Editor’s Note – This is the N.Y. Times, folks!
Not an organization that’s in the habit of doing stories that are unfavorable to the left…
Democrats Back Third Parties to Siphon Votes
By Jim Rutenberg
ORLANDO, Fla. — Seeking any advantage in their effort to retain control of Congress, Democrats are working behind the scenes in a number of tight races to bolster long-shot third-party candidates who have platforms at odds with the Democratic agenda but hold the promise of siphoning Republican votes.
The efforts are taking place across the country with varying degrees of stealth. And in many cases, they seem to hold as much risk as potential reward for Democrats, prompting accusations of hypocrisy and dirty tricks from Republicans and the third-party movements that are on the receiving end of the unlikely, and sometimes unwelcome, support.
Here in Florida, local Republicans and grass-roots Tea Party activists continue to press the case that “Tea Party” candidates on the ballot are stalking horses for Democrats, an assertion denied by Democrats.
Polls and independent analysts suggest that the incumbent Democrat in Orlando, Representative Alan Grayson, a firebrand liberal whose defeat is eagerly sought by conservatives, faces an uphill fight to keep his seat in what has been a bitterly fought campaign against his Republican rival, Daniel Webster. But the candidate running on the “Tea Party” ballot line in Orlando, Peg Dunmire, could prove pivotal if Mr. Grayson is to pull off a squeaker.
The “Tea Party” in Florida was formed and registered with the state in 2009 by an Orlando-area lawyer, Frederic B. O’Neal, with help from a longtime client, Doug Guetzloe, an activist, radio host and Republican operative in a running feud with his party, who has earned a reputation as a political trickster. (On Friday, Mr. Guetzloe was sentenced to 60 days in prison for a misdemeanor campaign violation relating to an anonymous political flier he sent four years ago, but his sentence does not start until after the election.)
Tea Party activists in the state said they were flabbergasted to learn of the existence of a “Tea Party” ballot line and Mr. Guetzloe’s involvement with it.
“I didn’t know who the heck these people were,” said Everett Wilkinson, a grass-roots activist who has tangled with Mr. Guetzloe and Mr. O’Neal in separate lawsuits.
The grass-roots Tea Party activists and state Republicans, have homed in on a number of connections between Mr. Grayson and Mr. Guetzloe that have become fodder in the local news media, especially in reports on the CBS affiliate, WKMG-TV.
Mr. Guetzloe serves on two business advisory boards set up by Mr. Grayson. A son of Mr. Guetzloe worked as an intern in Mr. Grayson’s Congressional office last year. Federal Election Commission filings show that Mr. Grayson has paid nearly $50,000 to a polling firm that was incorporated in late 2008 by an on-and-off employee of Mr. Guetzloe, Victoria Torres, who is now herself running as a state candidate on the “Tea Party” ballot line that Mr. Guetzloe helped create.
In his most recent campaigns, Mr. Grayson advertised on Mr. Guetzloe’s local radio program before it was canceled this year, with some proceeds going directly to Mr. Guetzloe’s company, including, at least in June, a modest commission, station records show.
Mr. Guetzloe played down his connections to Mr. Grayson, saying that he is one of scores of people on Mr. Grayson’s advisory panels and that his son secured his internship at Mr. Grayson’s office through his school.
“This has nothing to do with the Democratic Party; it has nothing to do with Alan Grayson,” said Mr. Guetzloe in an interview.
In an interview outside his house, Mr. Grayson dismissed as “conspiracy theories” suggestions that he had any contact with Mr. Guetzloe regarding the “Tea Party” ballot line. “The Republican Party of Florida wants people to think that there’s something here,” he said. “The old saying where there’s smoke there’s fire? Here there’s not even any smoke.”
Late last month, in a legal battle between Mr. Guetzloe and grass-roots Tea Party activists who accuse him of hijacking their movement, Wade C. Vose, a local election lawyer representing them, issued a subpoena for Mr. Grayson to sit for a deposition. Mr. Grayson was also ordered to share all written or electronic communications he had had with Mr. Guetzloe, members of the registered “Tea Party” and others. That deposition was to take place on Thursday.
Last week, however, Mr. Guetzloe dropped his defamation suit, filed in May, citing procedural wrangling with Mr. Vose — scuttling the order for Mr. Grayson to answer questions.
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