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Trouble brewing between the Tea Party movement and the GOP?

Members of the Tea Party movement say they are not beholden to the GOP.

(Page 8 of 12)

The group's president Ryun said conservative donors are taking a fresh look at the RNC and wondering if their money would be better spent on grassroots conservative groups.

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"The Republican grassroots operation is pretty much defunct," he said. "Conservatives are looking for a better bang for their buck. There is going to be more competition for money that has traditionally gone to the RNC and I for one am going to go after that money, hard."

FreedomWorks and Our Country Deserves Better, a political action committee that has formed Tea Party Express, have been accused of being GOP operatives, including by other Tea Party groups. But both groups say their money comes from conservatives. Tea Party Express is staffed by people from Russo, Marsh & Associates, founded by Sal Russo, who began his political career as an assistant to Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California. A review of the Federal Election Commission filings from Our Country Deserves Better shows mostly small donations of a few hundred dollars, many of them from retirees.

Joe Wierzbicki of Russo, Marsh & Associates said the GOP was hostile to the Tea Party movement at first. "The response from the party establishment was that this was bad, that this would look like sour grapes and paint conservatives in a poor light," he said.

More recently, Wierzbicki said the Republican Party has belatedly tried to woo Tea Partiers.

Some Republicans have openly courted the movement, especially Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate in 2008. She gave the keynote speech at the Tea Party Convention in Nashville in early February. Organized by Tea Party Nation, the event was derided by some other Tea Party groups as being a GOP front.

"We like Sarah Palin, she's one of us and she speaks to us," said Tina Dupont of the Tea Party of West Michigan. "But she does not speak for us." Her views were echoed by many.

Most Republicans are not so popular. "The Republican Party would like to take over the Tea Party and use it to gain power," Tanya Bachand said. "It's the other way around and they don't know what's coming."

"Their reckoning is coming."

The GOP and individual Republican candidates are actively seeking Tea Party endorsements and votes. "At every meeting we have, we see local and state representatives of the Republican Party counting heads and trying to drum up support from our members," said Nighta Davis, organizer of the North Georgia Patriots. "For six years the Republicans controlled Congress and the White House under Bush and they could have solved this country's problems. But they did nothing of the kind."

"Now they want to co-opt us," she added. "But they just don't get it."