House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (right) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy are two of the original Young Guns who launched the group in 2008.
A freshman facing a Member twice his age in Illinois. A Senate octogenarian in Indiana. A five-term Tennessee Congresswoman from a safe district. A former House aide challenging an incumbent in North Carolina.
All of these varied Republicans benefited from YG Action fund, a super PAC, and its sister groups run by two former top aides for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
In the world of outside niche groups, it’s no wonder the Young Guns spinoffs have prompted some head-scratching since its inception last year. The super PAC originally struggled with fundraising, while Capitol Hill aides privately expressed confusion over its purpose.
But YG Action is coming off its first massive fundraising quarter, raking in $5.3 million from April through June. The money poured in just in time for its next big test: helping Richard Hudson win a contentious GOP runoff in North Carolina on Tuesday. The group has spent $524,000 to boost the former Capitol Hill chief of staff.
“For us, Hudson is one of those definitive races where we thought it was a combination of a Young Gun model candidate — young, conservative, next generation,” said John Murray, president of the three YG entities and Cantor’s former deputy chief of staff. “Our function in life is to build a sustained Republican majority in the House.”
In their industrial chic office space in northern Alexandria, Va., Murray, Brad Dayspring, Cantor’s former communications guru, their attorney and an intern casually plot their party’s path to the 113th Congress and beyond. The office vibe makes it feel like a long way from Capitol Hill. Murray’s corner office clothing rack holds at least a week’s worth of dry cleaning, flanked by red, white and blue leis and an acoustic guitar.
It’s not easy to explain the three entities that fall under the YG umbrella — all of which have nuanced missions and legally separate purposes. There’s the super PAC, YG Action Fund; the nonprofit, YG Network; and the wonk shop, YG Policy Center.
They make independent expenditures for candidates, such as Hudson, through the super PAC. Among other missions, the nonprofit served as a testing group for energy policy messaging in the Indiana primary. It also recently started a partnership to cultivate young donors with MavPAC, a political project of George P. Bush.
For months, the group has received criticism for its spending choices — even though the candidates it backed won in almost every case. Murray and Dayspring said they operate separately from their former boss as required by law.
“While we are former employees of Eric Cantor, we are building our own entity based on our own decision-making and have a rigorous way in which we go about things that are totally independent of any elected official,” Murray explained, as he sipped from a red Solo cup.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.