Cantor's Deep-Pocket Backers Failed to Prevent Stunning Loss

Wednesday, 11 Jun 2014 08:46 PM

By Joe Schaeffer

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Rep. Eric Cantor spent over $5 million to ensure victory against unheralded college economics professor Dave Brat, who managed to raise only a little over $200,000 in pursuit of his wildly improbable bid to topple the House majority leader in the Republican primary in Virginia's Seventh Congressional District.

Cantor lost.

A look at the two campaigns reveals that the spending disparity itself may explain why Cantor was defeated.

While the underdog Brat ran on a platform that unapologetically championed free-market capitalism while stridently denouncing insider corruption, Cantor's top five financial supporters were among the most powerful corporate institutions in the country.

Blackstone Group, a powerhouse private equity investment banking corporation, was Cantor's number-one corporate contributor for the 2013-14 political fundraising cycle, reports OpenSecrets.org, a transparency program of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Blackstone has moved heavily into the rental housing industry in the past two years, and real estate website HousingWire reports that it "is now the largest landlord in America."

"More than 10% of Blackstone's 2014 election cycle donations to individual candidates went to Cantor," HousingWire reports.

"During this cycle, the company has donated $613,125 to candidates, of which $65,000 went to Cantor."

Scoggin Capital Management, a New York-based hedge fund sponsor, was second on the Cantor donor list, with $40,000 listed for the 2014 election cycle, OpenSecrets notes.

Global investment banking goliath Goldman Sachs was third, with $26,000 in donations for the cycle.

In addition to such well-heeled donors, Cantor got major support in May from the American Chemistry Council, a lobbyist for the chemical industry, which spent roughly $300,000 on an outside campaign ad to boost Cantor in his unwanted primary battle, more than his opponent Brat raised for his entire campaign.

The website Watchdog.org noted that "it is the first time in the ACC's 142-year history that the council has made an independent expenditure on behalf of any candidate in a contested primary."

While Cantor's support for immigration reform has been proffered as the best explanation for Brat's stunning triumph, the Randolph-Macon College economics professor considered that only one facet of his challenge to the Republican establishment.

Republic Report, a group that says it was formed to "investigate and uncover the buying and selling of politicians and of institutions entrusted with upholding the public interest," has compiled a list of several strong statements Brat made throughout his primary campaign inveighing against Washington, D.C., corruption.

"Eric Cantor and the Republican leadership do not know what a free market is at all, and the clearest evidence of that is the financial crisis," the group quotes Brat as saying on "The American Maverick Show" with host Flint Engleman.

"When I say free markets, I mean no favoritism to K Street lobbyists," Brat continued.

Republic Report also quoted from a town hall appearance Brat made during the campaign.

"Eric is running on Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable principles," Brat said.

Referring to the American Chemistry Council's expensive intervention, Brat denounced Cantor for getting "crony capitalist friends to run more ads."

He asserted that "I'm not against business. I'm against big business in bed with big government," Republic Report quotes.

Brat also mixed in appeals to traditional Judeo-Christian ethics with his economic critiques, something that appealed to district voters.

"The Judeo-Christian tradition, in my view, is responsible for the formation of this country since 1640," Brat said at an appearance in Danville earlier this year.

Voters were impressed, the Lynchburg News & Advance reports.

"Jeffrey Haley, president and chief executive officer of American National Bank, heard Brat speak at another event and wanted to bring him to Danville," the newspaper reports.

"He said he did not know how deeply Brat would broach the ethics discussion.

"I'd never heard that part,'" Haley said, the News & Advance reports. "'I was pleasantly surprised. It opened my eyes.'

"He added, 'As a banker, I'm used to numbers and the traditional economist view on things. He brought a different dimension when he brought the ethics discussion to the debate.'"

As all of this was happening, Cantor and his powerful donors realized too late that they had a real challenge on their hands.

"James Madison could never have imagined the American Chemistry Council would have spent $300,000 to crush an opponent of a member of Congress," Brat told Breitbart News in May.

In the end, it wasn't enough.

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