GOP group vows to counter Club for Growth attacks on Simpson

A group led by a former Republican congressman who retired last year citing frustration with Washington gridlock has chosen Idaho 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson among a handful of GOP incumbents to support in 2014.

Former Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio announced the effort Tuesday in reaction to last week’s announcement from the anti-tax group Club for Growth that Simpson is their first 2014 target. Club president Chris Chocola, a former two-term Indiana GOP congressman, told me his group will “spend as much as we can” to defeat Simpson and support newcomer Bryan Smith, an Idaho Falls lawyer.

Club for Growth raised $18 million for the 2012 election. In 2006, the group was the key player in Idaho’s 1st District race, raising $1.1 million on behalf of Republican Bill Sali. Sali won, only to be defeated by Democrat Walt Minnick in 2008. Much of the money was spent on attack advertising.

“The days of the Club for Growth using their special interest money to bigfoot Republican primaries and bully members of Congress is over,” LaTourette in a news release. “We at Main Street Advocacy will fight them dollar for dollar in districts across this country.”

In an interview, LaTourette told me his goal is to raise $8 million for eight to 10 races to counter Club for Growth’s targeting Republicans it deems insufficiently conservative.

When his 18 years in Congress ended in January, LaTourette became president and CEO of a three-pronged organization of moderate Republicans founded in the 1990s. The parent organization is the Main Street Partnership.

The group includes Simpson and 54 other Republican members of Congress. Early this year, the board voted to remove “Republican” from its title and simply be called “Main Street Partnership.” The group’s website hasn’t yet been amended. LaTourette has said he wants to begin conversations with conservative Democrats, but the group only backs GOP candidates.

Defending Main Street is the group’s Super PAC, which LaTourette revived for 2014. A third group, Main Street Advocacy Fund is the group’s non-profit 501 (c) 4 educational arm.

I asked to speak with Chocala about LaTourette’s countermove, but instead received a long news release in reply. Below, you’ll find the news releases from both groups.

Tomorrow, watch for a deeper story I’m working on about LaTourette’s effort, which will appear both in print and at IdahoStatesman.com

Read LaTourette’s news release:

 

Centrist Group Slams Hypocritical Club for Growth for Effort to Defeat Republican Congressmen
 
Former U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) – “The days of the Club for Growth using their special interest money to bigfoot Republican primaries and bully members of Congress is over.  We will fight them dollar for dollar.”
(Washington, DC) – Last week, the Club for Growth announced that they would be supporting a primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) as part of their PrimaryMyCongressman.com campaign.  “The days of the Club for Growth using their special interest money to bigfoot Republican primaries and bully members of Congress is over,” said former U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH).  “We at Main Street Advocacy will fight them dollar for dollar in districts across this country.”

The Club announced their support for the primary challenge to Simpson despite the fact many of the votes they criticize him for were the same votes taken by their current President, former U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, when he was in Congress.  “Instead of launching a ‘primary my Congressman’ campaign, maybe the Club should have launched a ‘primary our own Club President’ campaign,” said LaTourette.

“The chameleons at the Club for Growth have launched a laughable campaign against Republican House members, claiming all the ideological purity and moral superiority they can muster,” continued LaTourette.  “The truth is that the Club for Growth’s Board is comprised of wealthy individuals who have financially supported Democrats, advocated for the individual mandate that is central to Obamacare, own or operate businesses that have sucked up millions in earmarks, and criticize members for voting the exact same way as their own President did.”

“The Club for Growth is a cancer on the Republican Party that prides itself on supporting rigid, divisive and obstructionist candidates,” said LaTourette.  “They are certainly entitled to support any candidate they want for any reason they want, but it would be nice if they told the voters the truth about their organization and if they won’t tell voters the truth — we will.”

