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Republican-run tea party group might be run by Republicans

Not to diminish the memo obtained by Ken Vogel for his story on the Tea Party Express, but it really just proves something we already knew -- that the bus tour is, and was, a successful gambit by Republican strategists to capitalize (literally) on the grass-roots movement. Local tea party activists have been sounding the alarm about the PAC Our Country Deserves Better since the middle of last year; in October, I reported on the ugly ouster of Tea Party Patriots leader Amy Kremer when she decided to participate with the Tea Party Express. And since then, I and other reporters have been in regular contact with activists who consider the TPE a scam.

But here's the thing. If the media cover a tea party, it doesn't end up mattering what the movement thinks. In the run-up to the National Tea Party Convention, plenty of activists attacked the organization and the cost of the event, spurring stories about a sort of civil war within the movement. And what does anyone remember about the convention now? That Sarah Palin gave a speech there.

Why do we know about the Tea Party Express? Because it held a massive rally in Searchlight, Nev., with Palin, and because it blasted Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak's Michigan district with ads right before he announced his retirement. Yes, it's amusing to read the internal discussions of strategists who knew they were "sadly not currently part of the 'tea party' establishment." But Sal Russo, Mark Williams and the rest of the TPE figured out that by inviting Fox News on as embeds to cover the tea parties, they'd get credibility overnight. Did it work? Well, Fox News's embed duties were just passed on to CNN.

There are daily (maybe hourly) jokes and gripes by tea party activists about the groups they don't like. But TPE's blatant play to turn the movement's energy into money for campaigns against Democrats is just that -- blatant. And it's raised $2.7 million since the campaign began.

Below the jump, the memo that Vogel used for the story.

Tea Party Express

By David Weigel  |  April 14, 2010; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Tea Party  
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