Ally to Crush Conservatives
March 19, 2014
Series Abstract: Karl Rove's targeting of Michigan Congressman Justin Amash as "the most liberal Republican" in Congress signals the GOP Establishment's plan to cull out the most conservative Republican office-holders from the GOP herd. The bipartisan nature of that effort is illustrated in the Democrat funding behind the (Republican) Main Street led by former nine-term Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette.
Democrats & GOP Establishment Ally to Crush Conservatives: Part 1 of 3 can be read here.
Part 2: A New York Times "Top General" in the GOP Establishment's War on Conservative Extremists
The Republican Main Street Partnership was formed in 1993 by Amory "Amo" Houghton to represent the moderate wing of the Republican Party. Today, its membership includes three GOP US Senators (Susan Collins, Mark Kirk, and John McCain) and fifty-two Republican members of the US House of Representatives.
Steven LaTourette represented Ohio's 19th Dist. (1995-2003) and 14th Dist. (2003-2013) in the House. After retiring from elected politics, he became the organization's unpaid President and CEO (for three-years) beginning in January 2013.
In November 2012, after his new position was announced, LaTourette said his new organization "...may drop the word 'Republican' from its name and promote a 'center-right' agenda without respect for partisan labels. 'If you have the courage to stand up to the extremes of your party and vote for the good of the country, we may protect you."
On January 8, 2013, Yahoo! reported that LaTourette said the re-named Main Street Partnership would consider backing Democrats as well as Republicans: "The Republican Main Street Partnership...will remove the word 'Republican' from its title and welcome center-right Democrats in 2013, Yahoo News has learned."
Later, on February 4, 2013, LaTourette partially backed-off his Democrat-support comment telling reporters, "Where I veered from my talking points in the last phase of news was that we would finance the campaigns of Democrats. And that is not the message. We will work collaboratively with anybody who wants to find common sense solutions."
LaTourette's definition of "anybody" is revealed in his written and verbal statements. Below are excerpts from three articles he wrote, and one C-SPAN interview.
1. Article: "The Senate's Manchurian candidates," POLITICO.com, November 12, 2012
"Washington is broken and few serious people in either party will argue that point. Ultra-conservative special interests took that justified anger and frustration with the dysfunction in Washington and funneled it -- not against Democrats -- but instead against candidates they deemed not to be "pure" ideologically."
"If Republicans are going to build the coalitions necessary to win all across this country, if we are to restore the American people's faith in our party and in our ability to govern, then it is time we start nominating serious people. It is time our party stops nominating Manchurian candidates, and start nominating people who are committed to coming to Washington to make this city work for the people of this country."
[The "Manchurian candidates" LaTourette referenced here, and elsewhere, refer to Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Ken Buck, Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock.]
2. Article: "Don't blame Boehner for House dysfunction," Washington Post, September 22, 2013
"Thirty to 40 other members of the House, however, believe their only responsibility as a member of Congress is to show up and vote "no." Frankly, they take such a dim view of their job that a trained monkey could do what they do. And, sadly, the situation is becoming one in which the monkeys are running the zoo."
"It is these members who are largely responsible for the dysfunction in Washington and the failure of the legislative process. They have gleefully ground to a halt the work of the people. Because of them, agreement cannot be reached on legislation once deemed too important not to pass, such as the farm bill or the transportation bill."
"The No On Everything caucus, exemplified by members such as Justin Amash, R-Mich., Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., has tapped into Americans' unhappiness with Washington while deepening the dysfunction that has bred such widespread contempt among voters. It's an admirable feat of political skill in the basest sense, but it is also everything that is wrong with politics today."
3. Article: "My Fellow Republicans, Put Down the Kool-Aid," Newsweek, October, 2013
"As a Republican watching a handful of conservative extremists push to either defund Obamacare or shut down the government, it was obvious from the start it wouldn't end well. To make such a prominent and painful mistake makes Republicans like me worry for the survival of our party as a national force."
"The attempt to link the repeal of Obamacare with the threat of a shutdown has unearthed a fault line that separates Republicans from each other... The real divide is between those who believe Republicans must grow the party to survive and win and those who believe we don't need to expand the party; we just need to excite the base. No amount of polling will convince those who are content with pandering to the base that what they are doing is damaging the party."
4. C-SPAN Interview: Washington Journal, October, 2013 (video)
LaTourette is "gearing up [the Main Street Partnership] this year because "just being a sleepy little organization with what's going on in our party is not okay and we are now going to actively fund and recruit people to run for office."
