Fed up moderate Republicans to launch strike on Club for Growth

Chris Moody
Yahoo News
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FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2004 file photo, then Ohio-Rep. Steven LaTourette speaks in his on Capitol Hill in Washington. The government shutdown could last for many days or even weeks, congressional insiders say, because politically safe members in both parties feel little pressure to compromise. Recent political trends -- including heavily gerrymandered districts that make many House Democrats and Republicans virtual shoo-ins for re-election -- insulate lawmakers from events and emotions beyond their home regions. Gerrymandering has existed for decades. But election results and lawmakers’ voting patterns show that the House is more sharply divided along party lines than at almost any point in modern times. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

A moderate Republican group that is fed up with the recent onslaught of uncompromising GOP lawmakers and candidates is preparing a multimillion dollar campaign against hardline conservative forces during the 2014 midterm elections.

The Main Street Partnership, a center-right activist group led by Steve LaTourette, an Ohio Republican who left Congress earlier this year to join a lobbying firm, aims to spend as much as $8 million to defend sitting Republican lawmakers facing threats from conservative primary challengers.

Through a combination of direct mail, online ads and support for grassroots organizing, the Partnership plans to defend several moderate Republican incumbents next year. The group also plans to launch a direct strike on the Club for Growth, a free-market advocacy network that supports conservative challengers to incumbent GOP lawmakers.

“To this moment in time we’ve never really fought back, and it’s time to take our party back from these guys,” LaTourette, who left Congress earlier this year, told Yahoo News in an interview. “The center-right of the party has really been out-manned and out-maneuvered by the very conservative wing of the party when it comes to fundraising, when it comes to the ability to put boots on the ground and deliver a message in Republican primaries.”

To date, groups like the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund have already formally endorsed a number of conservative challengers to sitting Republicans with records they deem as insufficiently conservative.

Some Republicans see these efforts as counterproductive because it forces the incumbents to devote resources to a primary fight that they could be spending on defeating Democrats in the general election.

They point to cases in the last two election cycles when tea party candidates defeated more centrist primary opponents only to go on to embarrassing defeats in the general election. The Partnership on Wednesday released a video that pointed to some of those failed candidates — particularly Christine “I am not a witch” O'Donnell in Delaware and Todd “legitimate rape” Akin in Missouri. (The Club for Growth did not endorse either of those candidates.)

LaTourette also said inaction in Congress had reached a point of frustration, particularly the failure of House Republicans to find a compromise deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” last year and the debate over the government shutdown and debt ceiling last month.

The Partnership also hopes it can ward off some of the new conservative challengers next year by targeting the groups that support them. To accomplish this, LaTourette intends to launch a website called “The Club for Democratic Growth” in an attempt to undermine the Club for Growth, he told Yahoo News.

“We are going to spend some time educating people as to exactly who they are, and who they are is a small collection of very, very wealthy people who have been able to gain a disproportionate voice in Republican politics,” LaTourette said. “We will be profiling one of their board members or champions on a regular basis with their own words. … We’re going to use their words against them.”

Going up against the Club would be a tall order for the Partnership. While LaTourette’s goal is to spend about $8 million for the campaign, the group has only raised about $2 million so far. In 2012, the group’s political action committee spent just $1.1 million.

When reached by phone Thursday, a spokesman for the Club said the group was not concerned about the Partnership’s plans for next year.

“We don’t really care what some lobbyist has to say about us,” Club spokesman Barney Keller told Yahoo News.

“What groups like this don’t understand is that all that matters to the voters are the candidates and the policies that the candidates support," Keller said. "If being a big government liberal was a ticket to winning a Republican primary then more big government liberals would win Republican primaries. All we do is provide candidates with the resources they need to get the message out and then the voters are the ones picking the candidates.”