LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Tea party activists who offered early
support in Rand Paul's rise to the U.S. Senate are forming
political action committees in Kentucky to put money behind
candidates espousing their views of restrained budgets and limited
David Adams, a key strategist behind Paul's early political
success, said Monday he's helping form a PAC called Kentucky Knows
Best. It will back candidates sympathetic to tea party causes and
stage rallies and town-hall forums to promote the movement's
"We're looking for people that have a single-minded focus on
making government smaller and more accountable," Adams told The
Associated Press in a phone interview.
Another tea party-influenced PAC is surfacing in western
Kentucky, a conservative region where Republican candidates have
made inroads in what was a Democratic bastion.
Randy Keller, a tea party organizer in the Bowling Green area,
said the new PACs will provide more clout for loosely organized tea
party groups that surfaced as a backlash to record federal budget
deficits and the new health care law.
"It is absolutely proof that we are maturing," Keller said.
"We are moving into a far more professional realm of how do we
actually effectuate our influence within the political process.
We've got to have the vehicle to do that, which means we've got to
have PACs formed."
University of Louisville political scientist Laurie Rhodebeck
said the new PACs are a sign that the anti-establishment tea party
is in some ways moving toward the political mainstream.
"They're basically getting into the game the way Democrats and
Republicans have," she said.
Where the tea party PACs draw their money - whether in small
amounts from grass-roots supporters or in larger amounts from
business or corporate interests - will be worth watching in
tracking the movement's development, she said.
Rhodebeck said the groundswell of tea party enthusiasm seems to
have diminished since the 2010 election, when the movement helped
propel Republicans to huge gains in Congress and in many
statehouses across the country.
"There's still a core to the tea party of active, energized
people, but I don't think it has as many followers in the next
rings around that core just because people have other things to
do," she said.
Adams predicted several tea party-backed PACs will surface in
Kentucky, signaling the movement "is for real and here to stay."
"The water's warm and there's plenty of room for everybody,"
he said. "As long as there are more of us shooting in the same
direction, we can be a formidable force."
Adams is executive director of the Kentucky Knows Best PAC. The
former blogger was campaign manager for Louisville businessman Phil
Moffett, whose underfunded campaign finished second in last month's
Republican gubernatorial primary.
Adams was campaign manager during Paul's successful run for the
GOP Senate nomination last year, but was shifted to campaign
chairman in a reorganization after the primary. Paul has emerged as
a national tea party favorite.
Adams said the Kentucky Knows Best PAC will endorse candidates
in Republican primaries to try to influence the GOP's direction.
Although the PAC touts itself as nonpartisan, Adams said "we're
looking for the best candidates. I would hope that we would find
them all in the Republican Party."
Adams said he hopes the group amasses tens of thousands of
dollars to distribute to candidates in 2012. The PAC currently
doesn't plan to donate to candidates running for statewide office
in the November election, but that could change, he said.
Keller, who is helping organize the regional PAC, said the
western Kentucky-based group plans to back candidates from
courthouse races all the way to Congress. Keller said he didn't
know yet what the PAC's name will be.
One goal is to shape the GOP to more fully embrace tea party
ideals, he said. But he stopped short of saying that the new
western Kentucky PAC would limit its contributions to Republican
candidates. He said many Democrats share tea party values.
"We are certainly not confining our work space to the GOP
because we believe our philosophy reaches across all political
spectrums," he said. "The Democrat Party has abandoned their
constituents just like the Republican Party abandoned theirs."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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