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Judson Phillips, the Tennessee lawyer who founded Tea Party Nation two years ago, plans to draw a full-time salary from the group as it gears up to play a larger role in the 2012 elections and in the upcoming debt ceiling debate.

The for-profit organization runs a social networking site for tea party members and organized a convention last year featuring former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), but its role in the movement has since been overshadowed by the better-funded groups Tea Party Express and Tea Party Patriots.

“If we are going to play a role in the events that are unfolding in our country,” Phillips said in an email soliciting contributions, “we cannot continue to operate the way we have.”

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