As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) — the campaign arm of the Senate Republican minority — Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was among the first in his party to suggest Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) ought to get out of the Senate race after his Sunday comments that victims of “legitimate rape” are unlikely to become pregnant. But as a candidate and as NRSC chair, Cornyn has been only too happy to take money from former Texas Republican gubernatorial nominee Clayton Williams Jr., who lost his 1990 race to then-State Treasurer Ann Richards (D) after making infamous comments defending rape.
At a cattle roundup on his Texas ranch, the oil and gas tycoon told ranch hands, campaign workers, and reporters that bad weather was like rape. “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” His double-digit lead in the polls evaporated and he lost the election.
A ThinkProgress review of campaign finance records reveals that Cornyn took $2,400 from Williams in 2009 and another $2,400 in 2011 for his own campaign account. Additionally, as NRSC chair, Cornyn took $2,500 from Williams in 2009 and another $30,400 in 2010 — the legal maximum donation.
Cornyn released a statement Monday, saying “Congressman Akin’s statements were wrong, offensive, and indefensible. I recognize that this is a difficult time for him, but over the next twenty-four hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service.”
Cornyn’s willingness to take money from Williams suggests that perhaps his criticism is more about campaign strategy than genuine outrage.
The National Republican Senatorial Campaign’s (NRSC) attacks get more far-fetched by the day. The campaign arm for the Senate Republican minority posted a video today on their YouTube account that represents a new level of absurd.
The video, which the group calls “Heidi Heitkamp – ‘Obama is Amazing,’” shows former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D), now a candidate for the open seat of retiring Sen. Kent Conrad (D), at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Heitkamp says in the video that Hillary Clinton’s Denver speech “was amazing,” adding, “and I’m sure that Barack Obama’s going to be amazing, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Heitkamp predicted that Obama’s speech would be “amazing.” And the NRSC presented this as Heitkamp saying “Obama is amazing” — either major sloppiness or intentional outright deception on their part.
If the NRSC hopes to make the 2012 North Dakota Senate race a referendum on whether Obama’s 2008 speech, they may be in for a rude awakening. A large majority of Americans liked it, including even Pat Buchanan, who dubbed Obama’s performance a “genuinely outstanding speech. It was magnificent,” and RNC political director, who called it “a great speech” in a memo just a few weeks ago.
North Dakota attorney and Democratic National Committeeman Chad Nodland told ThinkProgress in an interview that the video was his and that the NRSC posted the video without his permission. An earlier posting of the same video, by a different user, was removed due to a copyright claim and Nodland plans to alert YouTube to this posting as well. He also said he intends to send a cease-and-desist letter to the NRSC, demanding that they stop using his footage or pay him for the rights. Because of this, ThinkProgress has removed the video from this story. No one at the NRSC’s press office was immediately available to respond to the accusation.
YouTube removed the NRSC’s posting of the video as well, citing Nodland’s copyright claim.
Apparently afraid that former Maine governor Angus King, an independent seeking the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-ME) surprise retirement, might caucus with the Democrats if elected, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is going on the offensive.
In a new ad, the campaign arm of Republican Senators accuses Democrats of secretly conspiring with King’s campaign. The NRSC’s evidence? The NRSC. The key piece of data used in the ad to support the claim is a quote from the NRSC’s executive director in Politico. The only other “evidence” is that a Democratic senator “declined to comment.” Watch the spot:
King, who endorsed Republican George W. Bush in 2000, but Democrats John Kerry 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, has said he will not decide which party to caucus with until after the November election — a fact noted in the same Politco story the NRSC cites.
It is an interesting strategy by the NRSC — propose a theory with no evidence, get the press to report on the theory and include a quote, then cut an ad about the theory quoting yourself.
Republican Senators Smear Anti-Bullying Campaign |
In a cheap attempt to deflect attacks from Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) for not participating in the Massachusetts congressional delegation’s “It Gets Better” video, the National Republican Senatorial Committee attacked the project’s founder, Dan Savage, as “lewd, violent, and anti-Christian.” As Savage pointed out in a response, he is “not the IGB project,” and moreover, “not a single GOP elected official can bring himself or herself to make a video.” Perhaps the NRSC is proud to have avoided “keeping company” with Savage, or perhaps Senate Republicans have no interest in preventing bullying whatsoever — whether in schools or the national press. (HT: AMERICAblog Gay.)
Yesterday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) made the extraordinary demand that every single piece of legislation in the Senate would be blocked by his office unless it had been preapproved by his own staffers. As Roll Call reported, “Democratic and Republican aides alike were stunned, arguing that DeMint had essentially made a unilateral decision to end legislative activity in the Senate.”
At a fundraiser for Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck yesterday afternoon, ThinkProgress interviewed several GOP Senators about DeMint’s move to singlehandedly take control of the chamber. DeMint himself told us that his crop of candidates, like Buck, would support his efforts if they are elected to the Senate. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the chairman of the GOP committee tasked with electing more Republican Senators, did not find anything wrong with DeMint’s undemocratic move to seize control of Congress. Asked about DeMint’s unilateral power grab, Cornyn simply smiled and said that he “certainly think[s] it’s a good idea” because it would give more time for lawmakers to review bills:
TP: I have a quick question about Senator DeMint. What do you think about his unilateral hold of all the bills in the Senate before they’re reviewed by a member of his staff.
CORNYN: Well, I think it’s important for every member of the Senate to review legislation before it passes by unanimous consent. There’s a lot of garbage that gets through that should be stopped, certainly ought to be reviewed. I certainly think it’s a good idea to look at it, to read it, know what we’re voting on before it passes.
TP: But what do you think about the leadership structure if just one member can hold up the entire Congress essentially, one member could just have a whim and shut everything down, right?
CORNYN: Well, what creates the pressure is, we’re at the tail end of the session. A lot of people like Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi want to get out of town and a lot of folks want to go and campaign. A lot of this stuff should have been taken care of earlier in the year.
Cornyn appears to be weary about picking fights with DeMint. Earlier this year, DeMint publicly challenged Cornyn’s power as the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and declared that he would be picking his own ultra-conservative candidates to run for office. For instance, Cornyn funneled money to his own candidate in Colorado, Jane Norton, who later lost to DeMint’s candidate, Ken Buck. While Cornyn initially tried to support his own candidates, he was eventually steamrolled by DeMint’s allies in the Club for Growth, a Wall Street front group, FreedomWorks, and other lobbyist-controlled conservative organizations.
As ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser wrote in a post yesterday, DeMint can get away with this stunt because the Senate’s rules are ripe for abuse. By exploiting the rules, DeMint can force up to 60 hours of uninterrupted debate before a final vote. Using this tactic, DeMint can require over two and a half years to deliberate just the 372 bills already passed by the House since August. “In other words,” Millhiser explained, “there is simply not enough time to get more than a fraction of the Senate’s business done if a minority is determined to do everything they can to block progress.” Regardless of national security interests, national emergencies, or really any matter confronted by Congress, DeMint wields ultimate power — while Cornyn and the GOP leadership is too afraid to stand up to him.