Senate Conservatives Fund Leader Stirs Up Republican Anger

Thursday, 09 Jan 2014 12:28 PM

By Courtney Coren

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The leader of the Senate Conservatives Fund has become a controversial figure among Republicans for his willingness to back primary candidates against sitting GOP senators in the name of building a more conservative coalition.

Matt Hoskins took over the fundraising operations for the group from former South Carolina GOP Sen. Jim DeMint when he left the Senate in 2012 to head up the conservative Heritage Foundation. Hoskins does most of his business from San Diego County, where he moved a few years ago to be closer to family.

According to Politico, the success of the Senate Conservatives Fund has created mixed feelings among Republicans. Those who support Hoskins and his tactics see him as a man of principle, and those who don't see him as a craven political operator and opportunist who is in the business for his own personal financial gain.

"Matt is in it for whatever Matt can get out of it," said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who knew Hoskins when he worked as an aide for DeMint. "It's not anything more than that."

In this year's midterm elections, the Senate Conservatives Fund is supporting primary challenges to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Even Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a tea party favorite used to being at odds with the GOP more establishment senators, told Politico that the group's tactics are "unusual."

"I would say it doesn't create a lot of extra happiness around here when people are opposing people in a primary," said the freshman senator, who is backing McConnell's re-election effort.

In an interview with Politico, Hoskins shrugged off the criticism.

"They are always looking for someone else to blame," Hoskins said of the sitting senators. "If they don't want to be criticized by conservatives, there is an easy solution; they can stop voting with Democrats."

While the group under DeMint backed conservative candidates for the Senate, it did not challenge Republican incumbents as a general rule. But DeMint praised the group in a statement to Politico.

"The Senate Conservatives Fund has been critical to helping elect new conservative leaders like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and others," DeMint said. "But it hasn't been successful because of any one person; it's thousands and thousands of concerned citizens from across the country uniting to help conservatives who are committed to stopping the spending and debt in Washington."

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