Tea Party Fear: Has D.C. Co-Opted New House Members?

In iBook, anonymous staffer says yes, but members say no.

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Perfectly timed to Sarah Palin's campaign-style bus tour, the first new book about how Washington has corrupted the dozens of new House Tea Party Republicans is coming out May 31 with a blast at the GOP establishment: Loyalty to the party is winning over ideas.

Anonymously written by "Constance Dogood," described as a Tea Party staffer to a Tea Party House Republican, How the GOP Establishment is Co-Opting the Freshman Tea Party Class is a short digital book that decries Washington GOP groups and even belittles the city itself for being stuffy and concerned more with power than ideology. It is being published as part of HarperCollins/Broadside Books digital "Voices of the Tea Party series. Washington Whispers was given the first copy to review. 

The general thrust of the author, who describes their new House member as one of the Tea Party candidates who beat a long-serving Democrat: The new House members have been seduced by GOP organizations who crave power. Unfortunately, however, the author's naive view isn't backed up with a single example of an issue where the new Tea Party members have given up their goals of curbing spending and cutting the deficit.

In fact, several Tea Party advocates in Washington give the movement great credit for killing the second engine project for the F-35 jet, winning massive budget cuts in the current fiscal year, approving Rep. Paul Ryan's tight fiscal 2012 budget and pushing leaders to demand that President Obama cough up billions of dollars in cuts and spending reforms in return for approving a boost in the nation's debt ceiling.[Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]

But that's apparently not good enough for the iBook's author. In working in a state office for the unidentified member, the author writes that the GOP has seduced the new members. "Most disturbing to me was the awful realization that the goal of the Republican Establishment is not to restore the republic by returning the country to the principles espoused by the Tea Party movement. Instead, the Establishment's primary goal is to increase its own power, and the power, brand, and visibility of the individual politicians who occupy leadership positions. There are innumerable ways in which the tentacles of this Republican Establishment lead our freshman Tea Party members astray. These tentacles start encircling Mr. Freshman the moment he's elected, and find every possible way to tie him up. It begins with the selection of staff, expands to the role of the family, and continues with committee assignments."

More a rant against Washington, the author's anger first comes at the National Republican Congressional Committee which apparently sent aides to help the candidate get elected. "They were a bunch of spoiled brats," wrote the author, apparently jealous that the local team had been sidelined by the outsiders.

Then comes the view that the Washington establishment looks at the Tea Party as "kooks" even though leaders like Speaker John Boehner have gone to bat for many of their positions. "The relationship between the Republican Establishment (the NRCC, RNC [Republican National Committee], and most Republican members of Congress who have been in office for more than two terms) and the Tea Party can best be summed up in three words: They Hate Us."

There's a claim that "Washington is a place that does not value new ideas," though many of the new Tea Party members have played a role in the GOP's bid to rewrite the federal budget, balance the budget and curb spending, as promised in their campaigns. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the GOP 2012 primary candidates.]

The author's boss even gets a slap. "My freshman member, being determined to keep his campaign promises, and overwhelmed by all the process and the pomp, has made many missteps. He has surrounded himself with the wrong people. He has separated himself from his accountability. And while he hasn't made any enemies, he has made no friends. He has no protection on the Hill. Should he get challenged in the primary by an Establishment protégé, he may well find himself a one-term congressman," writes the author.

Other gripes: Washington craves its power image so much that there is no "casual Friday;" aides were asked to remove some pictures from their Facebook page while urged to tweet "propaganda" from the House member; wives of members are elevated to "rock star" status and allowed to use House staffers for personal errands; and leaders seek to be called by the title, not first name.

"Back in the district, we still call Mr. Freshman by his first name. They do not do that in the DC office. It is another point of contention between the two offices. They think we are being too familiar with the 'Member' and we think he needs to remember from whence he came. This sort of pettiness only adds to the atmosphere of vanity and self-importance that turns a wide eyed freshman into a jaded elitist in just about two years,"

While the book will feed the stereotype of Washington, it reads more like the whine of a state staffer angry that the candidate they used to drive alone with to campaign events has a new set of friends and different job.

Asked about the premise of the book, the staffers of some House Tea Party members and leadership aides called it hogwash. "That's a bunch of b.s. Couldn't be further from the truth," said one.

Still, "Dogood" is sticking to the passionate belief that the GOP establishment has kicked the Tea Party members to the curb. In an email, the author writes:

"Most of these new members ran on a promise to stop the spending, yet we see that the establishment has pressured them constantly to 'compromise' on these promises. This chipping away has slowly but steadily reduced the resolve of the freshman class. The line on raising the debt ceiling isn't being held at all. The Republican leadership has already stated that there is a path to getting it raised. Granted, the Democrats will oppose this path, but it exists for the Republican leadership, nonetheless. The new members were sent there to say 'no,' but they are bending to the pressure and saying 'maybe' and 'yes' more and more frequently.

"This is not, however, about a single issue but a systematic co-opting of a new member of congress by a system only interested in preserving the status quo. The leadership and the bureaucracies that run D.C. are very clever and subtle in their manipulation of these newly elected officials. It's not that the new members are stupid or of poor character. It's just virtually impossible to resist the constant bombardment to compromise from the establishment. These new members are worn down by outside pressures, heavy workloads, and the all-sacred dollar."

  • Check out a slide show of the 2012 GOP primaries: Who's in and who's out.
  • See editorial cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.
  • See editorial cartoons on the economy.