Okay, This Is Getting Interesting

June 21, 2010 6:30 p.m.

Earlier today our Christina Bellantoni wrote a post about the controversy surrounding the ‘Florida Tea Party’. Now, I use the single quotes because I’m not just referring to generic Tea Partiers in Florida. As Zack Roth explained back in January, it’s an officially registered party in the state of Florida. And the folks who put it together actually claim and have asserted the exclusive use of the phrase in Florida, which has driven various Tea Partiers in the state completely nuts.

Now, as Christina explained today, Republicans are claiming that the whole Florida Tea Party (FTP) operation is actually a plot by Democrats to field a lot of potemkin candidates who show up on the ballot with the “Tea Party” label so that right-wing Republicans split their votes (between the GOP candidate and the ‘Tea Party’ candidate) and thus make it possible for a lot of vulnerable Democrats to slip through.Now, the Republicans who are complaining about this don’t have the goods. Not enough to prove it at least. But there’s enough there to arouse suspicion. A lot of the candidates signed up at the last moment, many are young and have little if any political or even voting history and a number have past ties to the Democratic party. Republicans frequently help Green Party candidates get on the ballot. And if the shoe were on the other foot I think Dems would be suspicious too.

So now we come to the latest nugget which has to do with Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL). Tonight Roll Call reports that one of the state House candidates being fielded by the FTP has actually done polling work for Grayson, the flamboyant and outspoken first term liberal congressman from Florida. Victoria Torres, the FTP candidate in question, shows up on Grayson’s campaign expenditures as doing $11,000 worth of polling and survey work. And now she’s running as a FTP candidate. And to add another little sprig of weirdness to do her polling work she incorporated as Public Opinion Strategies, which also happens to be the name of a very high profile Republican polling firm based in DC.

What’s more, Grayson’s reelection prospects are also being helped by another member of the FTP who’s running against him, Peg Dunmire, an Orlando business consultant.

Nothing about this story is simple. Florida Tea Partiers have been claiming for months that the FTP is actually a GOP plot to coopt the Tea Party movement, which isn’t exactly consistent with the claim that it’s a Democratic plot to use the ‘Tea Party’ name to screw Republican candidates. But there are enough coincidences here to make me feel like something’s up.

Late Update: After writing this post based in part on the Roll Call story I found this much more detailed report on the Grayson connection from Orlando’s WKMG Local 6, which pegs the dollar number not at $11,000 but $19,898.

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