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Jeanne Devon ("AKMuckraker")

Jeanne Devon ("AKMuckraker")

Posted: October 13, 2010 05:22 PM

Sorry, Tea Party Sugar Daddy. Looks like your sweetie really isn't that into you. Now, don't get me wrong, he doesn't mind spending your money like a drunken sailor trying to stumble his way into the halls of the nation's capitol, but to be seen with you in public? Well, frankly he thinks you're just a little embarrassing.

There is no question that Alaska Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller has been treated like a king by the Tea Party Express. Last June, he received their full endorsement. He was a long shot back then. He had never once been elected to public office, and nobody had ever heard of him. But his personal friends Todd and Sarah Palin had given him an endorsement, and that alone made 'Joe the Longshot' worth a second look for the Tea Party. And look they did.

The Tea Party Express said it's willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Miller, a Fairbanks attorney and self-styled "constitutional conservative" who is making his first statewide run for public office.

Spokesman for the TPE, Levi Russell said that significant financial investment in Miller's candidacy would help to level the playing field in the uphill battle against establishment incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski, noting that many voters didn't even know who Joe Miller was.

A poll by Ivan Moore Research done in mid-July showed that among likely Republican voters, Murkowski dominated the race 62% to 30% - more than two to one. Almost immediately after the poll, the Tea Party money started to kick in. The group spent about $600,000 for Miller's primary effort, with an unbelievable $314,000 coming in just the final week. Our Country Deserves Better PAC (Tea Party Express) also organized a nationwide money bomb, raising $156,000 just four days before the election. Additional monetary support spurred on by entreaties from Sarah and Todd Palin sealed the financial deal.


[Chart from opensecrets.org}

In a media market where a radio ad costs $10, and three spots on CNN are $100, Tea Party candidate Joe Miller owned the airwaves of radio and TV, and surged more than 25 points in just three weeks.

After a nail-biter of a race, and days of counting absentee and contested ballots, it became clear that Murkowski had no chance of victory and she conceded the race. Amy Kremer, Chairman of the Tea Party Express announced, "Tonight Senator Lisa Murkowski conceded the race for U.S. Senate to Conservative Republican Joe Miller. We here at the Tea Party Express couldn't be more excited. We congratulate Joe Miller on winning the political shocker of the year."

(photo by Zach Roberts)"]

So, how did this unknown candidate who has never held political office in his life end up knocking the Murkowski dynasty out of the primary race? In addition to the presence of Ballot Proposition 2 regarding parental notification for abortion (which drew out masses of conservative voters), nobody will dispute that the victory had more than a little to do with the unexpected generosity of the Tea Party Express, brought to bear at the urging of Sarah Palin.

Last week, an internal email obtained by The Mudflats revealed that in exchange for Palin's endorsement of Miller, a reciprocal nod was expected, and fireworks ensued when it didn't come. Miller, in a clear effort to distance himself from Palin, (whose approval rating in the state of Alaska are currently lower than Barack Obama's) refused to state directly that he thought Sarah Palin was qualified to be President. In return, Todd Palin blasted him with an angry email in which he said, "Joe, please explain how this endorsement stuff works, is it to be completely one-sided." Todd Palin then told Miller that a fundraising post on Facebook that Sarah Palin had been working on would not be sent, in retribution for Miller's less than enthusiastic support.

Following that story's revelation, another internal email was also obtained by The Mudflats. Emails from this source reveal that Joe Miller's campaign is not only distancing itself from Palin despite her support, but is attempting to distance itself, at least publicly, from the Tea Party Express itself.

The email exchange is between Miller's campaign Fundraising Chairman, Seth Church and Campaign Manager, Robert Campbell. In the email, dated September 18, 2010, Church asks Campbell for suggested edits for a piece written for the campaign. Campbell returns the email telling Church, "We're not the Tea Party candidate, so avoid that language..."

[Click here for .pdf copy of email]


This distancing, in which Miller's Campaign Manager states specifically that he is "not the Tea Party candidate" and asks that Tea Party references not be used by the campaign, comes despite the staggering financial commitment, and clear positive effect that Tea Party money had for Miller's candidacy. The support ultimately lead Miller from complete obscurity to primary victory over a tough incumbent opponent.

The Tea Party Express, as recently as October 4, sent a delegation to Alaska to hold a fund raising telethon on conservative station KBYR, described as a "rally over the airwaves" for Miller. The event, targeted the loser of the Republican primary Lisa Murkowski who has since launced a write-in campaign making it a three-way race with Democratic challenger Mayor Scott McAdams. The event was titled "No Means No, Lisa" and raised $30,000 in two hours for Miller's campaign. Group leaders said they were willing to do "whatever it takes" to see that Miller was elected.

(Photo by Rishi Maharaj, Acting Prog. Dir. KBYR radio)"]

Despite their continued support, the message from the very top of the Miller campaign seems to be clear. Keep Miller's name away from the Tea Party. Just as with Palin, the Miller campaign seems happy to take the money and the success it brings, but they shun the controversial association in public, undoubtedly fearing the "extremist" label. Joe Miller loves being at the dance, but won't save a waltz for the ones that brought him. I wonder if the Tea Party Express will want their money back.

 

Follow Jeanne Devon ("AKMuckraker") on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Mudflats