When the C-SPAN interviewer asked if LaTourette would describe those people [to be recruited] as "moderate," LaTourette said, "I'd describe them as normal."
"The party has taken a lurch to the right," LaTourette said, while the members of the Main Street Partnership are the "governing wing of the Republican Party."
The TEA Party money groups fund "Manchurian candidates, who may be able to get through the Republican primary, but then either don't make it in the fall, and if they do make it in the fall, they aren't interested in governing."
"People not interested in doing that [bargaining and negotiating] are not interested in governing."
The TEA Party has been infiltrated by libertarians, like Ron Paul with a "government-is-the-enemy view."
On November 7, 2013, LaTourette called the new Main Street Advocacy Fund an "opening salvo in an $8 million effort" to help moderate Republicans get elected. He expressed interest "in aiding a moderate candidate to challenge incumbent TEA Party Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan."
The Main Street Advocacy Fund and the Defending Main Street super-PAC are Main Street Partnership spin-offs set up to financially support LaTourette's "normal" Republican candidates running against TEA Party-backed candidates in 2014.
So, how aggressive will LaTourette's Main Street Partnership be in promoting his "normal" Republicans against TEA Party-supported incumbents?
A December 4, 2013 TPM DC article quoted LaTourette's musing on how his organization might support "moderate" Republican challenges to conservative Republican incumbents.
"We're getting a lot of calls to not only defend but go in and defend a lot of center right candidates against a couple of incumbents in Michigan," former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), who helped found the group, told TPM. "We haven't made that decision yet because I have to sort out in my own head because the name of the thing is Defending Main Street and I'm basically criticizing people for sticking their nose in Republican primaries...The Michigan House seats the group could go after are held by Reps. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) and Justin Amash (R-MI); Main Street would back David Trott and Brian Ellis.
The Hill suggested a motive for LaTourette's animosity toward Amash:
"Amash is among a rebel bloc of House Republicans who pushed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to make a stand on Obamacare in the fight over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. The tactic infuriated business groups, several of which have threatened to enter into GOP primaries in order to defeat hardliners in the GOP. Amash has also been a thorn in the side of leadership and was one of a handful of Republicans who orchestrated a failed attempt to oust Boehner earlier this year."
It's about political revenge.
The Main Street Partnership organization ("The Governing Wing of the GOP") also has an internal PAC – the Main Street Partnership PAC. For $5,000, it offered this 2013 PAC Benefits Package: 2 tickets to February, March and April 2013 receptions featuring Senators and House Members; 1 participant on the annual May trip with Special Guest Speaker Boehner and 22 Members of the House, 2 tickets to a June reception featuring Senators and House Members; 2 tickets to a July reception featuring Senators and House Members; and 2 tickets to a September reception featuring Senators and House Members. It's a pay-for-access opportunity for other Political Action Committee operatives in Washington D.C. – a town where there are more PACs than in a camping store.
On January 14, 2014, Eric Erickson's RedState.com listed the funding sources for LaTourette's Defending Main Street super-PAC:
▪ David Bonderman: $30,000
▪ Laborers' Political League Education Fund: $100,000
▪ The Chickasaw Nation: $50,000
▪ International Union of Operating Engineers (EPEC): $250,000
▪ Laborers' International Union Of North America (LIUNA) PAC: $150,000
▪ Marine Engineers Beneficial Association Political Action Fund (MEBA PAF): $15,000
▪ Working for Working Americans-Federal (Building Trades/Carpenters PAC): $250,000
The labor unions mean Democrat support.
The Chickasaw Nation is a puzzle.
Who is David Bonderman?
David Bonderman is the multi-billionaire founder of Ft. Worth, Texas-based TPG Capital. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) website lists his total 1996-current political contributions as: $824,000 in soft money; $236,250 to political committees; and $25,500 in joint fund-raising contributions – for a total of about $2 million.
The overwhelming majority of his contributions have gone to scores of Democrat candidates by way of four- and five-digit contributions, and to Democrat PACs and super-PACs in six-digit bank transfers. For example:
▪ America Votes Action Fund super-PAC (AVAF): 2012, $100,000.
AVAF, in turn, gave $265,000 to Women Vote!, which in 2010-2012 spent: $543,139 against Todd Akin; $202,300 against Roy Blunt; $527,074 against Scott P. Brown; $1,636,075 against Carly Florina; $500,000 against Thomas D. Ganley; and $707,823 against Cory Gardner – to name just a few in a long list of targeted Republican candidates.
