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A grass-roots tea party group has spent more than $280,000 on an advertising campaign this year bashing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Democrats, according to campaign finance records. The groups disclosure forms offer a glimpse into the political future of the upstart populist conservative movement. Through its political action committee, Tea Party Express raised more than $550,000 in 2009 and may soon begin donating to campaigns.
Mark Williams, a radio personality who runs the organization, said his group traces its beginnings to six years ago, when it helped build momentum for the ouster of ex-Gov. Gray Davis (D-Calif.). In recent months, Tea Party Express helped organize the March on Washington with former House Minority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and is considering getting more directly involved in supporting candidates.
Theres always the possibility that we will do campaign contributions if we find people who are in line with what we think, Williams said. This is so grass roots that no one knows where its going and how exactly were going to get there.
Dr. Evil Takes On Health Care. A group run by sharp-edged lobbyist and public relations maven Richard Berman plans to saturate the airwaves in six states starting today with television ads warning about the high cost of proposed health care reforms.
The spots are part of a $10 million campaign spearheaded by the Employment Policies Institute, which is financed by Bermans business clients.
The ads will be airing in Nebraska, North Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Connecticut and Maine. Many of the Senators from those states will be critical swing votes when the chamber takes up the health care legislation, as soon as this week.
Berman, whose clients have included restaurants and other business interests, has set up a variety of nonprofits over the years, including the EPI, to press various causes.
Over the years, Berman has gained a reputation as an aggressive player in Washington, D.C., who has provoked the wrath of consumer groups and organized labor. A union leader once dubbed him Dr. Evil.
Berman said the health care advertising campaign is funded by a number of his clients, whom he declined to name.
These are people we do business with and have an interest in the issue, he said.
Berman indicated health care was a major issue for his group, which also underwrote a multimillion-dollar effort opposing the union-backed card check proposal in Congress.
Were putting some serious money behind it, said Berman, executive director for the EPI.
The health care ad campaign will run about eight to 10 weeks, he added.
Then we will see where we are, he said. Our goal is to educate people as to how this is playing out. It is so big most people dont understand it. We hope to be able to bring some clarity to it.
The ads feature June ONeill, former director of the Congressional Budget Office from 1995 to 1999, who speaks about the debt crisis facing the country.