Topics: House of Representatives

Club for Growth head blasts former colleagues for voting as he did in the House of Representatives

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Opinion,Op-Eds,House of Representatives,Republican Party,Campaigns,Club for Growth,Super PACs,Main Street Partnership,Steven LaTourette

House Democrats picked up 31 seats in 2006 by defeating 22 Republican incumbents and winning eight Republican-held open seats.

The election paved the way for Rep. Nancy Pelosi's election as Speaker of the House and two years later, she partnered with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama to ram a disastrous health care bill into law, along with trillions of dollars in new government debt.

Often overlooked in the re-telling of this critical election, however, is that Nancy Pelosi had a key ally that year in the form of the Club for Growth.

This so-called conservative organization hammered Republican candidates with negative ads and ultimately spent three times more money attacking Republicans than they did attacking the Democrats, who supported Pelosi for Speaker just weeks later.

Of the money the club did spend in support of Republicans, the decisions of its leader were similarly questionable.

For example, Sharron Angle was a backbencher assemblywoman running for Congress in Nevada's Second Congressional district against then-Secretary of State Dean Heller.

The Club for Growth poured over a million dollars into that Republican primary in support of Angle and attacked Heller as a “tax loving liberal.”

Today, Dean Heller is a senator with one of the strongest fiscally-conservative records in Congress, while Angle, who lost in 2006, went on to infamy as the Republican who helped ensure Reid’s re-election in 2010, with the Club endorsing her in that race as well.

It’s against this backdrop that the Defending Main Street PAC, which I head, is running an ad in Idaho’s Second Congressional District in support of conservative Republican Rep. Mike Simpson and against his trial lawyer opponent who has been propped up, in large part, financially by the Club.

The ad includes a clip of Club head and former Rep. Chris Chocola at a March debate with me in which he cites Pelosi as the person he “respects the most in Washington.”

Given that these were Chocola's own words, imagine my surprise to see Washington Examiner columnist David Freddoso call it a dishonest ad in a recent piece on this page.

The reality is that not only was this clip not taken out of context, as Freddoso claims, but it encapsulates perfectly the guiding philosophy of the Club for Growth.

Like Pelosi and her pursuit of issues like cap-and-trade, both are ideological warriors who have made clear they would rather lose elections on uncompromising principle, rather than achieve 80 percent of their goals by compromising in even the slightest way.

While a purity-for-profit business model may be financially lucrative for the Club on the fundraising front, it’s consistently hurt Republicans at the ballot box.

As with Nevada's Angle, witness for example the Club's endorsement of Colorado's Ken Buck in 2010 and Indiana's Richard Mourdock in 2012, along with numerous failed House races.

However, I was glad Freddoso raised the issue of dishonest and misleading political attack ads. As I observed at that same debate with Chocola, those of us who served with him in the House have been struck by how an estimated $600,000 annual salary can transform someone into an ideological warrior.

The reality is that many of the issues the Chocola-led Club is attacking Republicans on today were in fact supported by him when he served in Congress.

In one House race last cycle, for example, the Club attacked Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., in a TV ad for voting to fund Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere.”

There was just one big problem - Chocola had cast the same exact vote. Among other things, Chocola also voted to raise the debt ceiling, expand Medicare entitlements, and support earmarks for his district; all issues the Club has run attacks ads against Republicans today.

Freddoso and others are free to disagree, but to myself and many other Republicans, that’s not only dishonest advertising, it’s blatantly hypocritical politicking, and Republican voters deserve better.

Former Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette is president of Main Street Partnership.
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