Greg Casey, an Idaho native who is president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Business Industry Political Action Committee is taking the Club for Growth to task for targeting 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson and nine other Republicans.
Casey notes that Simpson and six other incumbents targeted for right-wing challenges in 2014 GOP primaries scored 100 percent on BIPAC’s ranking of 23 House votes in the 112th Congress.
“BIPAC believes as fervently in free market capitalism as the CFG and has been on the front line of its defense for 50 years,” Casey writes in an internal newsletter article titled, “A Primary Predicament (and a Tragically Misleading Name).”
“We share a desire for the same outcome,” Casey continues. “The difference may be we understand the dynamics of a representative republic. It is penny wise and pound foolish to sacrifice the good in pursuit of perfection when the primary allies of your cause control just half of 1 of the 3 branches of government.”
Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller had this reply:
“It’s not surprising that Mike Simpson has the support of a group that supported Obama’s stimulus, the Wall Street bailout, and raising the debt limit by trillions of dollars because Mike Simpson supported keeping the spending in the Obama Stimulus, voted to bail out Wall Street, and voted to increase the debt limit by $2.1 trillion – all while voting to raise his own pay nine times, abandoning his pledge not to raise taxes and voting for billions in wasteful pork projects. We expect that other groups that share Mike Simpson’s love of bigger government and reckless spending will also support his candidacy. We agree with the assessment of groups like Citizens Against Government Waste that call Mike Simpson ‘hostile’ to Idaho taxpayers.”
Founded in 1963, BIPAC was the country’s first business political action committee and its members include a majority of the Fortune 100 largest U.S. companies. With affiliates in 47 states, BIPAC says it manages the nation’s largest business grassroots network in the nation, engaging employees of member companies to lobby policymakers. BIPAC also makes over $500,000 in PAC contributions in biennial congressional elections. Among its state affiliates is the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, which Casey once led. Casey also is a former chief of staff to former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig and sergeant at arms of the U.S. Senate.
Club for Growth puts Simpson’s lifetime record at 58 percent and last month endorsed his challenger, Bryan Smith, a first-time candidate and Idaho Falls lawyer. In 2006, Club for Growth raised $1.1 million to help Republican Bill Sali win the 1st District congressional race, but Sali was considered too extreme by voters and was defeated in 2008 by conservative Democrat Walt Minnick. Minnick, in turn, lost to Republican Rep. Raul Labrador in 2010.
“One cannot promote free market capitalism or alter the cultural antagonism towards profit by losing elections, taking positions that have no chance of becoming law and plunging the country deeper into policy gridlock,” writes Casey. “Much to my dismay, that is how they appear to operate.”
Casey dissects 45 votes in the club’s 2012 “Spending Cut Scorecard,” and argues that Simpson’s effort to cut Environmental Protection Agency spending by $1.4 billion “may actually do more to unleash free enterprise than those 45 ‘spending cuts.’”
The scorecard, Casey notes, was based on votes on 45 amendments to cut spending, three of which passed the House, for a savings of $2.6 million.
“The fact is the Club for Growth and similar organizations often hold themselves out to be something they aren’t,” Casey writes. ” The CFG aims to be a voice for entrepreneurism and capitalism, but in reality is a relatively small group of well meaning fiscal conservatives who are somehow convinced they know better than everyone else how to defend free markets in a free society. Sadly, they are getting it wrong.”
Casey’s article is not available online, but I’ve cut-and-pasted below.
A Primary Predicament (and a Tragically Misleading Name)
By Gregory S. Casey
Business must deal with some unique challenges if it truly wants to see champions of free enterprise elected to office in order to help enact good policy.
- The 2014 election cycle may contain some dynamics similar to those of 2010 and 2012 in which otherwise pro-business legislators are being targeted by outside groups in congressional primaries.
- Some of these primary challengers may be, as others have been, so far outside of the mainstream they are unable to go on and successfully win a general election.
- While some of these outside groups may be noble in their intent, their actions may undermine the very processes of governing necessary for business to succeed.
The Club for Growth (CFG) is an organization that self-identifies as a protector of free market capitalism. I cannot think of a greater cause. Their promotional material and website say all the right things. Unfortunately, something gets lost between the professed objective and reality. One cannot promote free market capitalism or alter the cultural antagonism towards profit by losing elections, taking positions that have no chance of becoming law and plunging the country deeper into policy gridlock. Much to my dismay, that is how they appear to operate.
The CFG recently targeted for primary defeat 10 incumbent House Republicans they view as RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) because of low scores on the CFG Scorecard. Mind you, not targeted were about 30 other GOP members and nearly all Democrats with scores as low or lower. Of those 10 incumbents they targeted, 7 received 100% on BIPAC’s 112th Congress Prosperity Project (P2) voting record. The other 3 scored 95%. The P2 votes are based on the Outline for Prosperity, a consensus, thematic issues agenda developed with considerable input from businesses, most business associations and our nearly 50 state P2 affiliates. The Outline for Prosperity represents what American business thinks is necessary to grow and maintain American prosperity.
So who decides the issues and voting records for the Club for Growth? Do they have a real strategy to achieve their goals or do they choose votes that have more “sound bite” sizzle than meat? The CFG’s 2012 “Spending Cut Scorecard” was included in calculating the CFG voting record. It is based on 45 amendments to cut spending, 17 of which were offered by 1 member of Congress. While CFG rated each vote the same, I can’t see how passing an amendment to cut $115,000 in salaries from The Department of Housing and Urban Development is as strategically significant as another to cut off all federal funding for fossil fuel programs. Only 3 of those 45 amendments passed in the House, theoretically saving about $2.6 million. Although every little bit helps, just 1 of the Club’s targeted incumbents, Representative Mike Simpson from my home state of Idaho, may actually do more to unleash free enterprise than those 45 “spending cuts.” As Chairman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, he is leading the effort to cut $1.4 billion from the EPA, something he couldn’t do if he wasn’t there.
The fact is the Club for Growth and similar organizations often hold themselves out to be something they aren’t. The CFG aims to be a voice for entrepreneurism and capitalism, but in reality is a relatively small group of well meaning fiscal conservatives who are somehow convinced they know better than everyone else how to defend free markets in a free society. Sadly, they are getting it wrong. They lack real grassroots from whom to get input. Their top 23 contributors in 2013 come from just 10 states and nearly half of those contributors are retired. Of the approximately $900,000 their action fund has received thus far in 2013, more than half came from 2 people: 1 in California and another in Illinois. Given the politics of those 2 states, one wonders why these captains of capitalism can’t do a better job right there at home.
BIPAC believes as fervently in free market capitalism as the CFG and has been on the front line of its defense for 50 years. We share a desire for the same outcome. The difference may be we understand the dynamics of a representative republic. It is penny wise and pound foolish to sacrifice the good in pursuit of perfection when the primary allies of your cause control just half of 1 of the 3 branches of government. Instead of taking pot shots at incumbents in conservative districts because they aren’t pure enough, it makes more sense to make a stronger case for free markets in California and Illinois and put heat on the unbelievers. It is time – past time – for the real representatives of American business and prosperity, those who have real constituents in the marketplace every day, to sideline the showmanship and promote a strategy that will actually promote American free market capitalism.