“Young Guns” is a program of the National Republican Congressional Campaign (NRCC) which bills itself as committed to building the “next generation of conservative leaders.” Those words are from the home page of the project’s website http://www.gopyoungguns.com.
The website is misleading. While Young Guns solicits donations from Tea Party and conservative donors, the GOP house leaders who run the program actually use it to elect GOP moderates over conservatives.
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The corruption doesn’t end there. Insiders who work for the NRCC actually use the money generated by the program to promote friends and business associates, “encouraging” candidates to hire certain consultants before they will get support.
The campaign manager of one conservative candidate used the word “extortion” to explain how the sordid system works. Here is a real world example.
In what political reporter John Gizzi of Human Events wrote was, “the nastiest primary of the year so far,” Representative Adam Kinzinger defeated 20 year veteran Congressman Don Manzullo. The Manzullo vs. Kinzinger race gives us a glimpse of how the program works. Manzullo is a strong conservative with a lifetime American Conservative Union (ACU) rating of 96 compared to the more moderate Kinzinger who scores a miserable 72 out of 100 from the ACU.
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When two Members face off against each other, it is unusual for the GOP leadership to choose sides. But in this case the Young Guns Action Fund unleashed a $50,000 advertising blitz, which deceptively called the more moderate Kinzinger, “an important part of the next generation of conservative leaders” and “a conservative rock in the fight against runaway government spending.” When confronted, Cantor told Manzullo it was because he had “a major investment” in Kinzinger.
Illinois conservatives were furious about what they saw as a betrayal by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the leader of the Young Guns Action Fund. Jameson Campaigne a leader of conservatives in the Land of Lincoln went so far as emailing his fellow members of the ACU board to ask that Eric Cantor not be invited to the ACU’s Conservative Political Action Conference.
Campaigne wrote, “I hope I can have your promise — in advance — to make sure Eric Cantor is not allowed to speak in any capacity at CPAC next year. And if he whines about not being there, he is told this blackball is his punishment for taking out a 96% ACU-rated conservative in favor of one of his owned-and-operated Members who is not a conservative. He needs to get the message loud and clear — which he won’t until it causes him pain and embarrassment — that he does not get away with advancing his own career by messing with ‘our people’.”
Campaigne added later, “Cantor and his Beltway pals are guilty of deceptive advertising — using the “conservative brand” to advance their cronies instead of the conservative movement.”
Kinzinger verses Manzullo isn’t an isolated example of the Young Guns Money being spent to help more moderate Republicans. And even more insidious is the way the money is spent to help prop up the consulting businesses of selected Republican insiders.
The manager of a congressional candidate confidentially shared his story with us. He recently received a call, which he considered threatening, from a staff member at the NRCC. The NRCC staff member told him, “we don’t like the team of people you have on the campaign; they are too conservative. You won’t get any support from the Young Guns program unless you fire your current consultants and hire the consultants we have recommended.” This manager felt he was being “extorted” by this NRCC staffer.
With a series of important GOP House primaries ahead, conservatives are closely watching to see if GOP leaders and NRCC staff will meddle in favor of more moderate voices using money raised from conservatives. The races to watch are in Louisiana where Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. with an ACU Rating of 83 squares off with Rep. Jeff Landry with an ACU Rating of 96; and in Florida where Rep. John Mica, ACU Rating 83 is running against Rep. Sandy Adams ACU rating of 88. Conservatives must hold the NRCC leadership and staff accountable.
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