Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate, has made a name for himself by supporting tea party insurgents against establishment Republican candidates in this year’s hotly-contested primaries. For instance, he supported Rand Paul over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) preferred candidate and endorsed Joe Miller over his own Senate colleague Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) called this behavior “a new and shocking development.” Some new and revealing comments DeMint made over the weekend are likely to cause even more division among Republicans, while also providing yet further evidence of the tea party’s hostile takeover of the GOP.
Speaking to the “Greater Freedom Rally” on Saturday at a church in Spartanburg, SC, DeMint actually advocated for fewer basic freedoms for gays and unmarried women. According the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, DeMint “said if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who’s sleeping with her boyfriend — she shouldn’t be in the classroom.” These comments come just days after DeMint and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) successfully blocked approval of a National Women’s History Museum, on the grounds that it unnecessarily duplicated existing local museums honoring quilters and cowgirls, and other sites such as a lilac garden in Washington state.
While DeMint’s extreme statements and tea party endorsements have grabbed headlines, less well-known is the fact that two political action committees controlled by DeMint — MINT PAC and the Senate Conservatives Fund — are spending millions of dollars to elect GOP candidates from coast-to-coast. According to OpenSecrets.org and a ThinkProgress review of the most independent expenditure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, DeMint’s PACs have lavished nearly $2 million on fifteen GOP candidates whose success or failure at the ballot box will determine which party controls the Senate in the 112th Congress. The beneficiaries of his largesse include:
— Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio: $406,250
— Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck, who famously implored GOP primary voters to choose him over his rival Jane Norton because he “[doesn]’t wear high heels”: $359,654
— Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle, herself a former teacher: $337,903
— Utah Senate candidate Mike Lee: $251,945
— Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller: $180,067
— Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell: $130,326
— Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul: $79,421
— Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey: $68,796
— Wisconsin Senate candidate Ron Johnson: $51,858
— Washington Senate candidate Dino Rossi: $37,000
— South Dakota Senate candidate John Thune: $7,500
— North Carolina’s Richard Burr, Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, Ohio’s Rob Portman, and Indiana’s Dan Coats have each received $5,000.
The Hill reported last Friday that DeMint plans to spend hundreds of thousands more on another round of television ads targeting his Democratic Senate colleagues Harry Reid (NV), Michael Bennet (CO), and Russ Feingold (WI) in order to further aid challengers Angle, Buck, and Johnson. One wonders whether these and other GOP candidates, including rumored 2012 hopeful Sen. John Thune (R-SD), will continue to accept money and support from their putative leader or whether they will disavow DeMint’s hateful and extreme attack on unmarried women and gays by returning his money and refusing any further support.