THE BLOG

15 Tea Party Caucus freshmen rake in $3.5 million in first 9 months in Washington

11/18/2011 08:47 am ET | Updated Jan 18, 2012

On her website, Rep. Diane Black asks constituents to join advisory panels in her Tennessee district. "I believe the best ideas to solve our nation's problems will come from people like you," Black writes, "not Washington bureaucrats and special interest groups."

Black is one of the new Republicans who rode a wave of anti-Washington sentiment into town in 2011, a self-identified member of the tea party wing that has been cast as a new kind of conservative-- fiery, unwilling to compromise and determined to downsize the government. But while many say Black and her companions have created a split in the Republican Party, it is not visible among the companies and interest groups that are donating to members of Congress.

A joint analysis by iWatch News and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that the 15 freshmen members of the Tea Party Caucus have embraced many of the same special interests that have supported Republicans for years. The fifteen combined have received over $3,450,000 during the first three quarters of this year from almost 700 different PACs.

It's an impressive haul for a group of newly elected House members. But it shouldn't be surprising that these fresh faces found new friends in Washington.

"Business as usual," says Mary Boyle of good-government group Common Cause. "The lobbyists and other traditional Washington powers know that the newbies will learn fast that they need them, and their rolodexes."

It may well be, but some of the freshmen appear to have their eyes wide open.

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., has received more than $252,000 from PACs, accounting for about two-thirds of the money he has raised this year. His chief of staff, Fred Piccolo, was unapologetic for the donations the congressman has received. "One person's 'special interest' is another person's 'personal interest,'" he said.

Among the biggest PAC donors to the tea party freshmen are familiar Washington faces, including Honeywell International, which led the way both in number of donations and overall money given. The top five corporate PACs that donated to these freshmen:

  • Honeywell International, a Fortune 100 company best known for its defense manufacturing, made 52 donations worth at least $105,000
  • The American Bankers Association, one of the major trade associations for the financial sector, made 31 donations worth at least $53,000
  • Lockheed Martin, one of the biggest defense contractors in the country, with 30 donations for at least $28,000
  • Koch Industries, the company run by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, made 29 donations worth at least $38,000
  • The National Association of Realtors, a major trade group for real estate agents, with 29 donations worth $34,000

Mouseover the Tea Party members' photos to view the amount collected from PACs

At least $418,000
At least $418,000 from 190 PACs
Diane Lynn Black

TN-6

At least $383,000
At least $383,000 from 125 PACs
David B McKinley

WV-1

At least $370,000
At least $370,000 from 162 PACs
Steve Fincher

TN-8

At least $241,000
At least $252,000 from 123 PACs
Dennis Ross

FL-12