Senate Republican leaders and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) are quietly waging a battle over campaign strategy even as the two sides seek to show a united front after a divisive primary season.
Although the National Republican Senatorial Committee has begun spending millions of dollars on Senate candidates whom DeMint backed in the primary, South Carolina’s junior Senator remains dissatisfied with NRSC strategy in a handful of races. DeMint is taking what he deems corrective action by spending money in such races, drawing funds from his Senate Conservatives Fund political action committee and his own personal re-election account.
Topping that list were transfers to the Nevada and Colorado victory committees, offshoots of the Republican National Committee that focus on ground-game activities.
DeMint gave $156,000 from his personal re-election account to the Nevada organization to help fund a get-out-the-vote operation to aid Senate nominee and tea party favorite Sharron Angle, and he gave $250,000 to the Colorado committee to help Ken Buck, who defeated NRSC-preferred candidate and former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton in the August primary.
“Sen. DeMint is doing everything he can to help a group of new Republicans win this year, and he’s made some pretty generous transfers to that effect,” Matt Hoskins, a spokesman for the Senate Conservatives Fund, said Monday. “While the party establishment opposed a number of these conservative candidates in the primary, we certainly appreciate their support now.”
Sources close to DeMint said his campaign transfers to the Colorado and Nevada victory committees were made to fill financial gaps left by the NRSC.
That is also how sources described Senate Conservative Fund actions to raise money and air television ads in Delaware on behalf of Christine O’Donnell, who defeated GOP establishment favorite Rep. Mike Castle in last week’s Republican primary.
The NRSC declined to comment for this story, citing its policy of not divulging strategy on resource allocation. But Minority Whip Jon Kyl said the NRSC was using the same parameters that it always has when determining who to help.
“There is a certain amount that’s given to all candidates. And then, above that, as we have money available, we support races that need the money and where the money will make a difference,” the Arizona Republican said. “We do not support, financially, races where the candidate has plenty of money or very little chance to win. That’s the rule we’ve always followed, it’s the rule we’re following right now. So, any candidate that demonstrates a good possibility of winning can count on funds to the extent we have them available.”
DeMint has endorsed 10 Republican Senate candidates: Joe Miller in Alaska, O’Donnell in Delaware, Buck in Colorado, Marco Rubio in Florida, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Angle in Nevada, former Rep. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Mike Lee in Utah, Dino Rossi in Washington state and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin.
Every candidate on this list, except for Lee, who is viewed as safe, has received a $42,600 donation from the NRSC, the maximum allowed under federal law. Additionally, the committee has bought or reserved independent expenditure television advertising time for every DeMint-backed candidate, other than Lee, Miller and O’Donnell. The NRSC might choose to go on the air in Alaska and Delaware as those races progress.
The NRSC has reserved roughly
$3.2 million of TV advertising time for Buck and $2 million for Paul, and the committee is already on the air in Colorado and Kentucky. The NRSC has also reserved about $3 million each for Rubio and Toomey, $2.9 million for Rossi, $700,000 for Angle and $500,000 for Johnson. The committee reserved less for Angle because her fundraising has been stellar and less for Johnson because of his ability to self-fund.
“We are very pleased and thankful for all the support the that the NRSC has given us,” Angle campaign spokesman Jarrod Agen said in remarks echoed by the campaign teams for Miller, Rubio and Toomey.
DeMint backed Rubio and Toomey early in the primary season, while the NRSC and GOP leaders were endorsing their Republican opponents. But after Florida Gov. Charlie Crist bolted the GOP to run for Senate as an Independent and Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) left the party to seek re-election as a Democrat, the committee offered Rubio and Toomey their strong backing, and both camps suggested that any unhappiness with the NRSC dissipated long ago.
“Ever since Arlen Specter switched parties, the NRSC has been tremendously helpful to our campaign. We work with them closely, frequently and very well,” Toomey campaign manager Mark Harris said.
In Florida, it is NRSC funding that is behind the current Rubio television ad.
But DeMint remains unhappy, despite emphasizing last week after O’Donnell’s upset victory in Delaware that the disagreements between himself and the NRSC were in the past and that he and GOP leaders were unified behind the full slate of Republican Senate candidates heading into the general election.
The Senator has made a decision not to transfer any of his excess campaign funds to the NRSC this fall because he does not want the money used to fund Republican Senate candidates such as Rep. Mark Kirk (Ill.), veteran Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.) and challenger Carly Fiorina in California. Fiorina, supported by the NRSC in the primary, defeated the DeMint-backed state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.
Additionally, DeMint has continued to speak critically of NRSC strategy, such as the committee’s apparent decision not to spend more money on O’Donnell.
“I want to thank the thousands of
freedom-loving Americans who helped fill the fundraising gap left by national Republicans who’ve all but given up on this race,” he said in a statement publicized Friday by his PAC to explain to explain the PAC’s decision to raise money for Delaware’s GOP nominee.