THE BLOG
10/18/2010 01:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tempest in a Tea Party: The Kochs Throw Money at Faltering Pantano Campaign

The reactionary billionaires of the Koch family have thrown a massive injection of cash at the faltering campaign of ex-Marine, Ilario Pantano, a controversial Tea Party candidate for Congress in North Carolina.

According to the latest reports the Koch family front, Americans For Prosperity, just injected $100,000 of independent expenditures into Pantano's race against Mike McIntyre, an Independent Democrat in South Eastern North Carolina. The Koch money will pay for TV ads attacking McIntyre for being a Democrat - ads that Pantano could not afford to pay for now that his numbers are dropping in recent polls and his small-scale financial support has dried up.

In May, Pantano won the Republican primary and soared to prominence as a hard-hitting ex-Marine backed by the Tea Party Express, but once voters became aware of the details of his military service in Iraq - Pantano's support started to wilt. To make matters worse, Pantano's erstwhile Republican opponent, Will Breazeale, endorsed McIntyre. Even worse: the VFW endorsed McIntyre. Worse still: the NRA endorsed McIntyre. The reasons for this mass exodus from Pantano's sinking ship will soon become clear.

At first flush, Pantano was hailed as a Republican messiah. Named a contender for the prestigious Republican honor, "Young Gun," Pantano frequently flies to national Tea Party rallies where he delivers impassioned speeches advocating tax-cuts for millionaires, the elimination of capital gains taxes, union busting, wars with Iran and China, plus the usual panoply of fire-breathing radicalism and Islamophobia designed to stoke up the Tea Party mentality that has gripped the Republican Party by the throat.

The root of Pantano's political problems lies in his service in Iraq. Usually, a stint as a Marine in a war zone is a political asset, however, in Pantano's case the opposite is true. When people learn about his service record, they won't support Pantano.

The reasons for this phenomenon are obvious. In 2005, Pantano was indicted for the premeditated murder of two unarmed Iraqi prisoners in his custody. Pantano does not dispute that he killed the two un-armed Iraqis, and the details of the incident are shocking.

While searching a compound near Fallujah, a heavy war zone, Pantano discovered some weapons and explosives. Suspecting that the small arsenal proved that his two un-armed prisoners were insurgents, Pantano ordered them to search a nearby vehicle -- repeat, Pantano ordered his two prisoners to search their own vehicle. During the search, Pantano ordered two members of his platoon who were the only potential witnesses to stand guard at the perimeter with their backs turned to him and his two prisoners. Pantano was armed with an M16 machine gun that fires 780 high-powered rounds a minute. Pantano does not dispute the fact that he emptied the entire clip of 30 rounds into his two prisoners instantly killing them both.

Pantano gave this account of his actions after he had machine-gunned the two prisoners to their deaths,

I then changed magazines and continued to fire until the second magazine was empty... I had made a decision that when I was firing I was going to send a message to these Iraqis and others that when we say, "No better friend, No worse enemy," we mean it. I had fired both magazines into the men, hitting them with about 80 percent of my rounds.

Shortly after this harrowing incident, Pantano was indicted for premeditated murder. Now facing either life imprisonment or the death penalty, Pantano came to the attention of a flag officer, Major General Richard Huck. After preliminary legal maneuvers in advance of his court martial, General Huck dropped the murder charges but held Pantano to account for desecrating the corpses. Pantano resigned from the Marine Corps immediately, and he promptly retired to rural North Carolina where he eventually managed to find work as a Deputy Sheriff.

While earlier polls indicated that Pantano had a slim one-point lead, the latest polls taken after Pantano's service record became more well known now indicate that Pantano has fallen far behind McIntyre. The Grove Insight polls reveals that McIntyre now leads Pantano by double digits with momentum.

To make matters worse, a Board member of the Tea Party Express, Deborah Johns, held a press conference to endorse McIntyre where she described Pantano in the following terms, "That's not a war hero. It is people like that that give all our military a bad name."

In a desperate move to save their aptly named, "Young Gun," the Kochs are now throwing a load of their massive corporate wealth into the Seventh District of North Carolina in hopes they can salvage their badly damaged goods -- the ambitious Republican 'Young Gun,' Ilario Pantano. Tempest in a Tea Party, no doubt.