The Tea Party Patriots may have started out as a grass roots group, but a growing number of critics say the group is starting to look a lot more like a standard-issue Beltway lobbying outfit, according to an investigation from liberal site Mother Jones. The group has accepted large donations and private jet trips from anonymous donors, paid its leaders hefty salaries, and hired some entrenched GOP fundraising and public relations firms. It’s also embraced the likes of Ernest Istook, an ex-congressman with ties to Jack Abramoff.
Many local organizers are steamed, believing the national organization has taken their funds and email lists and used them for their own purposes. “Tea Party Patriots don't really do anything for the local groups,” complains the organization’s former head coordinator for Georgia. “They use you and abuse you.” A former Southern California organizer agrees. “I can’t attribute one victory to them at all,” she says. “My view is it’s just a career plan” for its top leaders. (Read more Tea Party Patriots stories.)