The drop in establishment Republican fund-raising is also empowering other conservative factions, particularly the political and philanthropic network overseen by the libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. Americans for Prosperity, the free-market advocacy group founded by David Koch, has become by far the biggest single spender on early-campaign issue advertisements against Democratic incumbents. Since October, it has spent more than $23 million, chiefly on attacks against Democrats for supporting Mr. Obama’s health care law.
That spree underscores the shifting balance of power within the party. During the 2012 campaign, Republican leaders counted on Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, the nonprofit arm of Mr. Rove’s group, to soften up Democratic candidates by financing issue ads in the early campaign season. Now that job is falling largely to Americans for Prosperity, which has been critical of Republican leaders’ strategy on issues like the debt ceiling.
“The model that we have been building for the past eight years — a state-based organization with a supportive home office but a permanent infrastructure on the ground, with real troops, and with real support behind it — is one that our supporters believe in,” said Levi Russell, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity.
Four Republican-leaning groups with close ties to the party’s leadership in Congress — Crossroads and its super PAC affiliate; the Congressional Leadership Fund; and Young Guns Action Fund — raised a combined $7.7 million in 2013. By contrast, four conservative organizations that have battled Republican candidates deemed too moderate or too yielding on spending issues — FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth Action Fund, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and the Tea Party Patriots — raised a total of $20 million in 2013, according to Federal Election Commission reports filed on Friday.Matea Gold and Dan Keating report at The Washington Post:
Republicans are now far more likely than Democrats to field attacks by independent groups in their primaries. In 2012, super PACs and nonprofit groups reported spending nearly $36 million in GOP congressional primaries, compared with less than $10 million in congressional Democratic primaries, according to a Washington Post analysis of campaign finance records.
A similar dynamic played out in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, when the contenders were pummeled by super PACs aligned with their rivals. This year, the attacks by the GOP’s tea party flank are spurring a financial arms race, as major center-right groups and business organizations step forward to bolster incumbents — an indication that the 2014 primary battles could be bloodier than past cycles.
“Right now, the Republicans all have their cannons aimed at each other,” said Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina GOP chairman who is heading a new group, the West Main Street Values PAC, to help Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) fend off challenges from four primary opponents, “and the Democrats are getting a free ride.”
The 2014 battle lines are being drawn by powerhouses such as the Club for Growth, which launched a “Primary My Congressman” effort last year to take on centrist Republicans. The organization is already backing challengers to eight-term Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho) and Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.) and may engage in more primaries.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, a group started by former senator Jim DeMint that promoted last year’s government shutdown, has rallied behind conservatives taking on McConnell, Cochran and Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.).
In Kentucky, the organization has already devoted nearly $1 million to help Matt Bevin, the conservative candidate challenging McConnell in the primary. More than half of that amount has gone to ads and mailers. A bruising TV spot it ran in the state in November charged that McConnell “helped Barack Obama and Harry Reid fund Obamacare.” The group has also given a large share of its funds directly to Bevin’s campaign.