The GOP’s Outside Groups Are Happy With McCutcheon

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 2 2014 1:25 PM

The GOP’s Outside Groups Are Happy With McCutcheon

Sarah Mimms suggests that the SCOTUS's ruling in McCutcheon will aid Mitch McConnell—and other Republicans—in their battle to tame rogue outside groups. "McConnell has made it his goal this cycle to cripple meddling outside groups such as the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks," writes Mimms, "groups that have frustrated parties and candidates for, often willingly, going off-message. The McCutcheon decision would allow wealthy individuals, who might otherwise give big to super PACs after hitting the overall contribution limit for, say, the 2014 cycle, to donate those funds to those who are actually running campaigns on the ground."

Funny thing: None of the outside groups seems bothered by the decision. "This is a great day for the first amendment, and a great day for political speech," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in a statement. "With Citizens United and now McCutcheon, the Supreme Court has continued to restrict the role of the federal government in limiting and regulating speech."

Americans for Prosperity, which has been pounding Democratic incumbents with TV ads all year, struck the same chords. "We always welcome more participation, more voices, and more activity," said spokesman Levi Russell. "Our mission and focus is distinct from any political party or typical PAC—so this decision is not likely to impact us."

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Are they whistling past the graveyard? I don't think so—all cycle, I think the challenge posed by outside groups to the mainstream GOP has been a bit overrated. AFP, for example, has not spent a dime attacking incumbent Republicans from the left. The Club for Growth is trying to make examples of Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Thad Cochran, but much more of its effort this year has focused on clobbering incumbent Democrats. FreedomWorks has been struggling, rarely more obviously than in the past week, when it bailed on one candidate in Nebraska's Senate race and endorsed Ben Sasse, who had more support from the rest of the "Tea Party" infrastructure. That decision convinced Dean Clancy to leave the group, and at least one other FreedomWorks staffer is headed out the door, too.

Maybe some donors celebrate McCutcheon by giving more to parties, and less to the PACs and 501s. That doesn't change two facts of life in 2014: The largest conservative PACs are largely working in sync with the GOP, and the 501s can offer plenty of opacity to donors who want to keep spending.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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