Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican, is leading his party's charge against the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group that's targeting McConnell and other incumbent Republicans the group considers insufficiently conservative.
In an interview published Friday by the Wall Street Journal, McConnell, R-Ky., pulled no verbal punches against conservative groups that, he said, use the controversies they create to raise money and then spend that cash attacking Republicans.
"I think a lot of well-meaning people are sending money to organizations having no idea they're gonna spend all that money against Republicans because they're being misled," McConnell said. "The folks that I have difficulty with are the leaders of some of these groups who basically mislead them for profit."
He pointed in particular to the Senate Conservatives Fund, a group closely aligned with Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah.
"(The SCF) has elected more Democrats than the Democratic Senatorial Committee over the last three cycles," McConnell told the paper. "Right now they're on the air in obvious coordination with Harry Reid's super PAC — Harry Reid's! — in the same markets, at roughly the same amount, at the same time."
Indeed, SCF, founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars against Republicans — most notably McConnell himself — in favor of Republican candidates it deems more conservative. The SCF is just one of several conservative groups targeting Republicans in next year's primary, but it is by far the most prominent and aggressive of those groups and the only one McConnell spoke to directly in the interview.
McConnell's comments come just after the National Republican Senatorial Committee moved to marginalize SCF by refusing to do business with any Republican ad firms that have done work for the group.
SCF was one of the groups that pushed GOP lawmakers to defund Obamacare even though it led to a politically disastrous 16-day government shutdown. And it threatened to target any Republican willing to compromise on the issue. Many rank-and-file Republicans cheered SCF's aggressive tack. But McConnell and other GOP leaders charged that the unrealistic effort robbed Republicans of a chance to highlight for voters Obamacare's many flaws.
"Had we been talking Obamacare during that 16 days, instead of people being consumed with the shutdown," McConnell said in the interview, "we'd probably have a generic party ballot lead right now."