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Tea Party Inc. Pledges More Than $61 Million For 2010 Elections

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So, are we taking them seriously yet?

In a chart circulating among Democratic strategists, according to The Huffington Post's Sam Stein, a handful of Republican third-party groups are pledging to spend hundreds of millions in the upcoming congressional elections. And entities that are part of what I call "Tea Party Inc." -- all the big-money operations that manipulate the grass-roots Tea Party supporters -- account for a nice chunk of that sum.

Among them are the Tea Party AstroTurfers FreedomWorks, which has pledged $5 million, and Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition, a hybrid of the religious right and the Tea Party movement, which is promising $11 million. Not shown on the chart, but included in Stein's report, is a promise of $45 million from Americans for Prosperity, which was instrumental in ginning up Tea Party rage against the health-care reform legislation. Those groups alone account for some $61 million.

Compare that to the $51.9 million the labor sector spent, according to OpenSecrets.org, in the 2008 presidential election. But wait -- there's more coming from the Republican side -- tens of millions more.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which aired Tea Party-targeted advertising during the health-care debate, has promised $75 million, according to chart -- more than double what it spent in the 2008 cycle, a presidential year. And two new entities, the American Action Network and Karl Rove's American Crossroads are promising to spend $25 million and $52 million, respectively, to fill the U.S. Capitol building with their kind of people.

If that doesn't have you concerned, then consider this: these groups, aided by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, together are dumping their dollars not simply to elect their anti-regulatory, anti-humanity faves, but also do so in a bid to undercut the official agency of the G.O.P., otherwise known as the Republican National Committee.

From Stein's report:

The traditional conduits for cash are the [party] campaign committees which recruit donors through promises of organization, coherent messaging, and effective leadership. But as [Republican operative Craig] Shirley notes, activists may end up circumventing the Republican National Committee out of concerns about the competency of its chairman, Michael Steele. The National Republican Senatorial Committee hasn't been treated with similar skepticism by the party's base, but it has only $18 million cash on hand at this point in time.

Even if these entities don't succeed in electing all the candidates they back in 2010, they'll have put the Republican Party establishment on notice to remember who really calls the shots.

As for progressives, two unnamed Democratic strategists offered Stein these words of caution:

One top-ranking Democratic operative involved in crafting campaign strategy said he "wouldn't be surprised" if outside groups on the Republican side "outspend us four-to-one." Another top official at a campaign committee called it "one hell of a wake-up call to the left."

"Despite accomplishing much of the check list on the progressive agenda," the official added, "they risk losing it all unless they come together and put their money on the table."