Sal Russo, a consultant whose roots in Sacramento stretch back to Gov. Ronald Reagan’s days, took a direct hand in O’Donnell’s victory Tuesday. He is the brains behind the Tea Party Express, one of several campaign operations that lays claim to representing the tea party movement.
The organization has led two national bus tours and will begin a third this weekend with a rally against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his hometown in Nevada.
But the man behind the organization is anything but a fresh-faced activist. The architect of the Tea Party Express, Sal Russo, is a California political operative who has spent nearly half a century campaigning for Republican candidates.
The Sacramento-based political action committee that funds Tea Party Express activities, Our Country Deserves Better, has taken in more than $4.5 million since forming in 2008 to help John McCain’s presidential campaign. That includes major contributions from corporate executives and other bedrock supporters of conservative candidates, such as actor Chuck Norris.
The organization is elevating its profile this week as it rallies against Reid, who has become a poster child for what is wrong with Washington in the eyes of conservatives as he runs for re-election.
The event will feature a speech by Sarah Palin and launch a 42-city bus tour culminating with a tax day rally in Washington.
That the Tea Party Express is led by operatives such as Russo has caused some resentment among others in the tea party movement. They believe the group has blurred the line between what they see as a nonpartisan effort and the GOP establishment.
- A Seasoned Hand Drives Tea Party Express (online.wsj.com)
- Tea Party’s secret campaign weapon: Lavish Alaska cruise (salon.com)
- What you need to know about the Tea Party Express (salon.com)
- G.O.P. Insider Fuels Tea Party and Suspicion (nytimes.com)