Ed Morrissey hits the nail squarely on the head and right on schedule with his HA article regarding Tea Party organizations and funding. It’s my sense that not just our own executive board, but nearly all Tea Party boards have been quietly (or not so quietly) confronting the varagries and realities of raising funds for their political efforts.
Allow me to digress momentarily while we weigh the political moment (as in leverage against the center of gravity) of the current legal environment for fundraising. It’s not pretty. One of TEAPAC’s members told me recently that he was standing with a group of high-powered attorneys at RightOnline as they discussed the various legal entities required to accept and disburse various types of funds. He is not an attorney, but his takeaway was brilliantly simple.
He told me, “The bottom line was that after McCain-Feingold, you needed a platoon of lawyers to guide your acceptance of political funds. Now, you need a battalion of lawyers.” He added, “It doesn’t matter what your own attorney concludes, because opposing counsel, usually a government lawyer with subpoena power, will have an opposing theory. You will fight it out in court if the agencies take notice.” He didn’t know the worst of it, because the full truth today is that the donor and the recipient both must have their attorneys examine the details of any sizable political gift.
Tea Parties most efficiently wield part of their power when they are correctly perceived as speaking for a large group of people. This gives power to what they have to say precisely because it is a large group speaking. For convenience, let’s just call this ‘collective free speech’ and forgive the marxist terminology. The fact is that today, such collective free speech must be ‘licensed’ in effect by compliance with various state and federal constraints that add huge legal costs to the diminishing media costs of delivering a message to a large audience. The California FPPC is now seriously considering regulating blog posts and SMS texts for compliance and disclosure. Million dollar TV ads, sure. But cell phone text messages??
We must place an item very high on the conservative agenda for 2011 to rescind these laws, and get the regulatory agencies under control, that prevent patriotic groups from speaking clearly to audiences that are disposed to listen to them. Free speech should not have to be ‘licensed’ in order to keep the speakers out of court or out of jail.
Mr. Morrissey, I’m afraid, has not thought the fundraising issue through as thoroughly as had been done in some of the Tea Party board rooms where I’ve been present. Tea Party executives everywhere are honing their pitches and consulting their legal staffs and bringing big guns to bear on the realities of fundraising.
This is all well and good, but we must take it a considerable step further.
All Tea Party members must prepare themselves to become fundraisers.
And they must quickly become accomplished masters at it.
Somehow in our evolution as a political nation, we have unwittingly attached some sort of shame or reluctance to the idea of raising funds, ie: asking for money.
When considered, one has to wonder why this would be the case.
We don’t hesitate to use graphic battle metaphors to describe the fight we anticipate and we blather thoughtlessly about stomping on the necks of our adversaries, but we become totally chilled at the thought of asking for money.
We need to overcome our rank and file reluctance to ask for financing of our efforts. There is a very good reason for this: we do not really believe in our cause if we are not willing to ask our friends and neighbors for money to finance our undertakings.
Are you genuinely committed to the cause? Saying so isn’t enough. Walking your precinct isn’t enough. Running for your central committee isn’t enough. Overcome whatever psychic, mental or emotional barriers you may have around asking the money required to finance our efforts. Show your total commitment or simply click the ‘I surrender’ button and resign youself to your enslavement.
There are plenty of us who are capable of going after the big donors and ensuring our efforts get the basic financing they need. You don’t need to be one of these.
But as each of us gets out walking the precincts in the next few weeks, we convey an essential message if we ask for donations will the full and frank expectation that our efforts will be funded at the grassroots level too.
We tell ourselves and those we speak to that our efforts are entirely worthy of a small and voluntary sacrifice from every solid citizen. Yes, our undertakings really are that important.
Indeed, what are we really saying about our cause if we do not ask? What are we saying about the true value of our patriotic efforts if we feel we are above the mundane quest to ensure our activities are comfortably funded?
Mike Alexander is Founder and CEO of TEAPAC.net. TEAPAC is renowned throughout Southern California as the most effective Tea Party activist organization in the region. You can connect with Mike and TEAPAC at the workshops they’ll be presenting at the upcoming National Tea Party Unity Convention at the Mirage in Las Vegas.