Main Street Advocacy has pledged to match the Club for Growth dollar for dollar.  “For every dollar the Club spends distorting the facts, we will spend a dollar setting them straight.  Members of Congress are elected by the men and women who live in their districts, their loyalty and responsibility is to those constituents not to the Club for Growth.  The era of the Club for Growth getting a free pass is over – they will be held accountable,” concluded LaTourette.

SAMPLE OF VOTES THE CLUB FOR GROWTH CRITICIZED WHERE THEIR PRESIDENT, CHRIS CHOCOLA, VOTED THE SAME AS REP. SIMPSON

Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Legislation:
House Vote 669, 2003 (agreeing to conference report), Club position NAY:
Chocola AYE              Simpson AYE
House Vote 332, 2003(final passage of HR 1), Club position NAY:

Chocola AYE              Simpson AYE

Surface Transportation Reauthorization Legislation
House Vote 453, 2005 (adoption of conference report), Club position NAY:
Chocola AYE              Simpson AYE
House Vote 65, 2005 (final passage of HR 3), Club position NAY:

Chocola AYE              Simpson AYE

Terrorism Risk Insurance
House Vote 61, 2005 (motion to suspend rules and pass S. 467), Club position NAY:
Chocola AYE              Simpson AYE
Minimum Wage (index for inflation and tax relief)
House Vote 425, 2006, Club position NAY:
Chocola AYE              Simpson AYE
Federal Debt (General)
House Vote 536, 2004 (passage of S. 2986 to raise debt limit), Club position NAY:
Chocola AYE              Simpson AYE
United Nations
House Vote 364, 2003 (Paul Amendment), Club position AYE:
Chocola NAY             Simpson NAY
House Vote 253, 2005 (Hayworth Amendment), Club position AYE:
Chocola NAY             Simpson NAY
House Vote 279, 2005 (Gohmert Amendment), Club position AYE:
Chocola NAY             Simpson NAY
House Vote 280, 2005 (Stearns Amendment), Club position AYE:
Chocola NAY             Simpson NAY
House Vote 342, 2006 (Stearns Amendment), Club position AYE:
Chocola NAY             Simpson NAY
Read Club for Growth’s reply:

 

Club for Growth PAC Blasts Simpson Record

Club for Growth Spokesman Barney Keller: “Mike Simpson can run, but he can’t hide from a record that was called ‘hostile’ to the taxpayers by Citizens against Government Waste and is out of step with Idaho Republicans.”

Washington, DC – The Club for Growth PAC today issued the following statement on Congressman Mike Simpson in response to an attack from his liberal allies:

 

“It’s a joke for Mike Simpson and his allies to cry foul on outside groups supporting his conservative challenger – 64% of Mike Simpson’s campaign contributions have come from Washington PACs, not the people of Idaho,” said Club for Growth Spokesman Barney Keller. “Mike Simpson is the same Congressman who rakes in millions from special interests that he regulates, all while voting to raise his own pay nine times and spending thousands on lavish events at Washington D.C. social clubs.”

 

“Mike Simpson’s voting record is what is at issue, and he has repeatedly joined with a small minority of his own party and Democrats to grow government. Mike Simpson voted to bail out Wall Street. He voted to keep the spending in the Obama Stimulus, and he was even one of three Republicans who voted against blocking funding for ACORN. Mike Simpson can run, but he can’t hide from a record that was called ‘hostile’ to the taxpayers by Citizens against Government Waste and is out of step with Idaho Republicans,” added Keller

 

Simpson Voted To Bail Out Wall Street

 

Simpson: “I voted for the 700 billion dollar bailout. Everybody got that? My name is Mike Simpson and I voted for the 700 billion dollar bailout.” VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR87zI1pVqs

Simpson Has Repeatedly Voted with A Minority Of His Own Party To Grow Government

 

ü  Simpson was one of just 3 Republicans who voted against blocking funding for ACORN (RCV #397, 2011)

ü  Simpson was one of just 9 Republicans who voted against DC School Choice (RCV #204, 2011)

