I noted a few months back TPM Media's report that the PAC that organized the Tea Party Express, a series of right-wing nationwide bus tours and rallies, had sent nearly two thirds of its spending during a recent reporting period right back to the GOP consulting firm that spawned it. Today, Politico's Ken Vogel provides more details of the Tea Party Express' operations, including the original memo from a consultant with the firm, Russo Marsh + Rogers, proposing its creation.
Vogel also reports that a substantial percentage of spending from the PAC, Our Country Deserves Better PAC, continues to flow directly into the coffers of Russo Marsh + Rogers. That appears to have been the intent from the beginning; Vogel reports that the firm's operative, Joe Wierzbicki, stated in proposing the Express that it could "give a boost to our PAC and position us as a growing force/leading force as the 2010 elections come into focus."
Since the Express' inception, Fox News has seemingly done everything in its power to provide that boost.
In the memo, which Vogel reports was issued "just days after" last year's April 15 tea parties, Wierzbicki lays out how the first Tea Party Express bus tour would operate, who would be invited to participate, and how they would build a fundraising campaign behind it. He also drops this little nugget (emphasis added):
The trick here is that once enough people are "buzzing" about this effort (the tour and campaign advertising, etc...) then we should hopefully start to get some mentions and possibly even promotion from conservative/pro- tea party bloggers, talk radio hosts, Fox News commentators, etc.
This seems as good a time as any to point out Fox News' consistent, full-throated support for the Tea Party Express since its creation. The network even embedded correspondent Griff Jenkins with the Express' first tour; his hard-hitting reporting included declaring its riders "the America that Washington forgot." Our Country Deserves Better PAC repeatedly used Fox's coverage to flog its own fundraising efforts. And notwithstanding the plethora of free media the Express got from the network, the PAC ran ads on Fox urging viewers to "Join the Tea Party Express" on its tours.
Most recently, Fox News provided all-day coverage of last month's kick-off rally for the Express' third national bus tour. Correspondent Casey Stegall provided reports from the rally in Searchlight, Nevada, which highlighted the "real energy you feel from" the protestors; back in the studio, Neil Cavuto declared, "God bless these folks." And of course, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin was on hand to provide the event's keynote address, which was carried live by the network.
The following image from the Fox News website The Fox Nation pretty much sums up the network's coverage:
Reading the memo, one gets the feeling that the Express has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of Wierzbicki and company. And they owe it all to Fox News, a network willing to throw journalistic integrity by the wayside to emphatically endorse a "grassroots movement" created to boost its founders' bottom line.