Roll Call’s John McArdle reported this week that the radical Wall Street front group “Club for Growth” is “celebrating” a near perfect winning streak this election cycle so far, especially given the results in run-off elections last Tuesday. The Club’s political action committee is known for running hard-hitting attack ads, especially in Republican primaries, against candidates who would consider raising any form of taxes on the rich or have done anything to hold powerful corporations accountable. Noting the Club’s historic role of purging moderates from the GOP, Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) is quoted in the article calling it the “Spanish Inquisition.”
Chaired by prominent Wall Street investors like Thomas Rhodes and Richard Gilder, as well as the wealthy and reclusive Howie Rich, the Club collects funds from employees of J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, while being buoyed by large donations like a $1.4 million contribution from investor Stephen Jacksons of Stephens Groups Inc. The hand-picked candidates of the Club claim to lead the tea party movement, even though polls show that 70% of self identified tea partiers want the government to help create jobs, and nearly half want government to rein in executive bonuses.
Despite this contradiction, the Club-endorsed primary winners are already tacking to the extreme, pro-corporate right. For example, with BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Club candidates are rushing to defend the rights of corporations over the rights of the American victims of the catastrophe:
— State Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), the Club PAC-endorsed candidate to win in the primary run-off for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, attacked Democrats for holding hearings to investigate BP’s crimes. In a post on his website, Scott said, “Democratic lawmakers seem to enjoy hauling CEOs before their committees so they can grandstand and condescend to them.”
— Mike Lee (R-UT), who won in the primary run-off for the Utah Senate seat after the Club PAC helped to defeat incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) in the party convention earlier this year, said recently that he wants to keep the low $75 million dollar liability cap for companies like BP. Lee said it would be a “mistake” to raise the liability cap for companies like BP and Anadarko, even if maintaining the status quo leaves “taxpayers on the hook for part of the damage.” Lee said he wanted taxpayers, rather than BP, to pay for the oil spill because the low liability cap was part of a “set of settled expectations that you give to a business when it decides to make an investment.”
— Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the South Carolina Club for Growth-endorsed candidate who defeated incumbent Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) in the primary run-off last Tuesday, was asked in a debate last week if he agrees with Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-TX) apology to BP executives. Gowdy recommended that Barton should have “stuck by his guns” and not apologize for apologizing to BP. He then said that the Obama administration should not “use the criminal justice system to extort money” from BP.
— Sharron Angle (R-NV), the Club PAC-endorsed candidate who won in the Nevada Senate primary, told Nevada Newsmakers that in the wake of BP’s spill, the government needs to further deregulate the oil industry.
— Jeff Duncan (R-SC), the Club PAC-endorsed candidate who won the GOP nomination in the South Carolina 3rd Congressional district run-off, closed his campaign by arguing for expanded offshore drilling last week. As one of South Carolina’s most right-wing state lawmakers, Duncan proudly refers to himself as a “states’ rights” politician.
— Mike Pompeo (R-KS), the oil executive and Club PAC-endorsed candidate in Kansas’ 4th Congressional district, said his first reaction to BP’s oil spill was the “fervent hope that Congress doesn’t overreact” and curtail dangerous offshore drilling.
While much has been reported on the impact of the tea parties and their role in elections this year, the true driver for the hard right are corporate front groups like FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth. Using Wall Street cash, these fronts have helped to boost a cadre faux populists who are really just shills for large banks and foreign oil giants like BP. Notably, financial conglomerate J.P. Morgan, which funds the Club, is one of the largest shareholders of BP.