On January 1, I posted “Tea Parties Hijacked by GOP?” on this Fellowship blog. Referencing an article by Zachary Roth for TPM, dated December 28, 2009, I raised the following three questions:
- Why is a GOP political consulting firm called Russo, Marsh, and Associates, the recipient of some 65% of the expenses of the Tea Party Express’ political action committee, Our Country Deserves Better (OCDB)?
- How is it that OCDB was founded in July 2008 at a time when Tea Parties had not yet been formed, because Obama had not yet become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate (the Democratic Party Convention was a month later, in August 25-28), and certainly had not yet been elected President in November?
- How is it that OCDB was created by the same man, Sal Russo, who also founded the GOP consulting firm that is the recipient of $857,122 from OCDB?
I followed that with another blog, “Split in Tea Party Movement,” about the Tea Party movement having split into at least two factions: the Tea Party Express vs. the Tea Party Patriots.
All this has been disconcerting to me and other Conservatives, to put it mildly.
Giovanni Faga, of Giovanni’s World, contacted Sal Russo to ask him about all these rumors. This is Mr. Russo’s e-mail response:
Dear Gio –
Thank you for your email and I will try to answer your questions as best I can.
1. We started ‘Our Country Deserves Better’ PAC in June or thereabouts of 2008 because we were fearful that the McCain campaign would not delineate clearly the contrasts and differences with Barrack Obama. We felt that McCain was trying so hard to be agreeable that Americans would not see the clear differences between the candidates. As the campaign developed and McCain got better with his new campaign people, we then started to focus our efforts in 5 states that we felt were critical for McCain to be competitive in.
2. At the end of 2008, our plan was to scrap the PAC. However, many of our supporters kept asking us to stay involved. So we sent out a poll to our supporters as to whether we should shut down or keep operating. It was something like 98% said they wanted us to keep going and fighting for conservative causes. So we decided to keep going.
3. In February of 2009 we heard Rick Santelli do his rant and a call for a tea party. We thought he was dead right on. So we immediately began blogging and emailing on the need for a tea party movement. We then came up with the idea of doing a national bus tour to show Americans that others were feeling like they were. Despite the media adulation of Obama, many Americans were waking up and wanting to get active. That is our the Tea Party Express came about.
4. Unlike some of the tea party groups, we have always thought the strength of the movement came from the local level. We have been against trying to forge a national organization, which ends up sapping the energy of the local people. We have tried to use our bus tours to motivate people to get off their couches and to get active politically in their local communities. We need new blood in politics and wanted to motivate people to get involved. While we may not agree with every decision by every group, we believe that democracy is best served by an involved and informed electorate. Thus, conservatives would be the beneficiary of all of this new political activity.
5. Our goal as a political action committee is to support candidates that support the basic goals of the tea party movement. We have our version of it printed right on the bus: End the Bailouts, Reduce the Size and Intrusiveness of Government, Stop the Out of Control Spending, No Government Run Healthcare, and Stop Raising our Taxes! We have decided to stay away from social and foreign policy issues and stick to the economic issues which unite tea party activists. We will support the best candidate regardless of party, although likely most will be Republicans. We did support the Independent conservative in the recent New York Congressional special election.
6. Once the elections are over in 2010, we probably will focus on the presidential campaign. We will support the best credible conservative that stands for the same issues that we do. No question about it that Sarah Palin is the most popular politician at our rallies, but there is another year to go before we have to make a decision.
7. We strongly believe the tea party movement should remain independent and free from domination by any political party or candidate. We need to true to our set of principles. We do tend to favor the practical side of things and don’t believe in tilting at windmills. That means getting the best candidates we can – although many will not be perfect. We agree with you that our country is seriously off track. We have to defeat the leftist take-over of our country. As my old boss Ronald Reagan often said, I would rather have an 80% friend than a 100% enemy.
8. As for the TPM article and the attacks from the left, we are use to it. If you have read Sarah Palin’s book, you can see some current examples of how the liberal media distorts the truth about conservatives. It is dismaying to me when our fellow conservatives pick up on their nonsense and start repeating it. We won’t get anywhere with circular firing squads. I started working for Reagan in 1966 in his primary campaign for Governor. I was only 19. I just turned 20 when he was elected and I went to Sacramento with him as his personal aide. In that campaign and in every one of his campaigns, including the 1984 re-election, we had conservatives oppose him and say he wasn’t conservative enough. It was very frustrating to him and to me. But, I have gotten use to our friends doing the work of our enemies. It is unfortunately, but something we have to endure. The cause is to important for us to be distracted by some of our misbehaving friends.
9. As for Lloyd Marcus, as you obviously know, he is an integral part of our organization and we are looking forward to being with him again on our 2010 bus tours.
Well, Gio, I hope this isn’t too long. But I tried to answer your questions as best I could.
If you need anything more, please let me know. Thanks again,
While I am glad that Mr. Russo provided some clarification, I can’t help but notice that in his e-mail to Gio, Mr. Russo did not address the matter of why his GOP consulting firm was the recipient of some 65% of the $1.3 million in expenses claimed by the Tea Party Express’ political action committee.
Given the realities of our fallen human nature, we cannot dismiss the following:
- It is in the interest of our political opponents on the Left to foment discord and division within the Tea Party movement by spreading malicious false rumors.
- It is also in the interest of the Republican Party to co-opt the Tea Party movement so that it is “defanged” against the GOP.
Therefore, my conclusion is that I’ll retain a healthy dose of skepticism — about liberal-fomented false rumors AS WELL AS about the GOP possibly hijacking the Tea Party movement. Conservatives need to keep our eyes wide open and our noses to the grindstone as we boldly and confidently march forward to retake America in 2010!