Ever since corporate lobbyists and the right-wing media helped spark the tea party movement, the Republican Party has tried to co-opt this sizable army of disaffected, sometimes extremist Americans. Eager for new volunteers, anti-reform protesters, and a pool of potential donors, Republicans have pandered to the tea parties in a variety of ways. However, while the GOP has relied on the tea parties as a platform to obstruct progressive reforms, Republicans have rebuffed tea party candidates running for office in favor of establishment picks.
Rather than reward tea party support by backing tea party candidates, Republican lawmakers have been playing kingmaker in GOP primaries by funneling cash to candidates selected by national Republican committees, like the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). The selected candidates, dubbed “Young Guns” for House races, are often polished state level or former Federal Republican politicians.
Despite a promise by RNC Chairman Michael Steele earlier this year that the “Republican Party will not to meddle in local races — especially GOP primaries featuring candidates backed by Tea Party activists,” the GOP appears to be focused on centrally planning their candidates. According to a report by ThinkProgress, Republican political action committees controlled by current GOP members of Congress have spent at least $2,162,790 on establishment-picked candidates in primaries against tea party candidates. Some key findings:
— Incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett’s (R-UT) GOP colleagues provided him with $215,000 to battle tea party challengers Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater, to no avail.
— Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) ERIC PAC, which is funded largely by Wall Street and the financial services industry, has spent $50,000 helping NRCC and NRSC picked candidates beat back tea party challenges. In his home state of Virginia, Cantor’s generous donations to NRCC-backed candidate state Sen. Robert Hurt (R-VA) fueled wide resentment among local tea parties.
— The NRSC faced widespread criticism among conservatives for backing Gov. Charlie Crist (I-FL) over tea party candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL). But according to ThinkProgress’ report, NRSC and NRCC PACs also dumped $85,000 into Trey Grayson’s (R-KY) losing bid against tea party leader Rand Paul, and has already spent $124,000 helping Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton (R-CO) in her Senate primary against tea party candidate Ken Buck. As Colorado bloggers uncovered, NRSC staffers even registered campaign websites for Norton before her announcement for the race.
Click here to read ThinkProgress’ report.