The Washington Post

There’s a major business vs. tea party battle in Idaho. Here’s how business is winning.

The latest front in the business vs. tea party battle in the Republican Party will culminate next Tuesday in Idaho's 2nd congressional district GOP primary. When it comes to spending in the race, tea party-backed attorney Bryan Smith (R) has been no match for business-backed Rep. Mike Simpson (R).

GOP candidates, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, left, debates challenger Bryan Smith at Canyon Ridge High School, Friday, April 25, 2014, in Twin Falls, Idaho. (AP Photo/Times-News, Ashley Smith)

A glance at both candidate spending and outside spending paints a picture of a very lopsided race.

Simpson has spent more than $1.4 million in the campaign, according to the Sunlight Foundation's tally. Smith has spent about $550,000, which is less than 40 percent of Simpson's total.

Simpson's allies, the most notable of which is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have spent nearly $2.4 million helping him or hitting Smith. Smith's allies have spent about $598,000 -- most of which went toward attacking Simpson.

The Chamber, the nation's largest business organization, has been the biggest spender in the race, dropping at least $725,000 into the campaign -- a hefty sum for a House district where television advertising is not terribly expensive.

The Club, an anti-tax group, spent more than $500,000 helping Smith and trying to hurt Simpson. But the Club has not been on television since April, an apparent sign the group does not view the race as terribly competitive at this point.

The spending totals include ad spending from super PACs but not nonprofits that run so-called "issue" ads.

If Smith loses, his defeat will be especially tough for the Club to swallow. Smith was the group's first crowd-sourced endorsement.

Also backing Simpson is the Defending Main Street super PAC, headed up by former Republican congressman Steve LaTourette of Ohio. The group has spent nearly $458,000 backing Simpson. LaTourette clashed with Club for Growth head Chris Chocola at a debate earlier this year.

In last fall's special election in Alabama's 1st district, we saw the beginnings of the business wing redoubling its effort to to shore up preferred candidates against tea party insurgents in this cycle.

“I think the business community is looking at races and at primaries more closely than we have been in the past,” David French, the chief lobbyist at the National Retail Federation, told The Washington Post at the time.

The primary in Idaho is the latest sign that business groups are not at all bashful about wielding their pocketbooks in Republican primaries this year.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.



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