ü  Simpson was one of just 12 Republicans to join with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to oppose an amendment offered by Paul Ryan that would have capped spending as a percentage of GDP (RCV #610, 2009)

ü  Simpson was one of just 16 Republicans to vote for a budget alternative to the Ryan Budget that would have raised taxes by over a trillion dollars. (RCV #145, 2012)

ü  Simpson was one of just 41 Republicans who voted against cutting $1.2 million from the Botanic Gardens (RCV #371, 2012), and was one of 88 Republicans who voted against cutting $3.2 million from the Botanical Gardens. (RCV #624, 2011)

ü  Simpson was one of just 42 Republicans who voted against stripping the spending out of the Obama stimulus (RCV #42, 2009)

ü  Simpson was one of just 52 Republicans to vote against early grade school vouchers. (RCV #521, 1999)

ü  Simpson was one of just 60 Republicans to vote against tougher regulations on mortgage lenders. (RCV #242, 2009)

ü  Simpson was one of just 65 Republicans who voted for the first version of TARP. (RCV #674, 2008)

ü  Simpson was one of just 66 Republicans to vote against school vouchers. (RCV #524, 1999)

ü  Simpson was one of just 55 Republicans to vote to raise the debt limit by trillions. (RCV #690, 2011)

ü  Simpson was one of just 77 Republicans to vote for Cash for Clunkers. (RCV #682, 2009)

ü  Simpson was one of just 85 Republicans who voted for the “fiscal cliff” tax increase that resulted in higher taxes for 80% of Americans. (RCV #659, 2012)

ü  Simpson was one of just 89 Republicans who voted to fund the “Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.” (RCV #678, 2007)

ü  Simpson was just one of 100 Republicans who voted to against cutting spending on NPR by 1%. (RCV #263, 2000)

 

Mike Simpson Has Received Millions Of Dollars From Washington Special Interests

 

Ø  From 1998-Present, Mike Simpson has raised $3,649,112 from Political Action Committees (PAC). (Source: OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/13)

Ø  NOTE: 64% of all of Mike Simpson’s contributions have come from PACs, not from individuals.

 

Ø  Simpson has raised $883,042 from Agribusiness. (Source: OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/13)

Ø  NOTE: Simpson voted for the House Farm bill. Idaho’s 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador voted against the Farm Bill: (Roll Call Vote # 286, 2013)

 

Ø  Simpson has raised $709,396 from the Energy and National Resources industry. (Source: OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/13)

Ø  NOTE: Simpson touts his role as Chairman of the House Interior and Environment subcommittee on appropriations, as well as his work as a member of the House Energy and Water Development appropriations subcommittee.  (Simpson.House.Gov, accessed 6/25/13)

 

Ø  Simpson has received $271,041 from donors in the Washington, DC area. (Source: OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/13)

 

Ø  Simpson has received $222,718 from registered lobbyists. (Source: OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/13)

 

Ø  Simpson has spent over $50,000 on fundraisers and events at Washington, DC’s Capitol Hill Club (Source: FEC Data)

Ø  NOTE: The Idaho Statesman noted Simpson’s fundraising at the Capitol Hill Club, “a refined and elegant environment for your business, political and social activities.”: He’s continued to bring in money since then with campaign events such as a Jan. 31 lunch at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, which describes itself as “a refined and elegant environment for your business, political and social activities.” The event invitation listed individual donations at $500 and political action committee donations at $1,000. (Idaho Statesman, 2/14/12)

 

Ø  Simpson has spent over $10,000 on fundraisers and events at Washington, DC’s Johnny’s Half Shell (Source: FEC Data)

 

Idaho Statesman: Simpson’s position as an Appropriations subcommittee chairman “has done wonders for his campaign bank account”: Congressman Mike Simpson is looking very, very good in red.In January, the Idaho Falls Republican donned the robes of a “cardinal” — Capitol Hill shorthand for the 12 House Appropriations subcommittee chairmen. The crimson outfit has done wonders for his campaign bank account. (Idaho Statesman, 10/26/11)

