The tensions bubbled up this past week at a three-day gathering in Washington for backers of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the GOP-allied groups founded with the help of strategist Karl Rove that pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the past two elections.
In between private sessions at the Four Seasons hotel with GOP stars such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, many attendees expressed concern about the strategy of tying funding of the government to measures that would stymie the president’s health-insurance initiative.
“People are totally annoyed,” said one attendee at the Crossroads meeting who asked not to be identified, to discuss private conversations.
The frustration was evident this past week not just at the Crossroads conference but also throughout the party’s high-end donor class. While grass-roots activists cheer the unyielding positions of conservative House Republicans, some of the GOP’s top fundraisers are watching the situation with growing dismay.
“I oppose Obamacare as much as anyone else does, but this is not the way to repeal it,” said Bobbie Kilberg, a longtime GOP donor and fundraiser in Northern Virginia.
“The fact is, donors have had it,” Kilberg added, saying she will not give donations to groups raising money broadly for House or Senate Republicans. “I will only give to individual candidates who get it.”
It is too early to tell whether the discontent will seriously hamper fundraising for party committees and independent groups such as Crossroads. Some top GOP fundraisers said they think donors upset with the strategy will still write checks in the end.
“They don’t think that shutting down the government is good for the country,” said Fred Malek, a prominent GOP financier. “But by the same token, it doesn’t appear to impact their resolve to be competitive in each and every race next year.”
Other elder statesmen are more apprehensive. “There are a lot of liabilities with this approach,” said Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman who sits on the board of the American Action Network, which spent more than $11 million on independent expenditures in the 2012 elections. “To portray Republicans as universally cheering the shutdown is a mistake,” he said. “Not all of our donors are activist tea party people. Some are, but they are a vocal minority.”
The shutdown is playing out during a key fundraising period for party committees and independent advocacy groups, which are drawing up plans for their 2014 campaigns.