Power to the People: Tea Party’s grassroots momentum smashes the business lobby’s monopoly on GOP fundraisingPosted: October 6, 2013
K-Street takes a backseat as a new movement disrupts traditional big business fundraising authority. Will corporate interests seeking to influence elections switch brands and align with Democrats?
Don’t blame redistricting. Don’t chalk it up to anti-Obama fervor.
Here’s a story of where the GOP used to be:
Back in 2006, I asked a couple of conservative Republican congressmen to give blurbs for my book on corporate welfare. “My boss loves the book,” one of their top aides said, “but we’re not going to put his name on it.” Why not, I asked. “Who do you think funds his campaigns?” she whispered. “It’s not the Family Research Council.”
In short, the conservative congressman was happy to fight the good fight, but he wasn’t willing to upset Big Business because that’s where the checks came from — and no checks meant no re-election.
Back then, to raise money, Republicans had to go to K Street.
Call your former chief of staff who was now at a lobbying firm, have him host a fundraiser. Your ex-aide would show up with colleagues carrying $2,500 checks and with corporate clients handing over $5,000 checks from their political action committees.
Although K Street was the road to campaign cash, the party leadership was often the path to K Street. This helps explain the power dynamic in the pre-Tea Party GOP.
But the Tea Party smashed K Street’s monopoly on Republican fundraising. The Club for Growth was founded in the late 1990s, and early last decade, it began targeting liberal Republicans in primaries. By 2010, the Club had become a giant force, raising money for candidates who met its rigorous ideological tests and pouring millions into independent expenditures against less-favored Republicans and Democrats.
In 2009, Sen. Jim DeMint founded the Senate Conservatives Fund. The thinking was this: The job of the party leadership was to elect Republicans to the Senate, no matter what. DeMint wanted conservative Republicans.
Instead of corporate interests filling Republican coffers, ideological money started coming in, too.
While GOP leaders backed candidates like Charlie Crist (Fla.), Trey Grayson (Ky.), and Sue Lowden (Colo.) in 2010 primaries, the SCF backed Marco Rubio,Rand Paul, and Sharron Angle. K Street and the National Republican Senatorial Committee worked hand-in-hand — but for a change, there was a countervailing force.
Consider the Kentucky primary that year.
With Mitch McConnell’s help, Grayson raised half a million dollars from business PACs, including Obamacare backers like Pfizer and the American Hospital Association, bailout beneficiaries like the American Bankers Association and the Managed Funds Association and Beltway bandits like Northrop Grumman. At least a dozen lobbying firms and industry trade groups funded Grayson….(read more)
Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner’s senior political columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears Sunday and Wednesday on washingtonexaminer.com.
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