Lawmakers and political operatives aligned with House GOP leadership are growing increasingly concerned that the powerful conservative outside group Club for Growth is taking marching orders from their arch-nemesis: The House Freedom Caucus.
The Club’s super PAC has spent more than $3.7 million to boost a half-dozen Republican primary candidates who’ve pledged publicly or privately to join the Freedom Caucus, plus several of their current members in tough races. Some of the candidates’ policy positions are at odds with the Club’s positions, raising eyebrows among its detractors. The group’s latest endorsee, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), surprised many: The group spent more than $600,000 against him four years ago after Gosar earned a middling 63 percent on its internal scorecard, in part because of his votes on spending bills.
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Critics say the Club’s endorsements appear to go beyond the typical support of outside groups for like-minded candidates that one would expect, to something approaching an unholy coordination between a group of lawmakers and a big-spending conservative organization. There’s no daylight between the candidates the groups have gotten behind: All Club-backed House contenders this year are members of, or endorsed by, the Freedom Caucus.
Club officials deny working in concert with the Freedom Caucus.
One Republican operative working on a House race, however, said a Club staffer told him explicitly that the group would back whomever the House Freedom Caucus supports. And a GOP lawmaker charged that the group has abandoned its independence.
“I was a Club-endorsed candidate when I first ran for Congress. I had to go through a very thorough interview by a committee of Club members at their office … to make sure I agreed with their issues,” said retiring Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), who recently backed a candidate going up against a Club- and Freedom Caucus-endorsed hopeful. …