A User's Guide to the Many Conservative Groups Grubbing Money from the "Defund Obamacare" Cause

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 12 2013 12:49 PM

A User's Guide to the Many Conservative Groups Grubbing Money from the "Defund Obamacare" Cause

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Tea Party activists cheer during the Exempt America From Obamacare rally on Capitol Hill on Sept. 10, 2013. Some conservative groups are spending more money on attacking Republicans than they are on trying to defeat Democrats, under the guise of "defunding Obamacare."

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

For a long time, through the largely successful 2010 cycle, Brian Walsh was the spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He's exactly the sort of person you'd expect to write a jeremiad against the wave of "defund Obamacare" campaigns that sprouted during the August recess, and to do so after disagreement about how to move ahead and satiate the base on this issue made Republican leaders punt into next week.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Walsh's take: They are doing it because doing it raises money.

The Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action, the political arm of the once well-respected Heritage Foundation, have spent more money so far on attack ads this year against House and Senate Republicans than the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic National Committee, combined. All the while, virtually every Senate Democrat up for re-election in 2014 – all of whom were the deciding vote on Obamacare – has been given a free pass by these groups.
You see, money begets TV ads which begets even more money for these groups' personal coffers. Pointing fingers and attacking Republicans is apparently a very profitable fundraising business. It's also a detriment to the future of the Republican party and the critical effort to defend the House and win back the Senate in 2014.
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Those groups have gotten the most attention, sure, and kudos to Walsh for digging out a 2011 op-ed from Rep.-turned-Heritage expert Ernie Istook arguing that "unless Congress deals with the pot of money already provided, we won’t meet the goal of defunding Obamacare."* That's just the start, though. Here's a small sample of the groups of various ambitions—but similar email lists—which argued that the path to defunding Obamacare ran through their donation apps.

We informed you that Congress will be voting on funding Obamacare at what is called the “rule stage” of the continuing resolution. If somewhere around 25 to 35 Republicans votes to “Kill The Rule” at this stage, then it will never even get to the floor of the House to be voted on. This will successfully stop Obamacare from being funded because again, it cannot be voted on. We have been working directly with Congressmen Tim Huelskamp (R=KS) and Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ) in Washington D.C. this week to organize “Kill The Rule”! Congressman Huelskamp today Tweeted that our organization is directly responsible for help making this happen and that is because of you! Take a look at Congressman Huelskamp’s actual tweet today giving us and all of you the credit!

Tea Party Patriots:

“The GOP ‘leadership’ had the opportunity to galvanize Americans and make a real difference. Instead it is more business as usual with games, tricks and gimmicks that stick American families with the costs of Obamacare,” said Jenny Beth Martin, National Coordinator of Tea Party Patriots. “The Ruling elite in the House, and their shell-game with our money, aren’t fooling us. We want them to do what they said they would do: either stop funding Obamacare, or exempt America from Obamacare – like they did for their own staff.”

The National Liberty Foundation:

Help Fund Liberty!  We need funds now to fully launch our grassroots battle plan to defundObamacare.  Please consider donating $5, $25, $50, $100 or more to help defund Obamacare. 

According to media reports, GOP leaders will attempt to pass a "trick rule" that allows them to pretend to defund Obamacare without actually doing so.

Under the trick rule, the House will pass a continuing resolution that fully funds Obamacarealong with separate phony bill that defunds Obamacare. Democrats in the Senate will then throw the defunding bill in the garbage and send the real bill that funds Obamacare to the president's desk.

The Family Research Council:

Of the House Rule on the Continuing Resolution, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made the following comments:
"The House Rule on the Continuing Resolution spending bill purports to 'defundObamacare' but only provides a cover vote on defunding Obamacare without any teeth. The Rule simply does not stop this onerous law from going into effect.

Matt Bevin for Senate:

The new ad put out by the McConnell campaign claims, "McConnell supports bills to repeal and defund Obamacare." The truth is, Mitch McConnell voted tofund Obamacare in March (RC # 44, 03/20/13). And, as conservative Senators Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz have led the fight to defund Obamacare, Mitch McConnell has refused to join their effort. McConnell has refused to sign the pledge not to vote for any government spending bill that funds Obamacar eand has pressured other Republicans to remove their names from the pledge.

We don't have the financial reports yet, but later this year we'll learn just how much money was raised—and how much was actually spent, against Republicans—by conservatives working on something that the party leadership knew could never pass.

*Correction, Sept. 12, 2013: This post originally misspelled former Rep. Ernest Istook's last name.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.