House tea partiers snub GOP in 2014
By: Alex Isenstadt
October 20, 2013 04:59 PM EDT
Hard-line conservatives aren’t just sticking it to the national GOP by shutting down the government and bringing the nation to the brink of default – they’re also refusing to pony up to help their party defend the House in 2014.
With a little more than a year until the midterm election, many leaders of the shutdown strategy have yet to donate to the National Republican Congressional Committee, records show. At least eight of the debate’s 20 or so most outspoken figures have not given any money to the NRCC, and others have forked over token amounts.
Their refusal to contribute to the House GOP’s political arm, coming as Republicans are getting thumped by Democrats in the money race, is causing heartburn and frustration among Republican strategists charged with laying the groundwork for next year’s races. They say it is reinforcing a perception of the conservative gang that they’re only out for themselves and don’t much care about advancing the party’s larger cause.
Take Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, the libertarian acolyte of Ron Paul and one of the most outspoken lawmakers for a hard line on the budget and debt negotiations. Amash, who voted against the final deal to reopen the government, hasn’t contributed to the NRCC this year, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Nor has he given to the committee at any point during his two terms in Congress.
Freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), who said Republicans would be seen as “heroes” for shutting down the government, also hasn’t contributed to the NRCC this year. Nor has Georgia Rep. Tom Graves or Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp.
None of the House Republicans mentioned in this story returned requests for comment on why they haven’t given or whether they would give to the NRCC in the future. Of course, many tea party members see their allegiance as being to the grassroots, not the establishment, and want to change business as usual in Washington.
The NRCC also declined to comment, but provided a statement thanking the House GOP’s leadership team for its fundraising help.
“Here at the NRCC we continue to exceed our internal goals and beat our own records thanks to the hard work our dedicated members are putting into growing the Republican majority,” said Andrea Bozek, an NRCC spokeswoman.
“Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, NRCC Chairman Greg Walden and the rest of our leadership team in the House have personally put in extraordinary time and effort to ensure that Republicans have the resources necessary to go up against the Obama-Pelosi machine,” she added.
No one would call any of the lawmakers friends of the Republican establishment. All year long, they and other tea party-aligned lawmakers have given House Speaker John Boehner fits.
Some GOP officials argue the conservatives are only hurting their cause by potentially threatening the party’s 17-seat hold on the House. Republicans are heavily favored to maintain control of the chamber after the midterm, but the combination of superior fundraising and recurring drama in Washington could give Democrats hope.
“These members can, and do, talk until they are red in the face about how this shutdown effort will somehow help Republicans in 2014, even though all the evidence is to the contrary,” said one House GOP leadership aide, who declined to criticize members of their own party on the record. “However, none of them have stepped up to the plate to make sure the party has the resources it needs to actually win races.”
Just because a member hasn’t contributed at this point doesn’t mean he or she won’t later on. Graves, for example, provided a $120,000 donation just weeks before the last election. But with tensions between the conservatives and leadership especially raw, many Republicans view the lack of giving as a proverbial middle finger to the establishment — and an indication that the money will very possibly never come.
Member fundraising isn’t the be-all, end-all of a political committee’s financial fortunes. Many members are expected to pay in the low six figures. If those dues go unpaid, however, it can be offset in other areas. The NRCC, for example, relies heavily on K Street dollars, on Boehner’s considerable fundraising muscle, and on a nationwide network of online donors.
Still, the lack of help from these members is heightening the already palpable anxiety about the party’s finances among Republicans leading its 2014 efforts.
On Friday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported that it raised an impressive $8.4 million in September. It marked the DCCC’s best September ever in a year before an election, and was nearly double its August haul.
On Sunday, the NRCC will report that it raised $5.3 million in September, according to figures provided to POLITICO. While the sum represents the committee’s best off-year September total since 1994, the NRCC ended the month with $6 million less in the bank than the DCCC.
Republicans are worried that Democratic dollars will flow even more freely in October, when the fiscal showdown reached a crescendo. Democrats say their fundraising numbers show that the shutdown standoff energized party donors.
Nearly all members of the House GOP Conference are expected to pay dues to the NRCC. In some instances, lawmakers who face competitive reelection campaigns are given leeway. But for nearly all the members who pushed the strategy that led to the shutdown — all of them represent deeply conservative districts and are unlikely to draw serious Democratic opponents — that’s not the case.
Among the other truants is Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. As a retiring member, Bachmann doesn’t have to worry about funding an expensive reelection campaign next year. But so far, she’s refused to dip into her $1.7 million war chest for the NRCC.
It’s a similar story with Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, a frequent critic of Boehner who through the end of September had nearly $300,000 available in his political account. Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert hasn’t given either, even though he has more than $260,000 on hand.
There are exceptions among the Republicans who were most outspoken about shutting down the government in order to defund Obamacare. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, for instance, has paid $45,000 to the NRCC. Others have made small contributions: Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, who at one point said that the shutdown would not be a “big deal,” has donated $6,000. Florida Rep. Ted Yoho has given $12,000.
Democrats have not been immune to the problem of lawmakers not kicking in to their political arm. In the run-up to the 2012 election, DCCC officials removed framed photos of a half-dozen delinquent House members from the lobby of party headquarters.