Tea Party Freshmen Fundraising On Capitol Hill

Tea Party Freshmen Fundraising On Capitol Hill

A battery of fundraisers by the transformative "outsider" candidates of 2010 show that reps can go establishment in no time.

It's an unfortunate truth in American politics that without dollars (big ones) you can't be competitive in campaigns, which creates an awkward situation for candidates that are elected as "outsiders", but are required to act like "insiders" in order to raise funds for subsequent elections. This is exactly the situation that many of the Tea Party elected House Republican freshmen are facing in the upcoming 2012 races. If they want to return as House sophomores, they're going to need to shake all the right hands, pat all the right backs, and maybe even start passing some special interest legislation. With the 2012 Republican Primary campaign season officially underway, POLITICO reports that House freshmen are gearing up for the race by scheduling at least 100 fundraisers around Capitol Hill.

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks has scheduled a luncheon running $500 a plate, $1,500 if you're a political action committee (PAC). South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney, likewise, will be holding one on Tuesday featuring Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for $1,000 a plate, $1,500 for PACs. Mulvaney spoke of the necessity of raising money on Capitol Hill, telling POLITICO, "“It’s not been nearly [as] easy as we were told it would be,” said Mulvaney. “Everyone tells you when you become a member of Congress that it will be easy to raise a quarter million dollars in the first week, and that’s not accurate." Indiana Freshman Rep. Marlin Stutzman sounded more confident, saying, "“It’s about getting a message out. To get a message out, it takes money.”

Courting the K Street crowds seems to go against the Tea Party grain for many candidates, lobbyists and special interests being perceived by many in the Tea Party as an "insider's" circle of friends. Therein lies the rub for many freshmen candidates who did not have to work particularly hard at fundraising in 2010, where a ground swell of popular Tea Party support seemed to rally votes and donations for them. This time around, however, the Tea party has lost some of their popular support and much of the momentum that carried them into office in the Midterm elections. That means that for many of these "transformative" candidates, they're forced to go to the lobbies and high-dollar donors like any establishment candidate would. Replying to the idea that they've gone Washington, Stutzman said it would not be an issue. “I’m not that worried about it. You have a very small group of people who will make an issue out of it, and usually, they disagree with you on the politics anyway,” he said. That sounds like a characteristically un-Tea Party sentiment.