The 2010 elections provided a pretty clear picture of the dividing lines within the Republican Party. There is a K Street wing and a Tea Party wing.
On one side is the Chamber of Commerce, K Street lobbyists, and most business PACs. On the other side is the Club for Growth, the Tea Party, and the Senate Conservatives Fund. In a couple of columns (2010 and 2012), I have framed it as Trent Lott vs. Jim DeMint.
Meanwhile, there's a streak on the Right of earnest moderates, notably David Frum and David Brooks, who are put off by the ideologues on the Club for Growth, Jim DeMint, Tea Party wing of the party. The Davids address actual flaws on the Right -- libertarian purity tests, identity politics, disdain for compromise.
Frum, for instance, spent 2010 siding with Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio, Trey Grayson over Rand Paul, and Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey.
But look at the money trail. From 2010:
Before the May 18 Senate primary, secretary of state and McConnell acolyte Trey Grayson had raised a half million dollars from PACs —20 times the PAC haul of upstart Rand Paul. Paul got a check from outgoing curmudgeon Sen. Jim Bunning, but 18 Republican senators bankrolled Grayson’s campaign, plus the Republican Mainstreet Partnership and three top House Republicans.
Grayson pocketed political action committee cash from businesses that have sided more with Obama than with Republicans, such as $10,000 from drug maker Pfizer — a key champion of Obamacare. Other Grayson funders are a rogues’ gallery of subsidy sucklers and regulatory robber barons: bailout bandits like the American Bankers Association and the Managed Funds Association; Obamacare backers like the American Hospital Association and a dozen drug companies; ethanol baron Archer Daniels Midland; cap-and-trade profiteers like Duke Energy; and government contractors like the Chubb Corp. and Northrop Grumman.
A K Street lobbyist who had represented AIG during the bailouts hosted a fundraiser for Grayson, and at least a dozen lobbying firms and industry groups backed him with cash. And of course, Trent Lott was a Grayson donor.
Lott is the captain of the K Street team. He told a reporter last month his thoughts on the Tea Partiers: “We don’t need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples. As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.”
It was the same with Rubio-Crist: Club for Growth behind Rubio, lobbyists behind Crist. And Bob Bennett vs. Mike Lee. Consistently, the moderate Republican gets the industry PAC and lobbyist money.
This year we're seeing it again with Tommy Thompson, Dick Lugar, David Dewhurst, and Jon Bruning getting lobbyists and industry backing, while Mark Neumann, Richard Mourdock, Ted Cruz, and Don Stenberg get money from the corners of the Right on which Brooks and Frum frown.
So here's my question to the Brooks/Frum earnest moderate grownup Republicans:
Do you feel comfortable siding with the lobbyists, bailout recipients, and companies profiting off of protective regulation? Do you think the PACs and the revolving doors aren't corrupt? Or alternatively, are there Republicans who are independent from both lobbyist influence and Tea Party interests? (Maybe Bob Corker?)
I'd love for the Davids to address their de facto allegiance with K Street and Trent Lott.