- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sarah Palin will attend the kickoff rally next month of the “Tea Party Express III” in Searchlight, Nev., hometown of Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, solidifying Mrs. Palin’s union with the grass-roots movement.

Mrs. Palin, the former Alaska governor who was the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, also plans to attend another tea-party rally in Boston on April 14, in addition to her keynote speaking role in the first national Tea Party Convention, which begins Thursday in Nashville, Tenn.

Tea Party Express plans a nationwide bus tour in some 40 cities, kicking off in Searchlight on March 27. The tour ends April 15 in Washington, where there will be a “giant taxpayers’ march,” according to the organizers’ Web site.

“Across the country, tea partiers will be sharing our vision for America’s future, a vision that promotes common-sense solutions to out-of-control spending and an out-of-touch political establishment,” Mrs. Palin wrote in USA Today.

Several Republicans candidates who are looking to take Mr. Reid’s seat in November also will attend, including Sue Lowden, Danny Tarkanian and Sharon Angle. Mr. Reid, the majority leader who shepherded President Obama’s unpopular health-care reform through the Senate, is vulnerable this year, trailing Mrs. Lowden and Mr. Tarkanian by more than 10 percentage points in hypothetical matchups, according to Real Clear Politics.

“At each stop, the tour will highlight some of the worst offenders in Congress who have voted for higher spending, higher taxes, and government intervention in the lives of American families and businesses,” the Tea Party Express Web site says. “These members of Congress have infringed upon the freedom of the individual in this great nation, and its time for us to say: ‘Enough is enough!’”

Mrs. Palin is one of only a few high-profile Republicans who are stepping up their identification with the populist, grass-roots movement. Two conservative GOP members of Congress, Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, recently bailed out of the tea-party gathering in Nashville, citing concerns over its organizational structure and where the money from the $549-per-head admission fee will go.

The “Tea Party Nations for-profit status has put many of [its] speakers in an awkward position, Mrs. Blackburn said in a statement.

The lawmakers’ decisions to drop out followed those of several other groups, including the American Liberty Alliance and the National Precinct Alliance, whose involvement had been prominently displayed on the convention’s Web site. The Tea Party Express, another group that had been billed as attending, now says it will also not attend.

There’s just a tremendous amount of anger about the ticket price, National Precinct Alliance head Philip Glass said in an interview.

For her part, Mrs. Palin has turned down a reported $100,000 speaking fee, saying she will “not benefit financially from speaking at this event… . Any compensation for my appearance will go right back to the cause.”

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