. Boehner received a sizeable sum from AT&T, but so too did Harry Reid, who was running against a Tea Party challenger.
- Ford Motor Co. also favored Republicans over Democrats and incumbents over challengers. Interestingly, one of the company’s top recipients was – you guessed it – Harry Reid. By the left’s standards, Reid should be decried as a corporate patsy.
- JP Morgan & Chase only barely favored Republicans this time around, and it didn’t buck the corporate preference for incumbents (including the preference for Reid – oh, snap!).
- Hewlett-Packard also fails to make it to the Heavy Hitters list. In 2010, however, it appears to have leaned Democratic.
So the ten richest companies in America did tend to favor Republicans over Democrats in 2010, but when you look at the particulars, you discover that favoring the GOP and favoring the Tea Party are not necessarily synonymous. Some Republicans who claimed Tea Party support received corporate donations, yes, but other Tea Partiers were shunned. And it appears that you were far more likely to receive corporate donations if you were an incumbent regardless of your political affiliation; in other words, our largest corporations love the establishment more than anything else.
It may also be instructive to look at the Heavy Hitters 1989-2010 list at OpenSecrets. As you can see, the contributions of many of the Heavy Hitter corporations have been pretty evenly split between the parties over the past few decades. (I suppose those companies like to hedge their bets.) And where do the ten companies listed above fall?
- Wal-Mart: #89; 27% Democrat, 71% Republican
- Exxon-Mobil: #73; 13% Democrat, 85% Republican
- Chevron: #75; 24% Democrat, 75% Republican
- General Electric: #33; 51% Democrat, 48% Republican
- Bank of America: #38; 46% Democrat, 53% Republican
- ConocoPhillips: Not Listed
- AT&T: #2; 44% Democrat, 55% Republican
- Ford Motor Co: #121; 38% Democrat, 61% Republican
- JP Morgan & Chase: #27; 51% Democrat, 48% Republican
- Hewlett-Packard: Not Listed
The higher you are on the list, the more likely you are to be a “fence-sitter.” If you are solidly right wing, you trail behind other big political spenders.
And here’s another important question to ask: Exactly how much money have our ten richest corporations dumped into politics since 1989? By my calculations, roughly $150 million (give or take a few million to account for the two companies which didn’t make the list). True – that’s not chump change. But how does that compare to the amount of money the largest unions have spent during the same time period? To find out, I selected the top ten unions from this list, which comes from the BLS, and summed up their contributions since 1989. What was the total? $292 million — and virtually all of that money was handed to the Democrat Party.
It amazes me how many leftists ignore how much union money has been flowing into our political system since 1989 even while they uncritically accept the meme that Tea Partiers are corporate shills. I could just as easily say that the Democrats are union shills — and I would have more evidence to back up that assertion. But, of course, according to a lefty, there’s no possible way that these big spending unions could ever be guilty of perverting our political process. What, are we conservatives stupid? Of course the unions are only looking out for our common good!
The real difference between a corporation and a union is this: A corporation gets its money by offering products and services that people want. A union, on the other hand, often gets its money from dues payments which have been forcibly extracted from the pockets of America’s workers (unless those workers live in Right to Work states). Say what you will about our largest corporations, but at least the law doesn’t force us to shop at Wal-Mart or buy gas from an Exxon station. Moreover, while it is not necessarily true that a corporation will only support Republican candidates, it is absolutely, demonstrably true that a union will funnel nearly 100% of its take to Democratic candidates. So which entity is more likely to skew our political process again?
Not only do the Democrats get corporate funding of their own, but they are also bought and paid for by a powerful unionized minority which seeks to use government force to keep the dollars flowing into their coffers. So let us call this effort to demonize the Tea Party as a “corporate” movement for what it is: projection writ large.