▪ Senate Majority PAC: 2012, $140,000.
This PAC spent: For Democrats, $1,724,770/Against Democrats, $0; For Republicans, $0/Against Republicans, $2,598,939
▪Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee: 1997-2010, $148,500
▪ Kerry Victory 2004: 2004, $19,000
▪League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund: 2010-2012, $165,000.
Independent Expenditures, Communication Costs and Coordinated Expenses as of May 30, 2012 totaled $822,259. For Democrats: $822,259/Against Democrats: $0. For Republicans: $0/Against Republicans: $0. Also, in 2004, Bonderman gave $40,000 to the League of Conservation Voters 527 I. Note: In 2012, America Votes Action Fund received $316,000 from the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund and gave $310,000 to Women Vote!, as the money moves around D.C. from PAC to PAC. Sources here and here.
Over the years, the relatively few Republican politicians and groups receiving donations from Bonderman include:
▪ Eric Cantor: 2002-2013, $8,000
▪ Olympia Snowe: 2005, $1,000
▪ Every Republican Is Crucial (ERICPAC – Eric Cantor's PAC): 2012-2013, $10,000
▪ John McCain: 1997-2007, $4,300
▪ National Republican Congressional Committee: 2009, $5000
▪ National Republican Senatorial Committee: 2013, $8,750
▪ Promoting Republicans You Can Elect Political Action Committee: 2001, $500
On December 4, 2013, LaTourette's Defending Main Street super-PAC received $30,000 from Bonderman.
So why are Democrats and Democrat-aligned organizations funding LaTourette's Defending Main Street super-PAC?
Perhaps the enemy of my enemy is, in this case, a worse enemy. Liberal Democrats may prefer LaTourette's "normal" Republicans to Senator McCain's "wacko birds" and "TEA Party hobbits" because "normal" Republicans are easier to manipulate and more simpatico with the Democrat's progressive agenda.
McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies: LaTourette's Lobbying Firm
In the same month that LaTourette became CEO of the Main Street Partnership, he also became President of McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies (MHGS), a new subsidiary of the well- and long-established business advisory and advocacy law firm of McDonald Hopkins LLC.
The stated mission of MHGS is to "provide lobbying and government relations services in Washington, DC" According to the law firm's website:
"The office will provide strategic advice and assistance at the federal government level. LaTourette will team with his wife [they married Feb. 2005], Jennifer LaTourette, a Vice President at a major independent lobbying company for the past decade, who will serve as Vice President of McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies...Before deciding not to seek re-election to a 10th term in Congress, Rep. LaTourette had become one of Speaker John Boehner's closest colleagues in the House."
In an interview at the time, LaTourette said the new lobbying practice, whose office "has a nice view of the Capitol," is likely to focus on his areas of expertise in Congress – transportation, financial services and tax issues.
As the firm's lead lobbyist during 2013 when Steven LaTourette lobbying activities were restricted, Jennifer LaTourette signed-up thirteen clients. Heading the list is CSX Corp. It operates one of the three Class 1 railroads serving the US East Coast.
On May 8, 2013, The Blog of Legal Times announced the new business relationship:
"CSX Corp. enlisted McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies to advocate for it on unspecified matters concerning rail reauthorization, according to lobbying registration paperwork filed with Congress on Tuesday. In September, the Rail Safety Improvement Act and the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act from 2008 are set to expire. The Rail Safety Improvement Act covers Federal Railroad Administration safety programs. The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act concerns Amtrak and the development of new rail services. McDonald Hopkins vice president Jennifer LaTourette and legislative manager Hilary Fulp are handling the account."
Like many large corporations, CSX Corp. spends millions of dollars on lobbying efforts – both on internal and external lobbyists. In securing the business, LaTourette's firm (CSX paid $90,000 for the final three quarters of 2013) displaced the lobbying firm ML Strategies (paid $120,000 for the four quarters of 2012). It represented the only change in the public list of outside lobbyists hired by CSX in 2012 and 2013.
Signing up CSX Corp. was a coup.
Today, there is one large railroad project underway in Detroit, Michigan, and another large project that waits funding. Their total cost will run over a billion dollars. Both would, logically, be of interest to CSX.
Railroading will play a role in Part 3 of 3: A GOP Establishment Challenger to Amash Emerges With Bipartisan Support
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