Updated: 6:23 p.m.
Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) is criticizing fellow Republicans for allowing Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to maintain her seniority on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is using the incident to raise money for the man who defeated her in the primary.
DeMint sent a fundraising appeal Thursday for his Senate Conservatives Fund political action committee, which bundles money for 10 Republican Senate candidates he has endorsed. In it, he accuses Republicans of thumbing their noses at GOP Senate nominee Joe Miller and of aiding and abetting Murkowski, who launched a write-in bid for re-election after losing to the Fairbanks lawyer last month.
Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to replace Murkowski as Conference vice chairwoman, but they declined to strip her of her ranking status on Energy and Natural Resources.
"Senate Republicans held a closed-door meeting yesterday afternoon to elect someone to replace Senator Murkowski as the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Or so we thought," DeMint wrote in the e-mail appeal. "Rather than taking away Murkowski's leadership position on the committee, Senate Republicans decided to let her keep it. One senator after another stood up to argue in favor of protecting her place on the committee — a position she will no doubt use in her campaign against Joe Miller, the conservative Republican nominee."
DeMint has been highly critical of Senate Republican leaders for taking sides in a handful of GOP primaries — in some cases backing the more moderate candidate in a race, and in others backing a conservative but not the one preferred by South Carolina's junior Senator. With the primary season over, both GOP leaders and DeMint have attempted to present a unified front in support of all GOP Senate candidates.
But DeMint has continued to voice displeasure with his colleagues. Last week, he sent an e-mail fundraising appeal criticizing his colleagues for not doing more to support Delaware Republican Christine O'Donnell, who defeated GOP moderate Rep. Mike Castle, the party establishment favorite, in the Senate primary. The money raised through this e-mail appeal was for DeMint's PAC but specifically bundled for the O'Donnell campaign.
In his latest fundraising appeal, DeMint criticizes Senate Republicans for supporting Murkowski in her primary against Miller. The money raised will be bundled and forwarded to the Miller campaign.
"It was bad enough to watch my colleagues work to support her in the primary after she had built a record of betraying conservative principles. But watching them back her after she left the party and launched a campaign against the Republican nominee was more than I could bear," DeMint wrote. "I spoke out against the motion and I voted against it. But the good ol' boys Senate club, which always protects its own, prevailed. The motion was adopted by secret ballot and the final tally was not disclosed."
The Senate GOP leadership team and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have strongly supported Miller since he won the primary. The NRSC has donated $42,600 to his campaign and promised more than $200,000 in additional coordinated funds. A political strategist employed by the NRSC has been dispatched to Alaska, and a Miller spokesman said earlier this week that the campaign is satisfied with the help it has received thus far.
Republican leaders could not immediately be reached for comment but are known to be privately unhappy with DeMint's constant public criticism of the Conference.
Correction: Sept. 23, 6:22 p.m.
This article originally misidentified the recipient of fundraising by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). The money will go to the Senate campaign of GOP nominee Joe Miller of Alaska.