Someone out there wants the tea parties to stay well funded, and they're willing to break the law to ensure it.
The California-based Tea Party Express has been getting donations from a dead woman for more than two years, records released Friday showed.
Joan Snyder Holmes died of cancer on Feb. 1, 2007, but gave the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, the group's political action committee, donations totaling $2,500 in 2009, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics.
In Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, the PAC reported receiving an additional lump sum donation of $5,000 in September.
The FEC has no record of Joan Holmes making any reportable contributions to campaigns or political committees prior to her death.
Her husband, Lee Holmes, told the OpenSecrets blog that he did not make the contributions and it was "wrong" for her name to be listed on the group's reports.
"I assure you I did not make these or any donations in her name, and cannot see why anyone else would use her name," he said.
Lee Holmes was one of the first donors to the Tea Party Express PAC when it started in 2008. The $5,500 he gave to the PAC in 2010 was $500 over the legal limit.
Before his wife's death, he had made few reportable contributions.
"I made a number of Tea Party donations, but used my own personal credit cards," he noted. "Whether I made donations on those dates and they entered them [under her name] in error, I don't know."
For their part, the Tea Party Express was surprised to hear about the donations.
"She died in 2007? You're kidding me?!" Sal Russo, the chief strategist of the Tea Party Express, told the OpenSecrets blog.
"Whatever we show in the reports is what people put there," Russo added. "Ninety-nine percent of our contributions are done electronically on the internet. We don't have direct contact with donors."
If the contributions are illegal, the group must act soon.
"If a committee deposits a contribution that appears to be legal and later discovers that it is prohibited (based on new information not available when the contribution was deposited), the committee must disgorge the contribution within 30 days of making the discovery," according to FEC guidance.
The Tea Party Express recently came under rhetorical fire for attempting to raise funds off public reaction to the mass shootings in Tucson, Arizona. A fundraising email suggested that the suspected shooter, Jared Loughner, was a liberal, when he in fact had no well-defined political ideology.