Simpson: “I always do what’s necessary to win”: Simpson prefers small breakfasts at venues like the Capitol Hill Club in Washington. “Where there were six or eight people, now maybe 10 or 12 come,” he said. But he’s doing more than just watching the money roll in with the bacon and eggs. Though he still refuses to dial for dollars himself, he’s directed Campaign Manager Zach Hauge to focus on fundraising. Hague said between 15 and 20 events have been held this year, along with mail and phone efforts. Already in October, Simpson has collected almost $100,000, Hauge said. “I always do what’s necessary to win,” Simpson said.  (Idaho Statesman, 10/26/11)

 

Simpson’s campaign received $1,000 from notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff: Last month, Idaho’s two Republican House members made charitable donations equal to the campaign money they had received from Abramoff. Rep. Butch Otter donated $1,000 to an Idaho State University scholarship fund for Native American nursing students. Rep. Mike Simpson donated $1,000 to the Salvation Army. (Spokesman Review, 1/7/06)

 

Simpson saw a Rolling Stones concert from the “skybox” of the lobbying firm Preston, Gates, Ellis & Rouvelas, Meeds, LLP.: At Monday night’s Rolling Stones concert, Members and aides found that even the relaxed House gift ban has its restrictions. Two GOP Members – as well as Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) press secretary – watched the show from the MCI Center skybox of the lobbying firm Preston, Gates, Ellis & Rouvelas, Meeds, LLP. While Members and aides are allowed to accept creatively priced $48 club seats at the arena, GOP Reps. Mike Simpson (Idaho) and Greg Walden (Ore.) told HOH they’ve already personally paid $165 apiece for the skybox seats. (Roll Call, 3/11/99)

 

Mike Simpson has a history of using taxpayer resources for his own benefit

 

Simpson used taxpayer dollars to pay for lease on not one, but two GMC Envoys: Taxpayers paid more than $1 million last year for members of Congress to lease vehicles, including dozens of gas-guzzling SUVs and luxury cars Some members of Congress used their office budgets to lease Lexuses, Lincolns, Cadillacs, an Infiniti, and a BMW 530i, which one auto critic called “one of the world’s best sport luxury sedans.” A few leased two cars on the taxpayers’ dime; two lawmakers leased three. … When a member leases a car, these are the costs taxpayers pick up: The monthly cost of the lease; Insurance; Excess mileage charges; Incidental operating expenses (gas, oil, general maintenance, etc.); Registration fees; Property tax during the term of the lease. (Kansas City Star, 3/12/06)

Details on Simpson and taxpayer-funded car: Double-dippers: The following members of Congress lease two cars monthly at taxpayer cost: Sam Graves, R-Mo., Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo….  -Mike Simpson, $8,421.46, R-Idaho, 2, GMC Envoys (Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, 3/12/06)

 

Simpson used a “state-owned plane” to fly around Idaho on his announcement tour during his 1998 run for Congress: The Stubbs campaign tried to deflect attention from the McClure endorsement by its announcement that it was filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over Simpson’s use of a state-owned plane to fly around the state on his announcement swing. Simpson said use of the plane was a mistake and reimbursed the state about $1,150. But the Stubbs campaign alleges that Simpson paid only about half of what a private citizen would have to pay to lease the plane. Simpson denied that, claiming his campaign was able to find charter companies that charged between $640 and $2,000 for a day’s use of their planes. “That state made money on this,” Simpson said. (Idaho Falls Post Register, 4/29/98)

 

Simpson’s campaign “issued a press release acknowledging the mistake” and his campaign reimbursed the state for the cost of the flight: Recently hired staffers at both the Simpson campaign and the Division of Aeronautics employee crossed signals. The Simpson worker was told to call the state agency for recommendations on charter flights. In the process, she apparently booked a flight, and the state Aeronautics employee, who recognized Simpson as a ranking state legislator, didn’t see a red flag when she was told to bill the flight to Simpson’s congressional campaign.  After using the plane, Simpson’s campaign issued a press release acknowledging the mistake. Simpson said the campaign would compensate the state for the cost of the flight. (Idaho Falls Post Register, 4/1/98)

