Money is a regular part of leadership battles, fundraising ability is effectively a job requirement, and there has long been a debate about whether dedicated congressional campaign committees should spend money to protect incumbent lawmakers from upstart challengers. But the entities involved in deals struck during the Speaker’s vote should be legally separate from specific candidates and parties.
The clearest example came on the second night of voting, when the sixth round failed to secure McCarthy’s speakership.GOP leadership scrambles to get enough support among their members Even adjourn for a day.Since all signs point to a tricky problem Stalemate, the message started to break. Instead of being attacked by McCarthy and his critics inside the Capitol, they were attacked by two super PACs outside the Capitol.
They are the Congressional Leadership Fund, which has nothing to do with the House Republican leadership — though it is proudly “backed” by it; and a political action committee tied to the Growth Club, which promotes small government and staunchly conservative policies.In a twisted press release, they announced that they had reached an agreement on the Republican primary to make it appear to be about the speaker’s race while keeping a legal distance: The CLF will not participate in the Republican primary, for an open but safe Republican seat, which conservative Holdouts and their allies the Club for Growth have been pushing.
The headline of the press release: “CLF and Club for Growth Reach Major Agreement Endorsing Kevin McCarthy as Speaker.” At the bottom are two disclaimers: “Congressional Leadership Fund is an independent 527 Super PAC not affiliated with any federal official Control. Kevin McCarthy supports the CLF. No one in Congress or its staff has directed or advised the CLF to take any action here.”
The Growth Club had previously urged a vote against McCarthy but backed him after the deal was completed, pending rules talks with conservatives.
Concession talks between anti-McCarthy factions, centrists and the leadership showed signs of progress the next day. the next morning, The first cracks in the dam emerged as a dozen or so sticklers switched to voting for McCarthy, giving him and his allies the impetus to convince the rest of the Opponents voted “present,” ensuring his election that night.
Many of the vote-changers insisted that the agreement between the two super PACs had nothing to do with their negotiations, citing changes in House procedures they fought for. However, they do acknowledge that it is welcome.
“It’s not really a consideration for me,” said Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida. “I’m glad to see it because the members have been worried, but honestly, it’s not part of my calculations.”
“We heard about it at the last minute, but the Growth Club is a great organization,” added South Carolina Representative Ralph Norman. “I trust their judgment.”
“It’s clearly in the news,” said Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, who led the negotiations with McCarthy. “It really didn’t affect anything … except, obviously, we had some concerns raised over a month ago.”
“It’s a positive step,” said Rep. Matt Gates of Florida, one of the ballots that ultimately turned to attendance only. “I don’t think it’s conclusive.”
Simultaneously downplaying and supporting the deal illustrates a fact that has recently become blurred in Washington: By law, independent super PACs are not supposed to coordinate with candidates for public office.
“It’s kind of difficult to have that kind of conversation in our official business,” Roy admitted. “But that’s obviously part of the reality of everything.”
Adav Noti, an executive with the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, said it shows how public the flouting of the spirit of campaign finance laws has become.
“If you have to say in your press release, ‘PS, there’s nothing illegal about what we’re doing,’ I mean, that’s a very strong indication that there’s something wrong with the whole idea,” Noti said.
Indeed, while some have wryly pointed out the irony of the “drain the swamp” rhetoric being thrown around the House as groups spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaigns cut backside deals, Although said to be independent, it has become common for super PACs to be seen as part of the party leadership.
“This exposes the lies of these super PACs we got after ‘Citizens United’ and ‘SpeechNow’ [Supreme Court decisions] It’s these separate groups,” said Robert Maguire, director of research at the Washington-based nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. Maguire added that entities that should enforce campaign laws, such as the Federal Election Commission or Congress itself , “Either fell asleep on the switch, or was terribly afraid to touch this issue. “
While super PAC deals are the most publicized example, they’re not the only way wealthy people can get involved in the campaign.
One of the lawmakers who voted against McCarthy, Rep. Andy Ogles of Tennessee, Tell His local news station, WKRN, said he had a heated conversation with McCarthy in the House because he had “received a text message the night before that I was being threatened by a very wealthy benefactor . . . Never met,” as he opposed McCarthy. Ogles said McCarthy was “sorry” and said he had nothing to do with the text messages.
Many of McCarthy’s critics align with the network of conservative tax-exempt groups under the Conservative Partnership, which is run largely by former congressmen Jim DeMint and Mark Meadows. The advocacy and training organization, which shared millions of dollars with its network of hardline conservative groups, hosted at least one meeting of the anti-McCarthy faction, according to Yahoo News reporters. Meeting.Roy named one of them Those ones group, Center for Renewing America, It was endorsed by its president, Russ Vought, in an interview with RealClearPolitics, who deemed it “vital” to their efforts.
The group has branded itself as a “D.C. swamp” against “special interests” ruling lawmakers by providing resources to conservatives who oppose the “establishment.” The Conservative Cooperative Institute received $45 million in donations and grants in 2021, according to tax documents released by money-in-politicals outlet Sludge.
Gates took that criticism directly to the House, where he attacked McCarthy for “selling himself” to lobbyists and into the pockets of special interests, drawing rare criticism. Democrats applauded him while some Republicans walked out in disgust.
florida republican at the time into the same language Go into a fundraising appeal and tell supporters that the only way to uphold these interests is to donate to candidates like Gaetz who don’t accept PAC money.
Maguire has also criticized the fundraising method, arguing that social media and far-right conservative world stars such as Gates can neutralize the benefits of big money by making their supporters angry about messages such as election denialism.
“It ends up being just as toxic, but in a different way, because they end up spreading election lies, other kinds of lies, to make people as angry as possible,” Maguire said.
In the end, McCarthy emerged victorious, while his critics declared victory in the concessions they had won, such as more powers to influence legislation, a promise to cut spending for hardliners and the ability for any member to call for criticism of the Speaker at any time. Vote of confidence time.
McCarthy celebrated the victory with his supporters and staff, cheering and embracing in the marble-floored hallway of his Capitol office.
In a photo taken by The Washington Post, smiling in the hall behind McCarthy is Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC chairman Dan Conston.
Tal Kopan can be reached at email@example.com.Follow her on Twitter @talkopan.