Meet the GOP group that’s blacklisted by the GOP

November 12, 2013

Matt Hoskins is the executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group that has made waves with its willingness to endorse against sitting Republican senators. Prior to his work at SCF, Hoskins served as a top aide to then-South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. Given how much animosity SCF is generating among establishment Republicans, we reached out to Hoskins to chat about the incoming his group is facing, what it means and how he envisions SCF's role in future elections. Our conversation, conducted via e-mail, is below and has been edited only for grammar.

FIX: Mitch McConnell told the Wall Street Journal that SCF  "has elected more Democrats than the Democratic Senatorial Committee over the last three cycles." Is he wrong? And, what do you say to the larger critique that SCF isn't interested in electing Republicans but rather raising money for itself?

Matt Hoskins: Mitch McConnell has a bad habit of blaming the grass roots for the party's losses and ignoring our role in the party's victories. We helped elect Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, but McConnell never talks about this. Instead, he distorts our record. SCF has helped nominate only two tea party Republicans who lost to Democrats. McConnell, however, has helped nominate at least six moderate Republicans who lost to Democrats in the same time period. Mitch McConnell has also falsely accused SCF of collaborating with Harry Reid when he is the one helping Harry Reid pass bailouts, debt limit increases, tax hikes, and funding for Obamacare. And it was Mitch McConnell, not SCF, who refused to campaign against Harry Reid in 2010.


Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delivers remarks during the second day of the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 15, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

SCF works to promote conservative policies and to elect conservative candidates. People donate to SCF because they know we're serious about accomplishing these goals, but it's also why the party establishment dislikes us. If all we did was raise money for profit, the establishment wouldn't be complaining. They're upset because we actually use the money to hold them accountable. Also, SCF raises money directly for candidates. When people give to a candidate through SCF, the candidate gets 100 percent of the donation and SCF gets nothing. We bundle millions of dollars for Republican candidates each cycle, which is why they value our endorsement.

FIX: The National Republican Senatorial Committee has said any consulting firm that does work for SCF won't get a contract with them. Does that threat make if difficult for SCF to hire top-tier talent? And are you surprised by the committee's aggressiveness?

Hoskins: The NRSC is now targeting SCF vendors and SCF candidates because Mitch McConnell has ordered them to. SCF has been on opposite sides of the NRSC in a number of previous races, but things always remained professional. That all changed when Mitch McConnell selfishly decided to force the party to do his dirty work. The committee's decision to blacklist our vendors and our candidates won't stop us and it may even help us. As the grass roots continue to find out that the party's leadership has declared war on conservatives, they will fight even harder to replace these politicians with people who share their values.

FIX: Mike Murphy, a Republican consultant, described the ongoing fight for control of the GOP as between mathematicians and priests. Does that dichotomy make sense to you? And is SCF fully on the "priest" side?

Hoskins: The mathematicians vs. priests dichotomy doesn't describe what's really happening between conservatives and the establishment. Both sides are actually driven by ideology. One ideology is conservative and the other is moderate. One side believes in being bold and aggressive in dealing with Democrats and liberal policies while the other believes it's better to be tame and willing to compromise. The establishment says they only care about numbers, but if that were true they wouldn't waste money on primaries in solid Republican states when that money could be used to pick up seats held by Democrats in battleground states.

The truth is the establishment generally likes incumbents and moderates better than their conservative challengers because establishment candidates are less likely to rock the boat and disagree with the party's leadership. Just look at the race in Kentucky. Mitch McConnell has been in office for nearly 30 years and he's very unpopular in the state. If the party establishment truly cared about winning this race and saving millions of dollars to win others, they would do what Mitch McConnell did to Jim Bunning in 2009 and politely encourage McConnell to retire. The party's support for him has nothing to do with math and everything to do with their moderate, pro-incumbent ideology.

The establishment's moderate ideology is also what drove them to support Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio, Trey Grayson over Rand Paul, and Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey. Jim DeMint once said that he would rather have 30 Marco Rubios in the Senate than 60 Arlen Specters. The establishment criticized him, but they hold the same view, only in reverse. They would rather have 30 Thad Cochrans in the Senate than 60 Ted Cruzes. It's why they often abandon and sometimes sabotage conservative candidates after they have won the party's nomination.

FIX: You get lumped together with lots of other conservative groups including the Club for Growth. How would you explain the difference between SCF and CFG?

Hoskins: The Club for Growth is the most effective organization in America when it comes to electing fiscal conservatives. Nobody is better.

SCF is similar to the Club in that we both raise money for principled candidates and we're both willing to take on the Republican establishment, but SCF is smaller in size and does not have as many large donors. It's why the average contribution to SCF is only $45.

FIX: Finish this sentence: The biggest misconception about the Senate Conservatives Fund is _________________.

Hoskins: The biggest misconception about SCF is that we don't support the Republican Party. SCF is actually working to reinvigorate the party with exciting new leaders who believe in the timeless American principles of limited government and individual freedom. In fact, several of the candidates we helped elect are now top contenders for the party's presidential nomination in 2016.

Also, SCF does not advocate for a third party, and our candidates don't leave the party when they lose a primary like some establishment candidates have done recently. We support the part, but oppose many of its current leaders who have hijacked it and used it to support moderate candidates and liberal policies.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Chris Cillizza · November 12, 2013