November 13, 2010; Source: Politico | In our post-election analysis, we noted that most of the new members of Congress possessed little experience with the nonprofit sector. A lot of them have little or no prior connection to the formal structure of political parties and the various nonprofit think tanks and political training centers that typically try to educate new members of Congress.

So this time around, there is a struggle for the hearts and minds of the freshmen. On one side are the organizations that comprise the infrastructure of the Tea Party movement that we described here, here, and here. The incoming class has been courted so vigorously, The Tea Party Patriots, for example, blasted an e-mail telling people, “PLEASE STOP CALLING THE FRESHMEN.”

According to Politico, TPP had scheduled an orientation for the freshmen only to discover that the Claremont Institute, a nonprofit conservative think tank had scheduled a program on the same day. The Patriots told its members that Claremont was trying to co-opt the grassroots-supported freshmen. Former Congressman Dick Armey’s nonprofit FreedomWorks ran its orientation session this week, also aimed at the Tea Party-oriented freshmen. Remember that several other conservative nonprofit organizations also run orientations for new members of Congress.

This year’s collection of orientation programs includes Tea Party-affiliated groups that were never in the mix before and feel that they have some proprietary interest in this year’s freshmen because of the Tea Party movement’s impact on energizing the Republican victories in the House of Representatives.

One observer, blogger Erick Erickson, described the competition between Tea Party groups and other more established conservative political organizations as well as competition within the Tea Party movement itself as “nuts.” And as I wrote yesterday, we wonder what, if anything, these training programs will say about the nonprofit sector. And where are the trainings facilitated by the nonprofit leadership?—Rick Cohen