Sept. 2, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Business Bid to Counter Tea Party Fizzles

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
LaTourette’s Defending Main Street super PAC raised $845,000 last year, more than half of it from labor unions.

Business-friendly GOP organizers who launched a new crop of super PACs to counter the tea party have failed to cash in, recent campaign disclosures show, leaving them badly outraised on both the right and the left.

Close to a dozen super PACs backed by the GOP’s business wing, including those with ties to Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, pulled in just under $10 million in 2013. That’s less than half the $21 million collected by a handful of tea party and anti-tax groups, including the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth.

It’s also less than a third of the $31.3 million collected last year by the top four Democrat-friendly super PACs, including those backing House and Senate candidates. The “Main Street” Republicans’ low super PAC receipts reflect donor burnout, big money’s migration into unreported channels and continued strife over who defines the GOP.

“While I’m happy with where we are, I think we can do better,” said former Ohio Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, whose Defending Main Street super PAC raised $845,000 last year, more than half of it from labor unions. “And I will be disappointed if we are not able to turn it on by the end of March.”

LaTourette cited donors’ preference for giving to his group’s 501(c)(4) nonprofit arm, known as Main Street Advocacy, which is exempt from disclosure rules and raised $1.1 million last year. He also blamed disenchantment among GOP contributors, who poured millions into unrestricted super PACs in 2012 with unimpressive results.

“We’re caught up in some of the same stuff that I think all of [the] Republican organizations are feeling,” LaTourette said. “There was a great deal of deflation after the 2012 election.”

GOP consultant and blogger Crystal Wright has had such trouble raising money for her Conservative Melting Pot PAC, which she launched a year ago to help diversify the Republican candidate pool, that she’s considering closing up shop. Her super PAC collected just $4,112, and Wright said her fundraising pitches often drew angry emails complaining about the government shutdown and inaction on Capitol Hill.

“There’s a state of confusion, I think,” Wright said. “There’s no clear sign of leadership coming from the face of the Republican Party. Who are we? What do we really stand for, and what are we fighting for? And when you go out to get dollars, it makes it challenging because there’s more frustration associated with our brand than enthusiasm.”

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