The Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC, a political action committee that has raised millions of dollars from activists to support “the election of strong Conservatives nationwide,” launched a new campaign on Friday aimed at punishing Republicans who voted for the October compromise to avoid a debt default and reopen the federal government. But while the PAC says “we” will demand refunds from “RINOs” (Republicans In Name Only), a ThinkProgress review campaign finance records finds that almost none of those Congressmen actually received any support from the group — and its treasurer has indirectly helped elect numerous liberal Democrats.
In the announcement, PAC Treasurer Dan Backer (a campaign compliance lawyer for Republican candidates and causes) promises to let the 87 Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted for the deal, “hear something new” and to “help conservatives across the country demand refunds from all those RINOs we’ve contributed [sic] for years on the promise of stopping Obamacare.”
On the group’s rinorefund.com site, users can request a refund for their own donation to any of the 87 — and can donate to the PAC’s “RINO Refund” effort. Donations, the group says, will go to help share the campaign nationally.
And while Backer laments that the “only sound these establishment sell-outs seem to hear is the sound of money from croney capitalist pals,” a review of his own donations finds his own giving has been anything but focused on electing only true conservatives. In addition to a $425 donation to Mitt Romney, Backer gave $250 to the leadership PAC for former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) — nine months after Brown made it clear that he was not a Tea Partier and dismissed the Tea Party movement’s role in his 2010 special election win.
Most of Backer’s recent donations, however, went to two PACs focused not on conservative causes but on college fraternities and sororities. He gave $2,305 to ZETEPAC, a PAC aimed only at electing Zeta Psi fraternity alumni to political office. The PAC’s recipients have included Democratic California State Senator Alex Padilla and Democratic New York City Councilman Dan Garodnick. He also gave $2,000 to Fraternity & Sorority PAC, a committee which supports candidates “who support the objectives of fraternity life” — including Democrats like Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) — all who whom voted for the Affordable Care Act.
And while the Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC distributed more than $86,000 to at least 50 candidates since the start of the 2012 campaign, just four of the candidates it actually supported are among the 87 RINOs the group suggests it helped elect. One of those four — Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) — is still listed on the PAC’s list of six recommended candidates. While the PAC talks about how what “we need now is our money back,” there is very little of them in the “we.”
Since June of 2012, the Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC has paid more than $74,000 in legal fees to DB Capitol Strategies PLLC, Backer’s consulting firm — almost as much as it has spent in contributions to candidates. But there is no option on the RINO Refund page for donors to request refunds from Backer and his PAC.