Tired of watching outside groups meddling in Republican primaries, the group tasked with electing Republicans to the Senate threw a sharp jab Friday.
The National Republican Senatorial Campaign announced that it was ending its business dealings with Jamestown Associates as punishment for that firm’s work for the Senate Conservatives Fund, a group that’s propelled tea party challengers against incumbent candidates. Not only that, the committee is also encouraging 2014 Senate candidates, the RNC and other committees to drop their associations with Jamestown as well.
The message is fairly explicit: If you are profiting off Republican Party infighting, you aren’t going to get any money from the NRSC. But how ironclad is this principle?
A review of campaign finance data shows that if a new policy has been put in place, it’s being applied ad hoc. Jamestown actually hadn’t worked for the NRSC for the current 2014 election cycle prior to being told that it will not get any contracts from the campaign committee, so it won’t be losing any existing contracts.
But there are two groups who have worked for both the NRSC and the Senate Conservatives Fund this cycle, and there is no indication that their checks are in danger.
Huckaby Davis Lisker has performed “compliance consulting” services for both the NRSC and SCF in 2013. The NRSC paid the firm $20,000; the SCF paid it just under $16,750. The polling firm Basswood Research, meanwhile, has been paid $33,110 by the NRSC for “survey research” during this cycle, and $146,614 for “research/polling” by the SCF.
During the 2012 elections, the firm Public Opinion Strategies worked for both the NRSC and the SCF, as did Cold Spark Media.
Whether any of these groups, like Jamestown, should expect to be punished by the NRSC is not clear. Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the committee, said he was not going to comment further on the decision to cut Jamestown off. Calls to both Lisker and Basswood Research were not returned.
But clearly, anger over the disruptive role being played by the SCF has grown. The group, which was founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), has propelled a number of tea party challengers to primary wins during the past two cycles. But critics argue that they’ve hurt the party in the process, by making its position weaker during general elections. And more recently, the argument has been made that the SCF and the firms with whom it works are seeking to profit off GOP divisions.
Former NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh noted that the SCF has spent seven times more money attacking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell this cycle than it did supporting Sen. Rand Paul in 2010. Both are Kentucky Republicans.
In 2010, the SCF contributed $32,000 to Paul’s campaign. For the 2014 cycle, they have already pledged $670,000 in ads against McConnell. The SCF supports McConnell's primary GOP challenger, businessman Matt Bevin. It is worth noting, though, that the group was much smaller in 2010 than now, restricting the amount of money it could spend on any one contest.
UPDATE: 5:00 p.m. -- SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins emailed the following response, putting the onus of the NRSC's decision to freeze out certain firms squarely on the shoulders of McConnell.
This whole thing shows how selfish Mitch McConnell is. He doesn't care if these firms do good work and could help the party and he doesn't care if our candidates are compelling and could help the party. He wants to destroy all of them simply because they've done work for us and we support his primary challenger.
McConnell's selfishness is also why he ignored his vulnerability in Kentucky and chose to run for another term rather than retiring and helping the party hold this seat and save money to win others. If another Republican Senator were in a similar position, he would be pushing them out the door. Mitch McConnell only cares about himself and will do anything for power.