Sharron Angle gains

The Tea Party Express, a Republican political action committee (PAC), is pouring money into Nevada to promote the U.S. Senate candidacy of Republican Sharron Angle, causing her previously dormant poll ratings to rise.

The PAC, also known as the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, is based in Sacramento and was formed in 2008 by political consultants to oppose Barack Obama’s candidacy for president. It later added the Tea Party Express name in order to hop onto the tea party movement bandwagon. The maneuver seems to have worked, since news stories on the group do a poor job—or none—distinguishing between the movement and the PAC.

It’s the second time an Angle candidacy has been significantly funded by an independent, out of state group. In 2006, the Club for Growth—founded by Pennsylvania GOP U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey—pumped just under a million dollars into Angle’s U.S. House candidacy, which was unsuccessful.

The Our Country Deserves Better money has brought Angle’s current candidacy to sudden life, pushing her from 5 percent of the Republican field the first week of April to 25 percent last week, according to Mason-Dixon Polling and Research surveys commissioned by the Las Vegas Review Journal. That puts her in second place, just behind frontrunner Sue Lowden.

The Our Country PAC now promoting Angle is best known since 2008 for promoting a Sarah Palin presidential candidacy and for its intervention last year in a special election for a New York U.S. House seat. In that case, the Our Country PAC helped throw the election in the traditionally Republican 20th district to little-known Democrat Scott Murphy by running ads (one accusing Murphy of “smearing” the military) that backfired when they were adjudged by an independent group to be “misleading.”

Our Country is also the PAC that staged a protest at which Palin spoke in U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s tiny hometown of Searchlight. Nevada journalists did not report the Republican origins of the event or explain that the Tea Party Express and the tea party movement are two different things.

There is resentment in the tea party movement against the PAC’s use of the tea party name. Politico has reported that “the Tea Party Express’s high profile has angered tea party leaders who are suspicious of its big payments to [political consulting firm] Russo Marsh, view the bus tours as distractions from meaningful grassroots organizing headed into the 2010 midterm elections, and say the Republican ties of both the firm and PAC are wrong for a movement that has prided itself on independence from the political establishment and has fiercely rejected what it sees as GOP efforts to co-opt it.”