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Roll Call

Republican Super PAC War Splits the Party

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Priebus’ new agenda for the GOP has a long list of recommendations for allies of the party, but it’s unlikely to smooth over intraparty rifts.

A cottage industry of new Republican super PACs run by a diverse array of tea party activists, conservative organizers and established operatives is making the GOP look less like a political party than a collection of competing outside groups.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’ new “Growth & Opportunity” agenda includes a long list of recommendations for these “Friends and Allies.” But bickering among the GOP’s increasingly influential outside players has underscored intraparty rifts.

Though media attention has spotlighted tea party attacks on Republican rainmaker Karl Rove’s new Conservative Victory Project, his effort is only one of at least a half-dozen groups representing the GOP’s various factions that have launched since January.

These include the Real Conservatives National Committee, a super PAC announced Tuesday by tea party organizers Lorie Medina and Michael Patrick Leahy. Also new on the scene are NewRepublican.org, a super PAC launched by GOP pundit and consultant Alex Castellanos; the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, a tea party PAC that’s set out to raise $20 million in this election cycle; and the Conservative Melting Pot PAC, run by blogger Crystal Wright.

They join a motley collection of smaller groups registered in recent weeks with the Federal Election Commission, some without websites or obvious funding sources and with names like Conservative Strike Force Super PAC, Real Conservatives US and No More Wimpouts. The last has mounted three campy web “ads,” including one that features a doctored image of Rove wearing floppy dog ears and deriding him as an “establishment back-room wheeler and dealer.”

Rove has labored to avoid a fight with right-leaning critics since The New York Times disclosed in February that his Conservative Victory Project aims to help the most electable candidate win GOP primaries, potentially countering the influence of tea party and conservative groups.

The latest attack on Rove’s group came from L. Brent Bozell, chairman of the conservative advocacy group ForAmerica, who released an open letter to big GOP donors on March 14 that essentially urged them to give Rove’s new super PAC the cold shoulder. Bozell is also founder and president of the conservative Media Research Center.

Signed by more than a dozen conservative organizers and groups, including the Tea Party Express and the Family Research Council, the letter warned that “the model that will be employed by the Conservative Victory Project has proven to be ineffective and a waste of political resources.”

Rove could not be reached for comment, but he recently said on “Fox News Sunday” that the political party that does not control the White House “tends to have these difficulties; this is nothing new and nothing exceptional.”

Still, the proliferation of far-flung new GOP groups presents a direct challenge to Priebus, whose post-mortem of the 2012 elections devotes several pages to the role GOP “Friends and Allies” should play in helping the party beef up its ground game, messaging and get-out-the-vote infrastructure. Many of the new super PACs on the scene have assailed not just Rove but the RNC itself.

The recently released “Growth & Opportunity Project” is a costly and “ridiculous” rebranding campaign that is “the type of strategy that doomed the party in 2012,” Medina declared in a statement announcing the Real Conservatives National Committee on Tuesday.

“The Tea Party Patriots is not waiting on the Republican Party,” chimed in Jenny Beth Martin, the group’s co-founder and president. “We know what needs to get done, and we’re going to do what we can to get the job done so that we’ll have a constitutionally limited government.”

Asked about the RNC’s 100-page agenda, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said he’s not even sure he’ll read it.

“We’re not a party organization,” said Chocola, whose group has aggressively intervened on behalf of fiscal conservatives in GOP primaries. “We support a lot of Republicans, but we’re not in the business of electing Republicans.”

Chocola’s group recently unveiled a new website, dubbed “Primary My Congressman,” that features mini-profiles portraying several GOP incumbents as lacking true conservative credentials. Both the club and FreedomWorks, a major tea party backer, have been highly critical of Rove’s new super PAC. FreedomWorks set up a website dubbed “NotKarlsParty.com.”

Other new GOP super PACs respond to party concerns, aired exhaustively in Priebus’ postelection autopsy, that Republicans’ failure to recapture the White House or the Senate in 2012 stems from the party’s failure to appeal to Latinos and other increasingly influential demographic groups. Castellanos told CNN that his NewRepublican.org super PAC will help “win the middle” and advance the GOP brand.

Wright said in announcing the Conservative Melting Pot PAC that it will help “grow” the GOP by backing, particularly, “minorities and women.” Similarly, the new super PAC led by former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Republicans for Immigration Reform, sets out to provide political cover to GOP lawmakers committed to an immigration overhaul.

“We agree that as a party, we need to get operationally stronger, and certainly need to improve our performance among a broader range of demographic groups,” Chris Jankowski, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, said of the Priebus agenda. Jankowski declined to comment on specific new GOP PACs but said the ongoing GOP debate over their role in primaries “is starting to become more about personalities than principles.”

An earlier version of this story misquoted RSLC President Chris Jankowski. He said the GOP primary debate 'is starting to become more about personalities than principles.'

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