Tea Party Backers Slam Chamber's $50M Assault as 'Insane'

Friday, 27 Dec 2013 08:31 PM

By Todd Beamon and Sandy Fitzgerald

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Tea party supporters on Friday blasted a plan by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to spend $50 million to support establishment and business-friendly Republican candidates in next year's congressional elections.

"It's insane," Cleta Mitchell, one of Washington's most respected elections attorneys, told Newsmax. "It's based on false assumptions.

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"When they say, 'no fools on the ticket,' the fact of the matter is that there were some centrist candidates who were the establishment favorites who lost in 2012," Mitchell added. "That's fine if they want to spend that money, but I think it's going to be wasted money — and I don't think it's going to do any good in the final analysis."

Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, called the move "misguided in many respects. I'm all for political free speech. People can participate in the political process — and it's good when they do.

"But the problem with a lot of the groups is that they don't really care about what the candidates believe," Chocola added. "They just care what party label they have — and in this case, it's Republican."

The Washington-based chamber, established in 1912, said that it would spend $50 million supporting centrist Republican candidates who are running for the House of Representatives and the Senate next year.

"Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates," Scott Reed, the chamber's strategist, told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. "That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket."

The chamber has expressed its dissatisfaction with such tea party-backed senators as Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, both of whom resisted passing a budget this year without a provision to defund Obamacare.

The move led of a 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government in October, costing taxpayers $1.4 billion.

“To repeal Obamacare and stop the spending spree, we must win at least six seats in the U.S. Senate now held by liberal Democrats," Grover Norquist , president of Americans for Tax Reform, told Newsmax. "The good news is that the tea party movement, the Chamber of Commerce and the nation need the GOP to nominate solid conservative candidates who will win in the general election in November.

"We must unite to nominate strong, competent, constitutionalist candidates capable of winning first the primary and then the general election in November," Norquist added.

"And we will."

Tom Borelli, senior fellow for FreedomWorks, characterized the chamber's pledge as more of the same from an organization that regularly backs big government and big business.

"The tea party is about lowering costs," Borelli told Newsmax. "They'll want regulations to favor big business."

Tea party candidates represent a threat to big government, he said, and without the chamber's huge commitment, many candidates "would be afraid to take on the tea party."

Both Mitchell and Chocola pointed to such establishment Republican candidates who lost their Senate races last year as George Allen in Virginia, Rick Berg in North Dakota, Denny Rehberg in Montana, and Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin.

"That's who they wanted — and they all lost," Mitchell said. "The thing that I think is really crazy is to not realize is that the tea party is the grass roots. It's really the energy. Those are the volunteers.

"That's where the energy will come from," she added. "It will not come from the Chamber of Commerce running TV ads."

Chocola said that "the lessons from 2012 don't seem to be learned," asking, "Why did they all lose?

"They were all establishment-backed candidates. No outside groups tampered with their races, or you can't blame anybody for interfering in what the establishment thought was a clear path to victory.

"They all lost because they really didn't articulate things that Republicans say they are for," Chocola added. "It's always more important what the candidates believe rather than what party label they attach to their candidacy."

The Club for Growth is supporting these tea party-backed GOP Senate candidates next fall: Midland University President Ben Sasse in Nebraska; Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas; and state Sen. Chris McDaniel in Mississippi.

In addition, Chocola, Norquist and Mitchell all noted that two GOP candidates that did not get tea party support last year, former Rep. Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana, lost their senate races over negative comments about pregnancy and rape.

"It was not a surprise that Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock lost," Chocola said. "They said things you can't say. Akin and Mourdock were distractions."

"Nominating candidates like Akin, who made criminally stupid comments about rape, is not conservative," Norquist said. "It serves the interests of Obama and the left."

Mitchell concurred.

"Todd Akin was the nominee in a state where he didn't have to have a runoff, he didn't have to get a majority — and the Democrats put money behind him to help make sure he was the nominee because he was the weakest candidate."

But she went even further, questioning the Republican mainstream's choice for the White House, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"He was the nominee that all the GOP establishment wanted — and that's what we got. The tea party, grass-roots people supported him in the general election, but they didn't want him," she said. "But they supported him.

"And he wasn't a conservative. He was more moderate, more centrist — and they got him," Mitchell added. "Now, why didn't he win?"

Mitchell, however, raised a larger question in light of the chamber's new effort.

"Let's say they pick a side in the primary, and their candidate loses," she posed. "Are they going to support the nominee?

"They always expect conservatives to support whatever centrist gets nominated," she added. "In 2010, the reason some of the tea party candidates lost is because the establishment did not support them in the general election.

"There are false assumptions that are bandied about in terms of the conventional wisdom in Washington — and, like most of the things that are the conventional wisdom of the Washington establishment, a lot of their facts are wrong.

"If they want to spend $50 million on this — I think it's ridiculous — but more power to them," Mitchell added, referring to the chamber. "It's a free country — still, for a little while."

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