Sal Russo, a major financial force behind some of the Tea Party candidates, appeared on Face the Nation today, along with Tea Party senatorial candidates Marco Rubio of Florida and Ken Buck, the senate candidate from Colorado. While Rubio and Buck have long represented the ascendency of the Tea Party Movement this year, Russo is a much more controversial individual. Please watch the video below of Russo’s performance on the news program.
As we all recall, a while back, I discussed the book ‘The Starfish and the Spider’ to be read to explain how the movement is attempting to structure itself. In the book, the authors examine leadership organizations and argue that to succeed, they need a catalyst and a champion. The catalysts are charismatic figures that intensify desire among potential adherents. It’s sort of obvious that there are a number of these figures; Sarah Palin, the Pauls, Glenn Beck, etc.
Champions, on the other hand, do a lot of the day to day work necessarily for the organization to succeed, but seek little for themselves through their efforts. I think that this is what Russo fancies himself and the Tea Party Express, which he heads. But sometimes things are not what they initially appear.
Russo’s history is different than most of the other behind the scene players in the movement. He has been active as a Republican fundraiser since at least the Reagan presidency. He has also worked for a number of other Republican candidates, most notably Governor Pataki of New York. This has led many Tea Party activists to question whether he actually supports the cause or if he is co-opting it for his own benefit.
The question that other activists raise is whether Russo is supporting candidates out of his firm’s necessity, or does he actually believe in the cause. As an example, he has apparently raised over $5 million dollars so far this year…but his political advisory firm has received over $3 million of that money. His political consulting firm decided to take on the cause once it saw that other options for earning money were floundering. It had attempted to support itself in opposition to Obama’s candidacy but found these funds drying up once he became president.
On a different note, let me briefly discuss the other two guests. Rubio, I think, is one of the best candidates available this cycle. He answered each question directly and intelligently. Buck, on the other hand, shouldn’t have agreed to be on the program. At the first difficult question, he claimed that the questioner was merely repeating Democratic talking points. He then grinned like the Cheshire Cat, so I think his advisors probably told him that, when stumped, this was his go-to answer. My guess is that they didn’t think that this would occur on the very first sequence of questions.
I’m not sure what to make of Sal Russo. I’m hopeful that even if he is in this for self-aggrandizement and increasing his wealth and power, that the candidates he helps get elected will reject his overtures once they take office. If not, they will be no better than the current group of office-holders that many of us are tired of. Please watch the video of Russo on Face the Nation and decide for yourself.