Business, GOP establishment: Tea party is over

A slice of corporate America thinks tea partyers have overstayed their welcome in Washington and should be shown the door in next year's congressional elections.
AP Wire
Oct 29, 2013


In what could be a sign of challenges to come across the country, two U.S. House races in Michigan mark a turnabout from several years of widely heralded contests in which right-flank candidates have tried — sometimes successfully — to unseat Republican incumbents they perceive as not being conservative enough.

In the Michigan races, longtime Republican businessmen are taking on two House incumbents — hardline conservative Reps. Justin Amash and Kerry Bentivolio — in GOP primaries. The 16-day partial government shutdown and the threatened national default are bringing to a head a lot of pent-up frustration over GOP insurgents roughing up the business community's agenda.

Democrats hope to use this rift within the GOP to their advantage. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House committee to elect Democrats, insists there's been "buyer's remorse with House Republicans who have been willing to put the economy at risk," and that it is opening the political map for Democrats in 2014.

That's what the Democrats would be expected to say. But there's also Defending Main Street, a new GOP-leaning group that's halfway to its goal of raising $8 million. It plans to spend that money on center-right Republicans who face a triumvirate of deep-pocketed conservative groups — Heritage Action, Club for Growth and Freedom Works — and their preferred, typically tea party candidates.

In one race, the group plans to help Idaho eight-term Rep. Mike Simpson, who faces a Club for Growth-backed challenger in a GOP primary.

"These conservative groups have had it all their own way," said former Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio, head of the new group. "They basically come in with millions of dollars and big-foot a Republican primary and you wind up with these Manchurian candidates who are not interested in governing."

LaTourette said that for the past three years, some "40, 42 House members have effectively denied the Republican Party the power of the majority" that it won in the 2010 election by blocking the GOP agenda.

Defending Main Street is meeting Nov. 5 in New York with wealthy potential donors.

Call it the wrath of establishment Republicans and corporate America, always considered the best of friends. Since the Republican takeover of the House in 2010, they've watched the GOP insurgents slow a transportation bill and reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, block a treaty governing the high seas and stand in the way of comprehensive immigration legislation.

The final straw was the bitter budget standoff that partly shuttered the government, precipitated by Republicans like Amash and Bentivolio who enlisted early in the campaign demanding that President Barack Obama dismantle his health care law in exchange for keeping the government operating.

Even after 16 days of a shutdown, falling poll numbers for the GOP and a threatened economy-jarring default, the two broke with their House Republican leaders and voted against the final deal to reopen the government.

Long before the shutdown, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent tens of millions boosting mainly Republicans in congressional races, urged the GOP to fund the government and prevent a default, then double back and try and work out changes to the health care law later.

A significant number of House Republicans have given a cold-shoulder to the Chamber's agenda. Rob Engstrom, the group's political director, said the Chamber will see how races develop before deciding on its involvement next year.

The latest political dynamic promises to affect the midterm elections — but how? Republicans hope the widespread animosity generated by the shutdown dissipates by next November and they can hold their House majority. Currently, Republicans control 231 seats and Democrats 200. Democrats are widely expected to win the special House election in Massachusetts for the seat of Sen. Ed Markey and would need to gain 17 seats next year to seize control.

"As long as we stay focused on the priorities of the American people, I think we're going to be fine," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week when asked about whether the GOP can hold onto the House.

What about the Michigan races?

In the state's 11th Congressional District, just northwest of Detroit, David Trott, a businessman involved in real estate finance and a member of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees, is challenging Bentivolio.

In the 3rd Congressional District in the southwest part of the state, Brian Ellis is a 53-year-old Grand Rapids businessman who owns an investment advisory firm and serves on the school board. He describes himself as the true conservative Republican in the race, criticizing Amash's votes against Rep. Paul Ryan's budget that cut nearly $5 trillion and a measure reducing taxes for small businesses.

Ellis makes it clear that he would have sided with Boehner on the House GOP's last-ditch plan to avoid default. He says it never would have reached that point if Republicans hadn't embraced the tactic of linking the health care law to government funding.

"I certainly agree that Obamacare is an 'Obama-onation,'" Ellis said in an interview. "But I think the tactic, especially threatening to default on our debt, that is very reckless and not a good way to run our country. I'm in the financial world and I know that would have some far-reaching consequences that would not be good."

