Brian Walsh, a former spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, recently offered his take on why far-right groups like Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund keep Republican activists so riled up about the Affordable Care Act: “[T]his is about political cash, not political principle…. You see, money begets TV ads which begets even more money for these groups’ personal coffers.”
According to Walsh, who knows the internal workings of GOP politics quite well, conservative activist organizations are effectively waging a political war because political wars make for a convenient fundraising tool.
National Review’s Robert Costa reports today on the same phenomenon.
As the deadline to fund the federal government nears, Republican leaders are struggling mightily to come up with legislation that can pass the House. Over the weekend, leadership staffers fired off anxious e-mails and uneasy veteran House members exchanged calls. Both camps fear that a shutdown is increasingly likely – and they blame the conservative movement’s cottage industry of pressure groups.
But these organizations, ensconced in Northern Virginia office parks and elsewhere, aren’t worried about the establishment’s ire. In fact, they welcome it. Business has boomed since the push to defund Obamacare caught on. Conservative activists are lighting up social media, donations are pouring in, and e-mail lists are growing.
This would help explain a few things.
Why would Republican groups invest so much energy and resources into attacking conservative Republicans? Why would these far-right organizations push a strategy that would undermine their allies’ political standing and put the House GOP majority at risk? Why would the groups pretend to be hair-on-fire apoplectic about a moderate health care reform law based on bipartisan provisions?
Because it puts money in their pockets, that’s why.
It’s not just the far-right activist groups, either. Remember this one from early August?
Sen. Mike Lee is using his effort to defund Obamacare as a mechanism to fund his campaign coffers.
The Utah Republican sent out a fundraising pitch on Thursday morning, asking for a contribution to help him “keep pressuring my fellow legislators to defund Obamacare before it’s too late.” Lee is up for reelection in 2016.
As we talked about at the time, Lee won’t actually defund the Affordable Care Act, a fact that won’t be affected one way or the other by his supporters’ willingness to open their wallets.
But the Utah Republican nevertheless believes his efforts – and the notoriety of his crusade – will rile up the base and help fill his campaign bank accounts, so he pushes the message anyway, just like Heritage and related groups.
Chris Hayes made a point recently that continues to resonate: “Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base are the marks.”
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting the anti-Obamacare hysterics are entirely a fundraising scam – congressional Republicans are dominated by truly radical ideologues, many of whom are entirely sincere in their inexplicable beliefs. For these extremists, financial motivations matter, but undermining President Obama and preventing struggling Americans from receiving publicly subsidized health care coverage matters more.
But to overlook the dollar signs in conservative leaders’ eyes is to miss the whole picture.