 

Simpson “went to Washington, D.C. to compromise,” is “nonideological”, and is a “key Boehner ally”

 

Rep Raul Labrador on Simpson: “an old-school legislator that went to Washington, D.C. to compromise.”: Two solid conservatives find themselves in a very public feud: One represents the radical Tea Party faction that dominates the caucus, the other represents the precious few who are responsible and experienced legislators. Rep. Mike Simpson calls Rep. Raul Labrador “irresponsible” and questions his “credibility” while Labrador referred to Simpson as a “bully” and “an old-school legislator that went to Washington, D.C. to compromise.” (USNews.com, 1/17/13)

 

Simpson is “nonideological”: Simpson is the sort of representative America, and the sharply divided West in particular, needs: pragmatic, nonideological, and earnestly devoted to all-party negotiations on controversial issues. Esquire endorses: Simpson (Esquire Magazine, 11/1/06)

 

Simpson is called a “key Boehner ally”: Still, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, a key Boehner ally, endorsed Romney, as have a handful of Boehner’s committee chairmen. (Newsmax, 12/8/11)

 

Simpson is one of Speaker Boehner’s “closest friends”: During busy votes, Boehner was often here sharing a smoke with two of his closest friends, Reps. Tom Latham of Iowa and Mike Simpson of Idaho. Latham and Simpson formed the core of the smokers’ club, the congressional, grownup version of the crew that used to sneak butts in the high school parking lot. This group has also formed the core of Boehner’s inner circle, which includes Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio), who could also often be seen chatting or joking with his colleagues in the alley, Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), another frequenter, and Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.). (Washington Monthly, 4/06)

 

Boehner is Simpson’s “good friend”: In short, Simpson is ticked for two reasons: Labrador attacked Simpson’s good friend, Speaker John Boehner, by conspiring to remove him, and is undermining an institution that he loves, for all its flaws. (The Idaho Statesman, 1/15/13)

 

Simpson: “John and I have been close since I came to Congress”: Simpson also was an early supporter of House Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner. The Idahoan is one of six Republican congressman in Boehner’s inner circle. “John and I have been close since I came to Congress,” Simpson said. “With the position I’ll have and with the Republicans taking the House, there will be a big difference in what I can do for Idaho.” (Idaho Statesman, 11/4/10)

 

Simpson was one of John Boehner’s “primary campaigners” in his race for majority leader, and was rewarded with a seat on the appropriations committee: Simpson is a close confidant of the new power in the House, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio. On Wednesday afternoon, Boehner upset acting Majority Leader Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., in the race to replace scandal-sodden Rep. Tom DeLay. By the time Simpson got home Wednesday night, the two years´ labor appeared to have borne fruit: He got word he´d won a seat on an appropriations subcommittee that wrote $142 billion in health and education budgets this year. Though he´s not sure there´s a direct connection, Simpson said, “Obviously, people knew I was one of John´s primary campaigners.” (Idaho Statesman, 2/7/06)

 

Meanwhile, Simpson has voted to raise his own pay nine times…

 

Simpson has voted to raise his own pay nine times. (RCV #300, 199; RCV #419, 200; RCV #267, 2001; RCV #322, 2002; RCV #463, 2003; RCV #451, 2004; RCV #327, 2005; RCV #261, 2006; RCV #580, 2007)

 

…and not only is Mike Simpson a tool of Washington special interests, but he also opposes term limits

 

