The House now has a Tea Party Caucus
claiming 51 members
, thanks to the organizing efforts of Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, and according to an analysis of campaign finance data by the Center for Responsive Politics
, the top contributors to the congressmen who have joined are health professionals, retirees, the real estate industry and oil and gas interests.
The Center said the contributions to caucus members from these groups, plus those from Republican and conservative groups, are on average higher than those of House members in general and also for fellow Republicans.
For the oil and gas industry, "the average Tea Party caucus member received more than $25,000 from the oil and gas industry, compared to about $13,000 for the average House member and $21,500 for the average House Republican," the Center said.
The three individual companies or organizations who have been the biggest contributors to caucus members are AT&T, Honeywell International and the American Bankers Association.
Sheila Blakely, a spokesperson for the National Tea Party Patriots
, told OpenSecrets.org
, the Center's blog, that she is not surprised by the list of top contributors, saying, "These are industries that are in the process of or about to be taken over by government and the current one-party control of the federal government."
As for retirees, Blakely said their support reflects fears that health care might be rationed under the new reform plan and ""They support people who they think will stop that from coming to pass."
Members of the national Tea Party movement has said that the House caucus does not formally represent them.
Jim Henson, a University of Texas political science professor, told OpenSecrets the list of biggest donors could be driven by factors including incumbency and committee position, not just member's ideology. Henson noted that while it is natural that Texas members of the caucus would attract support from conservative donors, they also benefit from the fact that the real estate and oil and gas industries are big players in the state.