Republican candidates in the 2012 U.S. elections will have a powerful weapon they lacked four years ago — heavy spending from groups aligned with the conservative Tea Party movement.

After a warm-up in 2010, when they spent tens of millions of dollars to help sway congressional races, supporters of the Tea Party movement aim to spend significantly more in their bid to defeat President Barack Obama and take control of the U.S. Senate in 2012.

The groups say they are merely helping a grassroots movement seeking a voice. Critics say they are exploiting individual Americans’ anger over economic troubles to promote a big business political agenda.

Americans for Prosperity, financed by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries, is among the groups that existed before the Tea Party wave took off in 2009.

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