Anti-Tea Party Web Site Part of Scheme to Funnel Funds
By Joseph Abrams- FOXNews.com
A new Web site targeting the tea parties is a part of a complex network of money flowing from the mountainous coffers of the country's biggest labor unions and trickling slowly into political slush funds for Democratic activists.
A seemingly grassroots organization that's mounted an online campaign to counter the tea party movement is actually the front end of an elaborate scheme that funnels funds -- including sizable labor union contributions -- through the offices of a prominent Democratic party lawyer.
A Web site popped up in January dedicated to preventing the tea party's "radical" and "dangerous" ideas from "gaining legislative traction," targeting GOP candidates in Illinois for the firing squad.
"This movement is a fad," proclaims TheTeaPartyIsOver.org, which was established by the American Public Policy Center (APPC), a D.C.-based campaign shop that few people have ever heard of.
But a close look reveals the APPC's place in a complex network of money flowing from the mountainous coffers of the country's biggest labor unions into political slush funds for Democratic activists.
Here's how it works: What appears like a local groundswell is in fact the creation of two men -- Craig Varoga and George Rakis, Democratic Party strategists who have set up a number of so-called 527 groups, the non-profit election organizations that hammer on contentious issues (think Swift Boats, for example).
Varoga and Rakis keep a central mailing address in Washington, pulling in soft money contributions from unions and other well-padded sources to engage in what amounts to a legal laundering system. The money -- tens of millions of dollars -- gets circulated around to different states by the 527s, which pay for TV ads, Internet campaigns and lobbyist salaries, all while keeping the hands of the unions clean -- for the most part.
The system helps hide the true sources of funding, giving the appearance of locally bred opposition in states from Oklahoma to New Jersey, or in the case of the Tea Party Web site, in Illinois.
And this whitewash is entirely legal, say election law experts, who told FoxNews.com that this arrangement more or less the norm in Washington.
"It's not illegal but it is, I think, dishonest on the part of the organizations," said Paul Ryan, a legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center. "And there's a reason they do it: they know voters don't like outsiders coming in to sway the vote."
Calls and e-mails to the Maryland-based consultant firm Independent Strategies, run by Varoga and Rakis, were not returned.
Outside of that firm, the center of their activity appears to be a single office in Southeast D.C. -- 300 M Street, Suite 1102 -- which plays host to a sprawling political shell game they have established.
Public records show at least seven political shops listed in Suite 1102, most of which are essentially clones of one another, but all of which have offered money -- from measly thousands to game-changing millions -- in state-level elections across the country:...