Cantor’s Party Fights Fire in the Base

Photograph by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) at the U.S. Capitol on March 25, 2014 in Washington, DC.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is under fire from his own party — for raising money for his own party.

Brent Bozell, who heads the small government group ForAmerica, and Richard Viguerie, chairman of American Target Advertising, a conservative direct-mail firm, both want Cantor to stay away from an upcoming Republican big donor event in Florida. Bozell called it “a direct attack on Tea Party conservatives” while Viguerie said it is “an act of war by members of the Republican Congress.”

The event, set for this weekend at the Ritz-Carlton on Florida’s Amelia Island, will support Republican Main Street Partnership PAC, a group that, according to Federal Election Commission filings, mostly writes check to incumbent Republicans. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is also set to attend.

It’s the latest flap in the Tea Party vs. Establishment fight playing out in a select number of primary races across the country this year.

The problem with this weekend’s Florida event, from Bozell’s and Viguerie’s points of view, is with Main Street Partnership’s president — former U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette.

“He is very outspoken in his desire to destroy the Tea Party,” said Bozell. “He’s really outspoken on this.”

Bozell fired off a letter to Cantor on April 8 telling the No. 2 House Republican: “You would not be Majority Leader today but for Tea Party conservatives. And you’re headlining an event sponsored by a leftist organization committed to its destruction.”

“Aligning yourself with extreme opponents of the Republican Party would be an astonishing turn of events — with consequences,” according to the letter.

(House Speaker John Boehner was supposed to attend, but backed out due to a scheduling conflict.)

LaTourette has railed against the Club For Grow, calling it a “cancer” and complaining that groups dead-set on funding primary challenges to sitting Republican incumbents are “wiping out moderate center right Republican candidates.”

Sarah Chamberlain, a spokeswoman for Republican Main Street Partnership, dismissed the intra-party sniping. “We have defended our own when they are primaried,” she said, noting her group has given money in 55 House races and three Senate races so far.

“We have to figure out how to work together,” she said, referring to the party divide. “There are districts that only Main Street Republicans can win and districts that only Tea Party Republicans can win.”

Chamberlain said the weekend is part of package of seven events that the group’s donors can attend. Donors gave $5,000 a piece in January and come from corporate interests and some labor unions.

Also irking Bozell is that a super-PAC affiliated with Republican Main Street Partnership takes money from interests that more typically line up with Democrats.

As Bloomberg News’s Greg Giroux reported, an organization connected with the group called Defending Main Street received 90 percent of its $845,000 last year from labor groups.

Last month, that super-PAC poured money into two Republican primaries, dropping $200,000 to support Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho — who was named a top target by the Club for Growth and faces a primary challenge from Tea Party-aligned Bryan Smith.

Also, the super-PAC spent $44,000 on a direct mail campaign against Tea Party-aligned candidate Matt Lynch in Ohio, who is challenging incumbent Republican Rep. David Joyce.

It’s a race of particular interest to the LaTourette — he represented the district from 1995 to 2013.


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