Spat puts conservative groups in the spotlight
December 12th, 2013
02:18 PM ET
9 years ago

Spat puts conservative groups in the spotlight

Washington (CNN) - Club for Growth, Heritage Action for America, and Americans for Prosperity. They're three leading conservative advocacy groups that are involved in a rare public war of words with House Speaker John Boehner over a bipartisan budget deal.

Boehner on Thursday escalated his criticism of the organizations, which are vehemently opposed to the compromise struck by Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and his Democratic Senate counterpart Patty Murray.

He told reporters the groups had lost credibility by slamming the deal even before it was announced on Tuesday night.

"Listen, I take my fair share of criticism from the right and from the left.  You know, I came here to fight for a smaller, less costly, more accountable federal government and this budget agreement takes giant steps in the right direction. It is not everything I wanted. But when groups come out and criticize an agreement they have never seen you begin to wonder just how credible those actions are," Boehner said in responding to a question from CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

(The Club for Growth did not announce its opposition to the deal until after it was released)

"There should be room within the Republican party for honest disagreements on policy, without it devolving into name calling and accusations about people's motives," Heritage Action for America CEO Michael Needham told Bash, in response to the Speaker's comments.

While they are far from household names for most Americans, these groups are very influential among many Republican primary voters, and among GOP lawmakers in Congress.

"These groups have tremendous ability to sway the Republican conference towards their policy priorities," said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean, who served as communications director for House Speaker Dennis Hastert and press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

"They have an amazing access to GOP primary voters across the country who are paying attention to what's going on. Most Republican members are very concerned about the opinions of these groups, because they highlight how those lawmakers vote on key issues, and let the voters back home know how their members of Congress are voting," added Bonjean.

The groups, which have been effectively arguing against compromise in the budget battles on Capitol Hill the past three years, were also strong advocates in September of the hardline stance over defunding the national health care law that resulted in the first partial federal government shutdown in nearly two decades.

Besides taking stances on key congressional legislation, two of the groups - Club for Growth, and Americans for Prosperity - also endorse and support fiscal conservative candidates in Republican primaries and general elections. And with many House Republicans more fearful of a primary challenge from the right than a Democratic opponent in the general election, these groups wield even more influence.

"The primary election to many of them is the general election," Bonjean said.

So who are these groups.

Club for Growth was formed in 1999. The non-profit fiscally conservative group focuses on cutting taxes and spurring economic growth. The group has two political arms, a traditional political action committee and Club for Growth Action, a super PAC.

Americans for Prosperity is a conservative advocacy group formed in 2004. It's a major player and spends big bucks in backing conservative candidates and causes. The group was founded and is supported by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists.

Heritage Action for America is the new player on the block. The political advocacy group was formed in 2010 and is a sister organization of the Heritage Foundation, one of the oldest and most important conservative think tanks. While Heritage Action takes sides on legislative issues, it does not back candidates. The group has become more active in the year since former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina took over as head of Heritage.

soundoff (46 Responses)

    These four groups amount to the Koch Brothers leading Guns Over People tea potty wingnuts by their noses while they empty their pockets. That's why they were RAISING FUNDS before the budget came out. Bonehead smoothly talks around that fact.

    December 12, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Republicans have finally begun to figure out that they've been played for suckers by backing policies that allowed more and more private money to flow into politics without any accountability.

    Think about this for second. A politician has friends who start a tax-exempt PAC, which promotes the candidate. Large sums of anonymous cash can flow into the PAC in support of the candidate. What's wrong with that picure?

    We now have a system where it is legally possible to bribe polictians off the record. Not only is it possible, but it has been going on for years.

    December 12, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  3. rs

    So now Boehner has to compete with these radical groups for his members' votes. I smell another anti-government, anti-American shutdown heading our way.
    Look GOPpers, if you aren't willing to lead, to govern or to do the work for the American people, why do you seek public office?

    December 12, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  4. Warren

    I sure hope that are not tax exempt groups???? They all sound like their main activity is POLITICAL to me.

    Why isn't Issa investigating?

    December 12, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  5. Tampa Tim

    Boehner is hoping this deal to avoid shutdown for 2 years, will keep Cruz, Paul, Bachmann, and Gomert, from bragging about shutting down the government again and damaging republicans in 2014.

    December 12, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  6. just saying

    Tell me boehner grew a pair, I'm shocked!

    December 12, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  7. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    "These groups have tremendous ability to sway the Republican conference towards their policy priorities,"
    And the republican party party falls into line when their bosses say so. If you don't pass the purity test or compromise, you'll be primaried. Fascism is alive and well within the GOTP.

