The tea party phenomenon started out as a tax-day protest a year ago tomorrow, but that protest gave a Republican consultant at the Russo Marsh + Rogers firm an idea. He wrote a proposal, which Politico has now obtained, for a nationwide bus tour called the “Tea Party Express,” which would raise money for their hard-nosed conservative PAC. Thanks to some slick campaign-style advance work and advertising the tour was a success, jump-starting the movement—and lining Russo Marsh’s pockets.
The Express has raised loads of money, and not all of it goes to support candidates. Of the $4.1 million the PAC has spent, $1.9 million was paid to Russo Marsh or its sister firm. Those big payments have made the other tea party groups that have since sprung up suspicious. One organizer accused the Express of using the tea party moniker “as a marketing gimmick to line the pockets of consultants instead of actually helping the movement.” (Read more Tea Party Express stories.)