I don’t agree with everything in her delicious rant on Fox News, but Ann Coulter made a much needed distinction between the “tea party” — actual citizen activists — and the Beltway groups that have capitalized and claimed the tea party mantle:
I do think, however, that she is wrong to lump in Club for Growth with the others. I’ve certainly had my differences with CFG (as have other conservatives) and criticized their part in the rise of the self-destructive “purity” squad that brought us the shutdown. However, in terms of primary picking, they’ve made markedly saner choices than groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, Madison Project and FreedomWorks.
CFG hasn’t backed Matt Bevin or Milton Wolf (as other groups have), thereby protecting their donors’ pocketbooks and their own reputations. They have instead gone for very conservative but plausible candidates, yesterday picking former Alaska attorney general Daniel Sullivan rather than tea party gadfly and 2010 loser Joe Miller. Other primary endorsements — Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Ben Sasse in Nebraska — have been in sync with mainstream GOP groups. These are disciplined, responsible candidates.
Is CFG just smarter than the other groups? CFG refused to answer questions on its primary process, although publicly its president Chris Chocola has said, “Our PAC evaluates three factors when looking at races that involve incumbents: 1) the strength of the incumbent’s record; 2) the degree of difference between the incumbent and the challenger on economic issues; and 3) the viability of the challenger.” In any event GOP insiders, money-raisers and campaign veterans have noticed the group’s renewed focus on the last of these, electability.
A Republican official who has had differences with CFG acknowledges that CFG is “focused on picking winners this time.” Another GOP insider tells Right Turn, “I think they’ve been far smarter and better stewards of their donors’ dollars than SCF, Madison or FreedomWorks. . . . SCF on the other hand is wasting their donors’ money, looking terrible and defending the indefensible.” One difference may be that CFG has a mature board of directors to guide the organization. There is therefore some accountability for their decisions that reflect more than simply the whim of a single organization’s leader.
I don’t agree with CFG’s position on a number of issues or its stream of scored “no” votes, but there is no denying they have tried to be more discerning than other groups, most notably by not opposing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.). The challengers a group doesn’t endorse say as much about it as the challengers it does.
After the election, those who wasted millions on flaky candidates may want to reconsider whether they are doing the conservative cause any good. On the other hand — and most likely — they’ll keep on throwing money at the most incendiary candidates, using anger to whip up fundraising dollars and spending lavishly on themselves. Their donors might, however, consider sending their money to groups that are every bit as conservative but a whole lot less irresponsible.