    December 12, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    So, the 'chickens are coming home to roost', apparently, right on the heads of Republicans who were so happy to
    have them, now maybe, not so much.

    However, I heard someone say that there are possible secret deals being made, things that would be added, that
    would distort this "deal". Trust is not a word I would use yet when it comes to Boehner's outrage. Maybe he
    knows something that the rest of us don't.

    If anyone can find out if there is something to this story, it is Dana Bash. I trust her.

    December 12, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  9. Randy, San Francisco

    Speaker Boehner has been the weakest and worst leader of Congress in the modern era. Whether Tea Partiers/conservative purists in his caucus stage a revolt or Democrats regain control, his tenure as Speaker is coming to an end.

    December 12, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  10. Sam American

    This budget deal is the equivilent of stretching a rubber band across a railroad track in hopes of stopping the fiscal train before it reaches the cliff. It's shamefully, really. In fact, it restores many of the cuts passed through sequestration. Let's face it. These folks in Washington just don't have the courage or will to fix the mess that they created!

    December 12, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Well, well, well! A few short months ago he could have stood up to the far right fringe and stopped their nonsense. Now he is trying to take a leadership role? Too little, too late.

    December 12, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. Rusty Krus

    He looks like Gig Young, another boozer!

    December 12, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  13. Tea :Party Thomas

    Time to purge the liberals from the Republican Party. Vote for only approved Tea Party members in 2014.

    Rand Paul 2016

    December 12, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. chicadow

    I'm going to start a new conservative advocacy group: The Patriot Freedom American Heritage Association for Growth, Prosperity, and Liberty. We'll take the letter "D" out of the alphabet and put a uranium wall around CONUS. (Sorry Hawaii and Alaska, but you're a security risk- liberal Canada may try to hug you to death, so start filling your bunkers ASAP).

    December 12, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  15. rs

    Tea :Party Thomas

    Time to purge the liberals from the Republican Party. Vote for only approved Tea Party members in 2014.

    Rand Paul 2016
    Well, that will certainly make it a whole lot easier for the Democrats to win given the huge unfavorable polling the TEA Party has.

    December 12, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  16. Carly

    These GOP "groups" had better get onboard and they will. This is a deal for business as stated by Paul Ryan. This deal gives a little certainty to business, 2 years to be exact. Business was not happy with the shutdown and of course hated all the debt ceiling rhetoric. This deal was struck to give business 2 years of peace. They do not want to worry what all these Conservative TP nutcases are going to do next to destroy the economy. The GOP just got spanked by business and these groups will go along with it very soon. You can never win elections if only old white guys vote for your party. The GOP needs business to have any chance of success in elections. This too will become a non-issue very soon.

    December 12, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  17. sly

    The TeaBillieKKK continue to lose. These folks are not American, and they openly appeal for American's to lose and fail. Heck – they voted to reduce security funding for the Libyan Embassy – and we all see how that GOP gambit played out.

    Thank the Good Lord for President Obama and the progressives, who continue to win every battle in Washington.

    America is entering another Golden Era now – debt cut in half, ended Federal Discrimination on basis of religion and preference, gun control laws across the states ...

    December 12, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  18. Gurgyl

    I advise these GOP pigs to shut down the government. They don't care for you, America, they care for war–easy money–you die.

    December 12, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. DR

    Why do we even have a Congress? What do they do? Nice building maybe we could turn it into a timeshare.

    December 12, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  20. Denise

    Tea party, biggest joke in American history.......

    December 12, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  21. Denise

    What would Ann do? Romneys are back in the spotlight once again. What a bunch of pathetic, sore losers....

    December 12, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  22. Donna

    Enough teaparty tools, this president has restored our economy:, despite nonstop attempts by the right, thank you Mr. President, you have my vote. Greatest president ever, can't wait gir Hillary to take over in 16, out with the lying gop

    December 12, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. Denise

    These clowns actually think they're in the majority too....

    December 12, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  24. Donna

    Cheney's company secured a no bid contract to supply the armed forces, 55$ a plate for paper plate spork and Dixie cup, now that's a good contract: just one of oh so many of these deals, no wonder they want war all the time. Let's support war, send your kids to die for more of these no bid contracts we never hear about, its great for our economy, who would mess with a country willing to spend so much? What was the war about again?

    December 12, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  25. captcaps

    If Boehner wants to know who is responsible for all this mess all he needs to do is Look In The Mirror and he will see the Biggest Problem In This Country.....That is You Mr Boehner, You ! Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    December 12, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
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