At least once a day, and sometimes three and four times a day, I get an email from a right-wing group called TheTeaParty.net. The emails are nothing more than soliciting tools, designed to get me to part with my money and give it to people who say they are fighting, well, I’ll just give you the latest example:
We are facing great danger, my friends; an enemy from within. When Barack Obama was sworn in as President, he swore to uphold and defend the Constitution. Instead, he is abusing the office of the Presidency punish those who they perceive as their enemies. Sign and share our petition to tell Congress to stop him!
We cannot do this without you. Fundraising in the beginning of the year started off great and we thought we could do this. This year we can take back our country with your help. For those of you who have stepped up and donated, we are so very grateful for all of those donations. However donations have fallen off and we cannot keep up the fight without them. Please donate at least $5 if not $10, $20, $50 or $100 right now, then go onto signing this petition and sharing with at least 3 additional people!
Standing for the Constitution makes you an enemy in Obama’s eyes. Stop him!
Believing in personal responsibility makes you an enemy to Obama. Stop him!
Barack Obama has shown us what lengths he will go to in order to punish those he sees as his political enemies.
He has used the IRS to target, intimidate, and harass every day, patriotic, freedom loving Americans in an attempt to silence them into submission.
We must stand together against his flagrant abuse of presidential power. Stand with us today! Sign and share our petition to tell Congress to stop Obama’s abuse of power in targeting political enemies!
*You are not required to donate in order to participate but your contributions give us the resources we need to accomplish incredible things on behalf of the TeaParty movement.
Yes, this freedom organizer needs resources in order to accomplish incredible things. Incredible, as in “impossible to believe,” is exactly right. It turns out that Todd Cefaratti is quite a marketing genius and has made a lot of dough by appealing to the worst fears of right-wingers who have more disposable dollars than sense. Here’s what the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights had to say about Cefaratti and his organization:
TheTeaParty.net, founded by Arizonan Todd Cefaratti, is largely a list-building money-generating machine. Cefaratti has a background in data harvesting, mining contact information and then reselling the leads to clients in the reverse mortgage industry.
The organization’s parent group, Stop This Insanity, Inc., was founded as a political action committee in Arizona in early 2010 by Cefaratti and Ron Dove, who became TheTeaParty.net’s treasurer and human resources manager. The PAC was terminated in November 2010, while it was in the process of losing a lawsuit with the Federal Election Commission. It also developed a bad reputation with other Tea Party groups after raising money ($469,000 between January and October 2010), and then not funding rallies or candidates.
Instead, a significant amount of the funds, $189,759, went to online marketing.
As you can see, most of the money that culturally frightened white people are giving to TheTeaParty.net is going into Cefaratti’s pockets or somewhere else other than to the causes dear to those who fear. But he’s not alone in using fear and white anxiety to make himself a pretty good living. There are plenty of grifters out there just like him:
A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.
The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.
Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by theSunlight Foundation.
The Post tells us where the dough is going:
Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.
The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.
Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.
Perhaps my favorite detail is the fact that the chairwoman of the well-known Tea Party Patriots, Jenny Beth Martin, whose mug ought to be familiar to anyone who watches cable news or C-SPAN, “sets her own $15,000 monthly fee for strategic consulting — payments that have totaled $120,000 since July.” Not bad, no? Except that’s not all:
Her twin salaries put her on track to make more than $450,000 this year, a dramatic change in lifestyle for the tea party activist, who had filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and then cleaned homes for a period of time to bring in extra money.
Now, you have to hand it to these people. To go from cleaning crappers for change to peddling bullshit for nearly half a mill a year is pretty impressive, sort of a fulfillment of the mostly mythical American Dream, except that most people don’t dream of bilking the gullible as a way out of bankruptcy.
Even though this is all very unseemly, I suppose those of us on the left should be happy that a lot of right-wing dough is being wasted this way. And I suppose that one shouldn’t feel too sorry for white folks who think Barack Obama is “an enemy from within” and are willing to throw money at anyone who will say it loudly and often.
But this isn’t one of America’s finest moments, no matter how you look at it.