Sooner or later everything in politics costs money. That’s a lesson that the Tea Party movement is beginning to learn.
Politico reports that because of the grass roots nature of the movement, raising money is anathema to many of the members.
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.”
And there’s the rub. Without the ability to raise money and establish reliable sources of funding, the movement may not have the resources to sustain it as a long-term political force.
Others think that the movement is on the verge of fracturing and will not survive in the long term.
“There’s a bigger issue here,” said Erick Erickson, founder of the influential conservative Red State blog, which is popular in tea party and new conservative circles. “And that is that there are a lot of people out there that, by and large, don’t really think that the tea party movement is going to be around much longer, and so why invest in a movement that is not going to be there much longer?”
That’s the paradox facing Tea Party organizers. How do they find the resources to sustain the movement without sacrificing their soul?