Updated 4:30 p.m. | Rep. Walter B. Jones blasted his primary opponent Wednesday, implying that he is a “puppet of Washington” after CQ Roll Call reported that a cadre of plugged-in Republican operatives are hosting a fundraiser for his challenger this week.
The North Carolina Republican said the Capitol Hill fundraiser with a handful of longtime GOP aides shows the influence of Washington insiders and campaign money in politics, rather than ideas and principles.
“This is again an example of the influence of Washington. I am an independent. The people back home know I’m an independent. And I don’t think the people back home want a puppet of Washington to go down there and represent them,” he said. Jones is being challenged in the May 6 primary by Taylor Griffin, a former campaign aide to President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in his presidential bid. Griffin also worked in the Bush White House and Treasury Department.
Hosts for the fundraiser include Brian Walsh, a Republican consultant who works with the National Republican Senatorial Committee; Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign manager; and several of Griffin’s colleagues from his former political consulting firm, Hamilton Place Strategies.
“This to me is what’s wrong with Washington. There’s too much money out here and it’s all about the money. Too many times policy is influenced by money. That’s why I’m an independent and I vote my conscience,” Jones said. “I believe sincerely that the people of Eastern North Carolina want a conservative independent and I do fit that definition.”
Although he referred to himself as an independent, Jones said he is not going to switch party affiliation over the challenge to his 3rd District seat. But Jones said he's not afraid to buck his leaders and noted that he was removed from the Financial Services Committee for voting against their wishes.
“I’m an independent Republican, there’s a difference. You’re a Republican, then you’re a puppet of the leadership. I got kicked off a committee. I am not a puppet, I’m not going to be a puppet,” he said. “I’m happy where I am. As long as I can do what I think my conscience wants me to do for the people I represent, I’m OK.”
Griffin campaign manager Doug Raymond responded to Jones' comments by noting that the campaign is just trying to compete with an incumbent who's raised millions of dollars over the years from political action committees.
"We are well positioned but our campaign will need resources to compete with a 20-year incumbent that has raised $8 million over his career including over $3.7 million from PACs," he said in a statement. "Congressman Jones has even taken money from liberal icon Charlie Rangel, the only Republican in Congress to receive money from Congressman Rangel."
Abby Livingston contributed to this report.