Tea Party Candidates Get Some Surprising Help

This flyer was put out by Iowans for Responsible Government, a group funded by the Democratic Governorâ
In a handful of hotly-competitive races, Tea Partiers are running as third-party candidates. As CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports, Democrats are doing what they can to help them - hoping they'll siphon votes away from the Republican.

Never perhaps have there been stranger political bedfellows. In Nevada, a pro-Harry Reid group -- he's the Senate's lead Democrat -- promotes a little-known Tea Party candidate running against Reid: Scott Ashjian.

Illinois Democrat Alexi Giannoulias is running for Senate, yet funding ads propping up his Libertarian opponent.

And in Pennsylvania, Democratic House candidate Bryan Lentz, awkwardly admitsto helping an opponent collect petition signature to get on the ballot. The video came from Lentz's interview with the Delaware County Daily Times.

"If somebody's already made the decision to run, I didn't think that helping with the process of signature petitions was improper," Lentz said.

There are examples across the country of Democrats spending time and money to help out the competition. No, they're not crazy; it's actually a well-though out maneuver to increase the party's odds.

Interactive Map: CBS News Election 2010 Race Ratings

When the Harry Reid supporters promote the little-known Tea Party candidate, it stands to siphon votes from the more popular Tea Party Republican Sharron Angle - thus helping Reid.

Democrat Lentz helps a third-party opponent siphon votes from Republican Pat Meehan.

Democrat Giannoulias helps a long shot Libertarian to try to take votes from Republican opponent Mark Kirk.

Some Democrats openly disclose their efforts. But for others, the tie is harder to find. You'd think this one flyer was put out by conservatives: it calls Iowa's Republican candidate for Governor Terry Branstad "liberal" like "Clinton, Obama and Pelosi."

But IRS filingsshow it's the Democratic Governors Association behind the ads. They're hoping to split Republican votes.

Democrats say there's nothing illegal or even unethical about the tactics. Besides, Republicans have been accused of it in the past - notably in 2004. They supported the Green Party's Ralph Nader to drain votes from Sen. John Kerry.

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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.