One of the Tea Party's top leaders was recently paid $7,500 by a campaign run by a California Republican group to promote one of their ballot initiatives.

Mark Meckler is a spokesman for the Tea Party Patriots and had publicly distanced himself from the Republican Party. But state records show that he accepted the money for "petition circulation management" from the "Citizen Power Campaign Supported by the Lincoln Club of Orange County."

The Lincoln Club is a key player in state politics and this latest initiative is an ambitious act of political skullduggery. The Citizen Power Campaign is trying to put a measure on the ballot come November that would make it illegal for taxpayer money for political activity. Why? Because that would remove a key source of funding for the public employees union, making it more difficult for pro-labor candidates to get elected.

But the Lincoln Club needs enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot in the first place, which is why they paid Meckler to use his Tea Party influence to help gather signatures.

The initiative has been championed for years by top California Republicans including Carly Fiorina and Steve Poizner, even though it has been voted down in two previous ballots.

Talking Points Memo reported yesterday that Meckler was involved several years ago with a political consulting firm that has ties to the GOP.

Meckler has long been seen as one of the Tea Party's key spokesman, but his ties to the GOP could stoke fears among the movement's followers that their grassroots group is being assimilated by the Republican party.

Tea Party activists created the Web site after accusing Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele of trying to "hijack" their movement for political purposes.