Republican members of Congress are riled that increasing numbers of conservative interest groups are using criteria unrelated to lawmakers’ votes to judge and rate them, Politico
Much of the ire is directed at Heritage Action for America, an affiliate of the vaunted Heritage Foundation research group. Heritage Action’s evaluations now include a demerit when members of Congress decline to co-sponsor a favored bill or don’t sign a letter supporting policies the group advocates.
“I think it’s awful, and I think it’s disgusting and I think it’s an example of Republicans eating Republicans,” moderate Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, told Politico.
Some Republicans say they feel threatened because a poor score from an influential interest group could hurt them on the campaign trail. And they are particularly upset at being judged by more than just their votes on major bills.
“We are in an atmosphere . . . that every vote is a litmus test for some interest group, and interest groups are demanding more and more that you sign this pledge, that you vote no,” conservative Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston told Politico.
Even some of Heritage Action’s strongest allies say privately that it may be doing more harm than good by going after fellow Republicans. Heritage Action acknowledges that its evaluation system is causing trouble for some allies but says it helps most conservative members.
Lawmakers’ views of the group’s scoring “depends on what their score is,” Tim Chapman, chief operating officer for Heritage Action, told Politico. “My biggest concern about the pushback, which has been very strong, is that the intensity of it causes conservatives inside Congress to kind of grow weary and to just feel beaten down.”
But on the other hand, “If we only score what’s put before us in terms of votes on the floor, we’ll never get the opportunity to use the scorecard to push the policy that we want to see,” Chapman said.
For their part, members of Congress don’t like seeing their nearly perfect American Conservative Union grades being eclipsed by Heritage Action scores around 50 percent. And their constituents often aren’t aware of the distinction between Heritage’s think tank and its lobbying division.
“There is a big difference between Heritage and Heritage Action, and most people don’t understand,” freshman Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., told Politico. “I’ve got some issues with Heritage Action. I really think they’re kind of unfairly targeting, and the scoring issue — I really think we’re splitting hairs.”
Freshman Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, says Heritage Action’s behavior borders on the self-destructive. “I think if Heritage Action is not more measured in what they’re doing, that it ultimately can hurt the cause of conservatives in the House and will hurt the success of being able to implement the conservative agenda,” he told Politico.
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