It also provides a curious twist to the initially Republican-benefiting Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision of 2010, which led to the creation of super PACs and freed politically active nonprofit groups and union organizations to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to spend supporting or opposing political candidates.
During the 2010 midterm elections, conservative organizations hardly spent any money opposing Republican candidates, federal records from the first four months of that year indicate.
Tea party groups of today are unapologetic about their attacks on numerous Republican torchbearers. They say the candidates they support are bona fide conservatives better positioned to defeat Democrats in November’s general election.
Club for Growth Action, the super PAC arm of the Club for Growth, has so far invested $2 million into attacks on several incumbent Republicans, including Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho; and Shane Osborn, a former Nebraska state treasurer who’s running for U.S. Senate.
Club for Growth Action seeks to involve itself in contests “we feel that our resources can make an impact on the outcome of the race,” spokesman Barney Keller said.
So far, tea party groups are off to a lousy start. Tea party-backed candidates failed Tuesday in a long-shot primary bid to unseat House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and win North Carolina’s U.S. Senate primary. But they still sought to find a silver lining.
“Whether we win or lose, the other side has had to campaign on our issues during these primaries,” said Russ Walker, national political director for FreedomWorks for America, which has this year spent more than $118,000 on advertisements and related expenditures primarily attacking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Cochran. “Our ultimate goal is to pass policy that’s lowering taxes and making government smaller.”
Officially, Republican Party officials are floating above the fray, and per usual, not endorsing candidates in primaries.
“Voters in each congressional district know best as to who will make the best general election candidate,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said.
GOP brass are, however, hardly thrilled with their midterm election lot, regardless of their early success repelling tea party challenges.
Three national-level party officials not authorized to speak on behalf of the party said they’re particularly concerned that protracted primary fights — a la Mitt Romney in 2012 — will hurt the party’s ultimate midterm congressional nominees by bleeding them of time and resources that could be better spent skewering Democrats.
One cited Cochran’s June 3 primary fight with state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who’s enjoyed heavy support from groups such as FreedomWorks for America and the Senate Conservatives Fund, as particularly troubling.
Democrats, for their part, are content to let conservatives continue to supply ammunition to its circular firing squad.
“Anytime you have people spending large amounts of money to attack their own, you have a smile on your face,” said Peter Fenn, president of Fenn Communications Group, whose many Democrat-supporting roles include working as a surrogate spokesman for the presidential campaigns of Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama. “You have what I like to call the cuckoo caucus going against hardened conservatives. It shows how extreme the Republican Party has become, and that helps Democrats.”
Said Matt Thornton, spokesman for Democrat-backing super PAC House Majority PAC: “Pass the popcorn. It’s indicative that the Republican Party is at war with itself… the longer they’re spending money against each other, the less time they’re spending against us.”
Mainstream conservative organizations are responding with big money of their own to parry tea party-affiliated groups’ offensives on established Republicans.