I’ve been sitting on this story for several days now, delaying posting it to the Fellowship until after the sacred Christmas season because the implications are so unpleasant and troubling.
The populist political movement known as the Tea Party Express (TPE) is a conservative, spontaneous, grassroots movement. It began almost immediately after Obama was inaugurated as president. The movement coalesced last spring around the April 15th tax deadline, then erupted in the summer culminating in the historic 9-12 March on D. C.
From the beginning, the TPE is anti-Democrat and anti-liberal, but neithr synonymous nor coterminous with the GOP. The following article, however, raises some very troubling questions:
- Why is a GOP political consulting firm called Russo, Marsh, and Associates, the recipient of some 65% of the expenses of the TPE’s 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?
Has the Tea Party Express been hijacked by the GOP?
MAJORITY OF TEA PARTY GROUP’S SPENDING WENT TO GOP FIRM THAT CREATED IT
Zachary Roth | December 28, 2009
The political action committee behind the Tea Party Express (TPE) — which already has been slammed as inauthentic and corporate-controlled by rival factions in the Tea Party movement — directed almost two thirds of its spending during a recent reporting period back to the Republican consulting firm that created the PAC in the first place.
OCDB, which built the Tea Party Express, is essentially a Russo, Marsh creation, as we’ve detailed. The PAC’s site was registered in July 2008 by Sal Russo, the firm’s founder. That site also lists Russo as the PAC’s “chief strategist.” Tea Party Express fundraising emails, sent by OCDB and obtained by TPMmuckraker, come from another Russo, Marsh employee, Joe Wierzbicki.
Just for good measure, legendary GOP bamboozler Howard Kaloogian is also on OCDB’s board, and has close ties to Russo, Marsh.
From July through November 2009, the firm received $832,403 from OCDB, according to the FEC records. An additional $8,500 went to Russo himself. And Wierzbicki took in $16,219.
The services for which Russo, Marsh was paid appear to be legitimate campaign needs. For instance, it took in several hundred thousand for what OCDB listed in the FEC filings as “PAC Email Newsletter Costs – Generic Fun.” That would appear to refer to the numerous fund-raising and activism emails sent to volunteers to promote and build the Tea Party Express — a nationwide bus tour to build opposition to the Obama agenda — many of them by Wierzbicki.
But one expert on political action committees told TPMmuckraker it was unusual for a PAC to direct so much spending back to the entity that created it. And the spending details raised hackles among members of the Tea Party Patriots, a rival faction of conservative activists who have denounced TPE as a creature of Republican political professionals that lacks grassroots authenticity. In an email to a Patriots group that was obtained by TPMmuckaker, one TPPer who had examined the filings asked, “What would the true grassroots people think if they knew their money is being spent in this manner?”
A message left in the general mailbox for Russo, Marsh was not immediately returned.