Rebels With a Cause: Grass-Roots Conservatives Outraise Establishment in Battle for GOP

Saturday, 01 Feb 2014 10:53 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Grass-roots groups seeking a conservative Republican Party are raking in more money than establishment GOP organizations in what is shaping up as a big-bucks struggle for control of the party’s future amid the looming mid-term elections.

Powerful groups, such as Karl Rove's Crossroads, are this year having trouble raising the same kind of cash they brought in during the 2012 elections, The New York Times reports.

Crossroads spent more than $300 million trying to oust President Barack Obama and win the Senate, but failed in both efforts, and donors are turning elsewhere in hopes of returning Republicans to Washington.

Rove's three Crossroads organizations raised just $6.1 million last year, 98 percent less than in 2012, Politico reports.

The Tea Party Patriots, meanwhile, are raising record amounts of money, attracting donors angry about compromises incumbent GOP lawmakers have made in recent years over federal spending.

Tea Party Patriots President Jenny Beth Martin told the Times the increased funds allow the group to become active in more races, and that people are becoming more involved in the organization.

Advertising campaigns are already being waged in Kentucky, Mississippi, and other states where tea party-backed candidates are attempting to force incumbents out of office.

Crossroads, the Congressional Leadership Fund, and Young Guns Action, all which have close ties to the party's Congressional leadership, have raised a combined $7.7 million in 2013.

But the grass-roots groups FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth Action Fund, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and the Tea Party Patriots, raised $20 million last year, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

“This is by far the biggest nonelection year we’ve ever had,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a group that squares off against establishment Republican organizations. "It shows how committed people are to electing true conservatives and to advancing conservative principles.”

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group founded by billionaire David Koch, has spent more than $23 million on attacks against Democratic incumbents, particularly those who supported Obamacare.

And while Republicans counted on Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies in 2012 to attack Democratic candidates, the GOP now counts on Americans for Prosperity, which also has been critical of the Republican party.

"The model that we have been building for the past eight years — a state-based organization with a supportive home office but a permanent infrastructure on the ground, with real troops, and with real support behind it — is one that our supporters believe in," said Levi Russell, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity.

Despite the early fund-raising numbers, establishment organizations like Crossroads traditionally raise more money as general elections near. Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said pledges are on track with previous cycles, and the group remains optimistic that Republicans can win a Senate majority and keep their hold on the House.

Major trade associations are also planning to spend millions against Democrats, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce planning to spend at least $50 million on the upcoming elections to ensure tea party backed candidates, whom it says can't win elections, will not be on the ballot.

Meanwhile, two super PACs announced Friday that they had pulled in $16.4 million, or twice the amount it collected in 2011, the last comparable year, the Times reported.

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