Tracks of Tea Party Express tears lead to billionaire barons

The doors to Tea Party Express election night nerve center at the Aria were wide open.

The cheese platter was a ravaged mess. Those Tea Party people not only love God, Constitution and country, but Gouda, cheddar, and Camembert as well.

Inside the 20th-floor “war room,” as spokesman Dustin Stockton called it, a half dozen loyalists studied laptop computers and watched for hopeful signs as the poll results rolled in from across the nation. The Republican-connected group was in the process of seeing whether their get-out-the-vote plan was working.

Four old-school tote boards lined the war room of the corner suite. Another room was set aside for media interviews in what was clearly planned as a celebration of the end of the career of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has endured the full measure of Tea Party vitriol for months. From the “Showdown in Searchlight” back in March to the recent drive-by shooting on behalf of Tea Party revolutionary Sharron Angle, the supposedly independent group rolled on for Republicans throughout the land.

On Tuesday, they tasted success and failure. But of all the gin joints in all the towns they might have set up their war room in, California-based Tea Party designer Sal Russo chose the Aria a couple hundred feet above the meeting hall where Southern Nevada Democrats anxiously awaited early poll results. Russo sports an impressive resume of Republican representation beginning with Ronald Reagan in the late 1960s and continuing through the unsuccessful presidential campaign of John McCain.

Then he started brewing the Tea Party Express strategy, which was sold as a grassroots movement but has since been exposed as little more than a Republican front organization.

The election night location was no coincidence, of course. The Tea Party Express does nothing by happenstance. Spokesman Dustin Stockton, a native Nevadan and genuinely sincere fellow, said it was all about symbolism.

Cheesy, in-your-face-Harry symbolism.

“The idea wasn’t to have like an actual conflict between us and them,” Stockton said. “It’s election night. Everything’s decided at this point. But it’s the symbolism involved. And being in the same hotel where Harry Reid has claimed credit for CityCenter and saving this whole thing. We weren’t going to back down from that, so just by being in the same hotel we thought was the best way. We’re not looking to create any actual conflict with them. We just want to be in the same place with them.”

I get it. Symbolism. But, I wondered how many places the Tea Party Express had suites set up across the country?

Answer: Just one.

“For the Tea Party Express, this is where it’s at,” Stockton said, candidly.

That’s because Reid was the one conservatives most wanted bounced into retirement. They wanted his thinning scalp something awful. They didn’t get it.

For a national movement, as it’s called in parts of the conservative press, that makes it seem awfully personal. And, like Stockton says, symbolic.

The Tea Party Express has been lauded in some media circles as leaders of an army of angry, patriotic American voters who want nothing more than to return to the halcyon days of conservative government when taxes were low and the Constitution was respected. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, it’s been widely reported the financial tracks of the Tea Party Express stretch all the way back to the doorsteps of the billionaire baron Koch brothers, who would appear to be more interested in preserving their Bush-era tax cuts than holding high the Constitution.

After being thoroughly rebuked Tuesday by Nevada voters, I wondered if the exposed Tea Partisans had finally gotten the message and planned to order losers crying towels from room service. Then I thought better of it.

Hey, it’s their Tea Party. They can cry if they want to.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at

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