November 11, 2013
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint.(Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ-Roll Call)
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint.(Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ-Roll Call)

Club for Growth is one of the right-wing groups prone to backing losing, extreme candidates and cheering on silly stunts like the shutdown. (To the group’s credit, I suspect due to business interests, it stayed out of the immigration fight.) They ask for a lot of money in constant emails bemoaning this and that Republican, claiming they’ve been sold down the river by squishy moderates. However, if you didn’t know better you’d think CFG is a Democratic organization.

Opensecrets.org lists the CFG for 2013 as spending $16,584,207 in the 2012 election cycle. Over $9M was spent against Republicans. Consider also that it spent about $950,000 attacking Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and over $700,000 backing the now infamous Richard Mourdock. Democrat Joe Donnelly won the seat when Mourdock self-destructed. That is how it is spending donors’ money.

It also spent a boat load of money, almost $5M, attacking Lt. David Dewhurst for the 2012 Senate seat in favor of now Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), leader of the shutdown squad. Interestingly it only spent about $630,000 for Cruz. The GOP is still recovering from its shutdown poll drubbing, and Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign advisers argue that the debacle helped sink their candidate in the Virginia governor’s race.

CFG’s strategy was much criticized in 2010 as well when it backed Sharon Angle, Ken Buck, Joe Miller — all general election losers. By pushing unprepared, true-believer candidates in 2010 and 2012 it helped throw away potential pickups in Nevada, Colorado and Texas Alaska while helping Dems win Indiana. That is four seats Republicans don’t have (they need six now to win back the majority). I doubt there is a single Democratic group as effective in undermining GOP attempts to gain the Senate majority. Now even when CFG doesn’t win it can bleed a candidate in the primary, making him easier to knock off in the general election.

However, there is some small sign CFG is adjusting its tactics. It recently praised but did not endorse minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), unlike other right wing outfits like the Madison Project and Senate Conservatives Fund which back his novice primary opponent and shutdown cheerleader Matt Bevin. Bevin stands very little chance, but the ads paid for by CFG will be fodder for Dems in the general election. McConnell will have to spend some money there instead of husbanding it away for a tough general election fight against secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes. I have yet to find a single Kentucky activist or pol who thinks Bevin would be the stronger candidate against Grimes. No wonder the Dems are running ads against McConnell in the primary.

This is only one example of the dysfunction on the right that winds up playing into the Dems hands. With CFG, Madison Project and Senate Conservatives Fund to do its work both in savaging good GOP candidates and boosting flaky ones, Democrats can focus their funds on hard-to-win swing states and even some long-shot races. The GOP has many travails these days but one serious one is certainly the penchant of right-wing groups to help the Democratic Party. Their donors might want to reconsider how they are spending their money.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.