Competing war chests could lead to well-financed and bitter Republican primaries in next year's congressional campaigns
A leading Tea Party group has launched a new fund to oppose "big spending" candidates from both parties, in a move that comes just days after a push by moderate Republicans against unelectable right-wingers.
The Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund said in its mission statement that it "will not hesitate to oppose Republican or Democrats in contested primaries" blaming both sides in Congress for taking America down the "path to fiscal ruin".
Launched Friday, the new fundraising entity will be seen as a counterweight to the Karl Rove-backed Super Pac American Crossroads. Only last week, Rove announced a new effort aimed at ploughing "tens of millions of dollars" into the campaigns of Republicans at risk of being out-flanked from the right.
The war chests being set up could lead to well-financed and bitter Republican primaries in next year's congressional contests. They come as the party struggles to define itself in the aftermath of November's presidential defeat, with growing talk of an internecine split between moderates and Tea Party-backed members of the Republican Party.
Mainstream conservatives signalled that they were preparing for messy primary battles in 2014 with the creation of the Conservative Victory Project under the American Crossroads brand.
Jonathan Collegio, spokesman for American Crossroads, said the fighting fund was being set up to help support electable Republicans against "undisciplined" elements.
"I wouldn't classify this effort as being conservative versus moderate. It is about being the most conservative candidate that can win. If a candidate is undisciplined or unable to raise sufficient resources, that should be recognised," he told the Guardian last week.
The new push come in the recent memory of two high-profile Senate seat defeats in which Republican candidates expressed deeply conservative – and to most people's minds, offensive – views on social issues.
In November, then-Representative Todd Akin had been favourite to take a Senate seat representing Missouri before commenting on TV that pregnancy rarely occurs in the case of "legitimate rape".
Senior Republican figures called on him to step down from the campaign, but he refused to do so. The resulting backlash, from female voters in particular, saw him lose a seat many party officials believed was very winnable.
Likewise, in Indiana, Republican candidate Richard Mourdock lost the Senate battle after suggesting that rape was "something God intended to happen".
Despite both men's comments being condemned by politicians from both parties, they continued to receive support from right-wing groups and individuals from the religious right.
American Crossroads hopes the new war chest will help protect more moderate conservatives from a challenge from what they deem to be unelectable right-wingers.
Meanwhile, the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund has been set up with the expressed intention to challenge establishment politicians.
Its website cites a dedication to "supporting those candidates who will sincerely work to rein in out-of-control government and to oppose those candidates who will not. We do not discriminate between political parties. We will not shy away from standing up to long-time career politicians."
Despite coming so close to the launch Conservative Victory Project, those behind the Tea Party Patriots say the fighting fund is not being set up in direct opposition to that of American Crossroads.
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots said: "We decided to do this after the election, in November or December. This was always in the works, Karl Rove's statements did not affect our timing, but his statements emphasise why we need this."
"DC should not be allowed to pick their friends," she added.
Both American Crossroads and the Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund have been set up as Super Pacs, shadowy fundraising entities that allow anonymous donors to gift an unlimited amount of cash to influence elections. Attacked by open government advocates, Super Pacs – made legal through a 2010 supreme court decision – help propel the 2012 presidential election into the most expensive White House race in history.
© Guardian News and Media 2013
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