For the Tea Party Express, old habits die hard. TPE’s PAC, Our Country Deserves Better, continued through the election cycle with its track record of raising money in support of grass-roots tea party candidates and then funneling those donations to the Republican consulting firm that founded it, recent filings show.
In a month-long period surrounding the midterm elections, a whopping 73 percent of funds raised — totaling $599,377 — was paid out to Russo Marsh and Associates, the Sacramento-based GOP political consulting firm that essentially founded the PAC in 2008, for miscellaneous costs including travel, consulting fees and media buys.Between October 14 and November 22, the PAC — whose self-proclaimed mission is to “champion the Reaganesque conservatism of lower taxes, smaller government, strong national defense, and respect for the strength of the family” — raised $824,857 in donations. At the same time they routed $599,377 (which constituted 63.5 percent of all the money they spent) to Russo Marsh and Associates. Sal Russo, the founder of the Russo Marsh and Associates firm, is listed as chief strategist for Our Country Deserves Better PAC.
Already one of the most well recognized Tea Party organizations, the Tea Party Express will only get more exposure in the upcoming months — CNN recently announced they’d be pairing up with the group to co-host a Republican presidential primary debate this September. Mark Williams, the former Tea Party Express chairman and who resigned after making racist remarks, said CNN’s decision to co-sponsor the debate “completely vindicated” him.
The filing also shed light on the PAC’s involvement in races across the country during the 2010 election cycle. TPE spent $290,000 trying to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) and double that amount — $644,488 — in support of Sharron Angle, Reid’s Republican challenger. Defeating Reid had long been a top priority of the Tea Party Express, according to an internal memo written in April 2009 by Joe Wierzbicki of Russo Marsh.
The PAC also spent $618,234 on the Alaska Senate race, where they threw their support behind Joe Miller. They spent $49,442 on negative radio and TV ads against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), almost all of it ($41,045) in the last three days before the election.