Simpson on term limits: “I’m not willing to sell out the district.” They “take away the people’s freedom – to elect whomever they want.” In the primary, all of my opponents signed the term-limits pledge that they would serve only three terms.  I looked at that and asked, “If I’m the only one signing it, and everybody else in Congress doesn’t sign it, wouldn’t my district be put at a competitive disadvantage?” If you have term limits, have them across the board for everybody. It was one of the things that distinguished me from my three colleagues.  We could say, “Listen, I’m not willing to sell out the district.  I look at term limits as taking away the people’s freedom – to elect whomever they want.” (Insight on the News, 3/15/99)

 

Simpson “opposes term limits”: Idaho House Speaker Mike Simpson, who is competing with former Democratic U.S. Rep. Richard Stallings, also opposes term limits. (Lewiston Morning Tribune, 10/15/98)

 

Simpson “refused to sign a pledge to limit his terms” and “won’t support term limits until they’re adopted nationwide”: After congressional candidate Mike Simpson refused to sign a pledge to limit his terms, a national term limits organization spent $180,000 in advertising backing his three GOP primary opponents. But Simpson won anyway.  Simpson said he won’t support term limits until they’re adopted nationwide. Otherwise states with small congressional delegations, like Idaho, would lose clout. (Idaho Falls Post Register, 10/12/98)

 

Simpson called American for Limited Terms’s campaign against him “extortion”: Mr. Simpson’s three opponents next Tuesday, State Representative Mark Stubbs and former State Senators Dane Watkins and Ann Rydalch, took the pledge, as did the Democratic nominee, Richard H. Stallings, a former Congressman. They are making all they can of Mr. Simpson’s refusal. What is more, one term-limits group, Americans for Limited Terms, plans to spend at least $165,000 for television and radio advertisements to bring down Mr. Simpson. Calling the group’s campaign ”extortion,” Mr. Simpson says he will support term limits when Congress considers a law covering all Federal legislators. (New York Times, 5/22/98)

 

Simpson called term limits “bad for Idaho”: Turning to other issues, Simpson told the Chamber he has again refused to sign a pledge to endorse term limits. Simpson said national term limits groups will spend $100,000 in a media campaign criticizing him for not backing term-limits on federal officeholders. “I will not be blackmailed into signing something that will be bad for Idaho,” Simpson said. (Idaho Falls Post Register, 9/23/98)

 

Simpson “went to court” to stop a ballot initiative that would have put on the ballot next to a candidate “indicating whether a candidate was sufficiently pure on term limits.”: When Simpson refused, Citizens for Federal Term Limits went into action. It’s running a television spot that accuses Simpson of trying to overturn the 1994 term limit initiative. That’s blatantly false. Simpson may not like term limits but he has respected the voters’ decision. He has, however, tried to overturn the 1996 initiative which, in spite of its sponsors’ claim, has little to do with term limits. That measure attempted to place on the ballot language indicating whether a candidate was sufficiently pure on term limits. It cluttered the ballot. Simpson went to court to stop it. (Idaho Falls Post Register, 5/10/98)

Simpson worked with the ACLU to overturn the term limits initiative: Cheers to a handful of legislators, led by House Speaker Mike Simpson, who are launching a lawsuit to overturn the 1996 term limits initiative.Simpson is among nine Idaho lawmakers _ including state Reps. Golden Linford, R-Rexburg, and Reed Hansen, R-Idaho Falls _ who will serve as plaintiffs in a constitutional challenge being mounted by the American Civil Liberties Union. (Idaho Falls Post Register, 1/10/97)

 

Simpson is “convinced he was right to take a stand against term limits:” After one term in Congress, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, is more convinced he was right two years ago to take a stand against term limits, even though it nearly cost him the Republican nomination in 1998. Serving in Congress is a maturing process, Simpson said. As in the Idaho Legislature, where he was House speaker for six years, building relationships is essential to success, he said. (The Idaho Statesman, 11/2/2000)

 

The Club for Growth is the nation’s leading group promoting economic freedom through legislative involvement, issue advocacy, research, and education. 

The Club’s website can be found at http://www.clubforgrowth.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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