How Kevin McCarthy's troubling 'deal' forces his super-PAC to 'yield to extremist candidates': conservative
Between January 3 and 6, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California failed no less than 14 votes in his quest to become House speaker. But when a 15th vote was held on Friday night, January 6, McCarthy was finally able to win over enough of the far-right “Never Kevin” Republicans (many of them members of the House Freedom Caucus) who had been voting against him repeatedly. McCarthy is now House speaker.
McCarthy had to jump through a lot of hoops in order to get the “Never Kevin” holdouts to finally vote for him, and his critics have been arguing that the California Republican is now totally beholden to the most extreme members of his party. According to journalist and Never Trump conservative William Saletan, that includes a deal that the McCarthy-associated super-PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), agreed to on January 3.
“Under the deal,” Saletan explains in an article published by The Bulwark on January 9, “CLF agreed that it will no longer ‘spend in any open-seat primaries in safe Republican districts.’ Nor will it ‘grant resources to other super PACs to do so.’ That’s a big deal. CLF spent more than a quarter of a billion dollars in the 2022 elections. It can still support Republican incumbents against right-wing challengers, and in swing districts, it can oppose troublemakers in Republican primaries. But in safe red districts where a Republican incumbent isn’t running, CLF will yield to extremist candidates and their funders.”
Saletan adds, “It’s bad enough that Congress already has 20 Republican lawmakers who were willing to shut down the House. And it’s alarming to imagine what those 20 will do when the House has to raise the debt ceiling. But the caucus of extremists would be even larger today if McCarthy and his allies hadn’t torpedoed many of them in last year’s primaries.”
The conservative journalist goes on to pose the question: “What would Congress look like today if McCarthy-affiliated entities hadn’t kneecapped those candidates?” And Saletan describes some of the “extremist” GOP congressional primary candidates McCarthy helped defeat.
For example, Saletan notes that in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, “American Liberty Action PAC, another player in the network of super PACs connected to McCarthy, spent nearly $1.5 million to knock off Anthony Sabatini, a friend of chaos-caucus ringleader Matt Gaetz. In July, at a conference run by nationalists who used to work with Nick Fuentes — yes, that Nick Fuentes — Sabatini called for the repeal of Juneteenth as a holiday and said every Republican who voted for aid to Ukraine should be purged from Congress. Sabatini also said the 47 House Republicans who voted to codify same-sex marriage should ‘be primaried and removed.’ And in August, after the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, he called on the Florida legislature to ‘sever all ties with DOJ.’ He added: ‘Any FBI agent conducting law enforcement functions outside the purview of our state should be arrested upon sight.’”
Saletan points out that in Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, “The American Dream Federal Action PAC, another group indirectly linked to McCarthy, spent more than $500,000 to help Mark Alford beat State Sen. Rick Brattin, an ‘election integrity’ enthusiast and cultural extremist. Brattin sponsored a bill to allow lawsuits against anyone who helped women cross state lines to get abortions. He also advocated legislation that would make it a federal crime to provide abortions to any woman from another state.”
The good news, according to Saletan, is that the CLF deal “leaves plenty of loopholes” that McCarthy-associated super-PACs may be able to take advantage of.
“If McCarthy, after securing the speakership, decides to double-cross the chaos caucus, he has lots of options,” Saletan observes. “He can direct his donors — sorry, I should have said, people close to McCarthy can direct his donors — to funnel their money through any of the other independent-expenditure groups that are informally connected to him. As long as that money doesn’t go through CLF, it can technically be used, under the terms of the deal, to carpet-bomb extremists in Republican primaries. God help me, I’m rooting for him.”
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