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Most people are well aware that the allegedly grassroots tea party movement has significant backing from big money. But how much will the tea partiers be able to influence upcoming elections? Based on recently released financial reports for some of the largest tea party-affiliated groups, a whole lot. Politico reports:

The groups — Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, Leadership Institute and Tea Party Express — raised $79 million last year. That’s a 61 percent increase from their haul in 2009, when the tea party first started gaining traction, and an 88 percent increase over their tally in 2008, according to a POLITICO review of campaign reports and newly released tax filings.

And the two biggest groups — Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks — tell POLITICO they’re planning to raise and spend a whopping $156 million combined this year and next, laying the groundwork for what could be a massive tea party organizing push against Democrats and the occasional moderate Republican in 2012.

While local tea party affiliates are still relatively small grassroots efforts, the profitability of the large, national groups shows that the extreme right wing will no doubt play a role in upcoming elections. In some states, like North Carolina, Democratic candidates are already struggling against the tea party’s massive money machine, thanks to contributions from wealthy conservatives. And, unsurprisingly, electoral evidence shows that the large sums of campaign cash often yield success.

As tea party groups continue to fill their coffers, the impact on elections will certainly not be minimal.

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