In the four years since the Supreme Court struck down fundraising regulations that effectively gave the Democratic and Republican parties a monopoly on large-scale political activity, a collection of Tea Party-affiliated organizations has arisen in Washington that competes with the GOP for campaign contributors, money and influence -- and over what legislation to push and which candidates to nominate.
The groups, including the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Senate Conservatives Fund, have moved aggressively to kill legislation they oppose and oust incumbent Republicans they deem insufficiently conservative.
Like the national Republican Party, which they deride as the “GOP Establishment,” they have become an establishment of their own, a confederation of well-financed Tea Party groups that support a web of sister organizations and employ a legion of political professionals who live and work inside the Beltway. Having a leadership class in Washington is an awkward contradiction for a once-decentralized movement that represented the grassroots of middle America against the entrenched interests of a GOP elite mainly based in Washington.
Jon Fleischman, a conservative activist in Orange County, Calif., and persistent critic of the national Republican Establishment, said some — though not all — of the conservative groups in Washington suffer from the same problems as the GOP. To his mind, they are headquartered in the capital, driven by a few people at the top, promote whatever policy agenda suits them and fail to take the time to understand what the grassroots want from government.
“There are groups that I think started with good intentions that have gone native,” Fleischman said. “I have a concern that there are organizations in D.C. today that used to be the outside groups and now they’re the inside groups. I worry that others could follow that path, and that’s why I stay vigilant."