Tea Party Leaders Want the FEC to Treat Them Like Civil Rights Heroes

A Tea Party Leader

Money influences politics. I am sure by now this line has been heard over and over again, even by those who choose to not stay engaged in the political process outside of election season, but it bears repeating because these days it's more true than ever. The Supreme Court already affected the flow of money once and is poised to make another influential decision which could have a wide-reaching impact as discussed by PolicyMic editor Michael McCutcheon earlier this month. Money has so much influence in politics that now it seems every time our leaders in Washington decide to not negotiate, people assume each side is protecting the special interest groups that fund them instead of governing for the people who elected them.

While neither party is innocent when it comes to being influenced by big money, Republicans tend to face more scrutiny than do Democrats. The influence of big money continues to grow even as less and less information is required of those providing the money, further eroding our democracy from being a government of and for the people, and making it one of and for a growing list of secret donors.

To get a glimpse at how influential big money is in politics, one must look no further than the infamous Koch brothers. The billionaire brothers, who are major supporters of the conservative movement, have become the focus of a documentary that is being released. The film was originally being funded by an arm of public television that finances documentaries, but once the name of the film changed to focus on the Koch Brothers, support for the film was pulled. While PBS has denied there is a connection, many believe it's no coincidence that the presence of one of the Koch brothers as a benefactor and board member of a powerhouse PBS station in New York played a role in this decision. That has not stopped the film, as the outcry about the influence of money in politics enabled the filmmakers to raise enough money online to continue with the film and showcase that there is an appetite for this kind of documentary.

The Tea Party has also made a curious decision that is going to put it at the center of this debate. A super PAC that throws its support behind Tea Party Candidates, called the Tea Party Leadership Fund, is appealing to the Federal Elections Commission to become exempt from donor disclosure requirements. The exemption they are seeking has rarely been handed out and was designed to protect activists during the Civil Rights era. The Tea Party Leadership Fund's argument is that much like the activists who faced retaliation in the Jim Crow South, donors to Tea Party support groups will face serious retaliation and discrimination. Their complaint stated that their supporters would “face a reasonable probability of threats, harassment, or reprisals from government officials or private parties." The example that was used was the recent IRS scandal in which officials placed special scrutiny on Tea Party groups' applications for nonprofit status.

The Tea Party is already facing a public relations battle over its losing attempt to defund Obamacare, and will not endear itself to anyone outside of the base by comparing the Tea Party's struggle to that of civil rights activists. Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are two of the candidates backed by this super PAC that is seeking to conceal its donors, and while it seems unlikely that the super PAC will win this exemption, it does show how far groups are willing to go to protect the money that they are spending to influence the political process. The end result is that our democracy is becoming less and less a government of and for the people, and one that is of and for those with enough money to have influence.