Most Read: Opinions

Right Turn
Posted at 08:30 AM ET, 11/12/2012

Rethinking third-party giving on the right

Get a load of this report from Politico:

Rick Tyler, a former strategist for the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC and a top adviser to Todd Akin’s Missouri Senate campaign, called Crossroads’ efforts “a colossal failure,” and asserted, “Rove has too much control over the purse strings.”
Rove “has a lot of explaining to do, mostly to his donors. I don’t think donors are ever going to invest in that level again because it turns out that the architect didn’t know what he was talking about,” Tyler told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Excuse me, the guy who backed Akin and who masterminded the anti-Bain smear film on behalf of Newt Gingrich is lecturing the rest of the conservative movement on being a constructive fundraising force? Puleez. Was there any more destructive force for conservatives in the 2012 general race than Akin or in the primary race by the anti-capitalist feeding frenzy Tyler championed? At least Rove acted in good faith for the promotion of conservative candidates and ideas. As one conservative insider put it to me, “The question isn’t whether Crossroads made any difference, but rather whether the investment could have been better utilized in smarter fashion.”

Crossroads and many other GOP third party groups had a bad night because Republicans had a bad night. But not all PAC's are the same.

Take the new Young Guns (YG) PAC, an offshoot of the vision of and book written by Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The YG Action Fund Web site explains that the candidates it supports want to “take their belief in the principles that have made America great and translate it into solutions that will make the future even better, solutions that will create private sector jobs, maximize individual freedom, and establish a better world for our children.” The YG Action Fund aim is to target the next generation of conservative candidates running primarily in Democratic districts. Therefore many of its races were an uphill climb – offense opportunities in Democratic areas. It nevertheless did quite well. In a donor call last week YG gave out the following stats:

• The YG Action Fund & the YG Network set a target of raising $20 million in our first election cycle. We met that goal.
• The YG Action Fund & YG Network invested over $10 million in direct political independent expenditures from August-November.
• We engaged in 28 races in which the candidates fit our brand and eclipsed our criteria. Three of those races have not yet been decided. Of the 24 decided, YG won 13 of them for a 58% winning percentage on what was a difficult night for Republicans. If the remaining 4 go our way, we will have a 65% winning percentage.
• Three of the races that we lost were by less than 1%. Additional resources certainly could have made up for that.
• Our investments in these key races played a significant role in keeping the majority in Republican hands under Speaker Boehner’s Leadership.

This is the argument for the so-called Niche PAC, those that spend less money but do so more effectively with better messaging and superior candidate selection. Not unlike the archaic get out the vote operation, conservative fundraising operations can’t win on volume; they must operate with more precision and purpose when it comes to fundraising.

Why do so many give indiscriminately, backing candidates whose image is destructive for the party or who cling to positions that inhibit the expansion of the party? For example, Rove has always been a proponent of immigration reform. So why not back candidates who are viable and can assist the party in moving to a more sustainable position? In other words, if third-party groups are to be effective and play a constructive role in the party, those behind them need to think more constructively about where they think the party should be headed and then give their money accordingly.

Likewise a number of major donors (both conservative and libertarian) have urged the party to move off its opposition to gay marriage. As Rod Dreher cogently put it: “We should understand that this was not an argument we were going to win, in part because the elites, especially in the media, were dead-set against us, but mostly because SSM [same-sex marriage] makes sense given how most people today, especially younger Americans, think about marriage and sexuality. . . . The Republican Party is not going to do anything significant to protect traditional marriage.” Then big donors who agree should stop giving to candidates, think tanks and publications that don’t adhere to that view. Too often the rich donor on the right seems compelled to give to whomever asks simply to be a player in the movement or to be a good sport. But that mentality is dragging the party under.

If the reality-based donor community wants to win elections, then big-money donors shouldn’t give money to candidates who are going to propound views that ooze intolerance and are off-putting to urban, young voters both gay and straight. Why bankroll publications or fund think tanks that don’t get it?

This is not a matter of setting up pro-gay marriage PAC's or pro-immigration reform PAC’s. Rather, existing third-party groups and big donors (e.g. Crossroads, the Republican Jewish Coalition, YG, the Koch Brothers) should promote only candidates who can be expected to grow the GOP, that is be elected and then expand the party’s appeal.

Republican candidates in deep red states with positions appropriate to those jurisdictions frankly don’t need a lot of third-party money. But outside deep red turf, the donor community should not be mislead or waste money. Strategic, focused giving for electable candidates who want to take the party where it needs to go should be the goal.

Why would GOP donors ever back a Todd Akin or consent to have their funds used to promote anti-free market views? Why should donors who recognize the need for immigration reform back publications that use anti-immigrant language and perpetuate the false notion the GOP can win without improving its standings with Hispanics? The era of forking over millions to pay for anyone with an “R” next to his name — a sort of mutual fund for Republicans pols, as some moneymen describe it — should come to an end. It’s time for donors to wise up.

By  |  08:30 AM ET, 11/12/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company