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The latest GOP example came in a briefing late last week with National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), who told a standing-room-only crowd of K Street advocates and political action committee heads not to give to Democrats, according to two sources at the meeting.
Many lobbyists and PAC directors say they’ll do what the political realities dictate, no matter the heavy-handed tactics.
“The business community has seen this before, and they will hedge their bets no matter who threatens them,” said one Republican business lobbyist.
According to one source at the Reynolds meeting — a Republican who is the director of an association PAC — Reynolds told the crowd, “For those of you thinking about hedging your bets, I am watching you and I am going to know.” Another source who attended the briefing with Reynolds said the NRCC chairman made it clear that the entire Republican Conference would also know of companies or associations whose PAC-giving ratio shifted from Republican to Democratic.
“We will have no choice but to report to the Republican Conference any changes in your pattern of giving,” this source said he recalled Reynolds as saying.
“I was just surprised he was that blatant about it,” the first meeting source said. “If it had happened two years ago, it wouldn’t have been a surprise, but in the whole era we’re in now and in light of certain things that have gone on, I was surprised.”
NRCC spokesman Carl Forti declined to comment about the Thursday meeting, saying it was private.
Forti said he has no idea what will happen to those companies or groups who shift their giving away from Republicans and toward Democrats. “I would say that their switch would be noticed,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what it means. All I know is it will get noticed.”
Pelosi spokeswoman Crider said there is a difference between Reynolds’ message and the effort by Democrats to invite lobbyists’ input.
“What it sounds like the Republicans were doing was levying a threat to K Street,” she said. “What we’re saying is, if you have an idea on an issue we have some commonality on, the lines of communication are open.”
The Reynolds meeting, according to both sources, lasted more than an hour, featured cookies and soda, but no handouts, and was attended by a half-dozen candidates including Michele Bachmann, who is running for the seat being vacated by GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy in Minnesota; Mike Whalen, who is running for an open seat in Iowa; Jeff Lamberti, who is challenging Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa); and Randy Graf, who is running for an open seat in Arizona.
The PAC director source who attended the Reynolds meeting said that any perceived threats aside, it’s hard for many business interests to find Democrats worthy of supporting.
“We would love to support 50 Democrats,” the PAC director said. “But it’s just really hard when they consistently vote against you on every single issue. When we find Democrats that are supportive, we’re there, but the list is small.”
One top Republican lobbyist said that if Republicans are heavy-handed about not giving to Democrats, the Democrats are sending an equally strong message of “you better hedge your bets.”