In seizing on the rift, Israel and Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's national finance chairman, sent a letter to more than 1,000 business leaders reminding them that Democrats voted unanimously to end the shutdown and avoid default while House Republicans "turned their backs on business in favor of the radical demands of the tea party."

Republicans dismiss this Democratic outreach to the business community as wishful thinking.

"I don't think Democrats will be successful because the biggest headwinds we face in the economy right now are of their making, from regulation to the Affordable Care Act to this obsession with higher taxes," said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. "Certainly the uncertainty of the last month has not been helpful, but that's on top of a heap of other uncertainty."

Even if the business community isn't ready to embrace Democrats, Israel insists that the recent budget stalemate has helped his candidate recruitment while boosting the campaign committee's fundraising. At the end of September, the committee had $21.6 million on hand to $15.7 million for the National Republican Campaign Committee.

Potential recruits who Israel jokingly said had put his number on the "do-not-call-list" have suddenly been announcing their candidacies, including Democrat Pete Festersen, the president of the Omaha City Council, who is running against eight-term Rep. Lee Terry, and attorney Bill Hughes Jr., who is looking to unseat 10-term Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.



A.P. Go figure.

Mystic Michael

Considering that the Teahadists hit their peak of influence three years ago, have gradually been losing power ever since, and have only accelerated their own demise by provoking the recent government shutdown debacle, I think it's safe to say that they're already on their way out. By the 2016 elections, they'll be a shadow of their former selves, and by 2020, a mere footnote in history.

While it may be convenient to refer to these people as "conservative", it is by no means accurate. Actual conservatives are cautious, prudent & responsible. These American Taliban types are reckless, paranoid...and dangerous - a contemporary iteration of the John Birchers of the '60s, the "Moral Majority" of the 80s, and the militia movement of the 90s - simple-minded, backward-looking, two-dimensional, and reactionary. Their political dogma is a direct corollary of Fundamentalist religious dogma. And like Fundamentalist dogma, it tends toward absolutism, denial of nuance, gratuitous polarization...and embrace of superstition.

When they attempt to "take (our) country back", they're not kidding. The question is, 'How far back'? To the time of the robber barons? To colonial times? To the Dark Ages? How far back into the mists of darkness & ignorance is far enough for them?

Barry Soetoro

Wow! Teahadists and American Taliban types! After pounding all that hate and anger out on the keyboard you must be thirsty! Go out to 7-E and get yourself a nice, cold 32 ounce Big Gulp. Oh wait, you live in NYC. Never mind.


You seem to find anger in many of these comments, where I see a dispassionate voice of truth to power. Sometimes the strategy of projecting or inferring an emotion onto a comment could be considered a form of passive-aggression.


Actually, last I read, a judge threw out the big gulp ban in NYC and so you can still get those big drinks, Bloomberg or no Bloomberg.


I'd say that pretty much sums it up.

I think we're going backwards fast enough already without the additional help.



deuce liti

I'll miss those boisterous people with their international teas, clincking china, and little hats.

Imagine if people linked government funding with the Iraq war.


That would be truth that would hurt.


Off the books! War is free-it's the clean up that costs so much.


Funny how the T.E.A party is always defined by people who only know what the leg humping media has told them.
The T.E.A. party is a movement, not a party, it was born from a groundswell attitude of enough waste, enough intrusion not a party, it is mostly conservatives that are sick of the GOP establishment; it was not formed to get rid of democrats albeit it has in some cases.
The movement began out of necessity as the GOP has become so corrupted by progressives (John McCain, George W. Bush) just to name a couple of many and the T.E.A. party are voters that wish to get rid of the progressives in the GOP or to abandon the GOP altogether.
The T.E.A party folk feel the GOP no longer represents people who historically identify themselves as Republicans and/or conservatives. The notion that the T.E.A. party is some mystical bunch of tinfoil hat wearing Mason’s type is pap fed to a more than willing group mostly within the left leaning folk in fear of their guy being tossed out by the people he represents, the people decide in the end and if your representative does not represent you why give them the office?
The T.E.A party is a wave of many who have chosen to leave the useful idiots corps after faithfully delivering votes to politicians and a party (again the GOP) who profess to be something they are not simply to get “in” to the power circle.
Will it end? Who cares, what's in a name...the desire and passion for change will be there even if the name no longer comes up.


As the Tea Party implodes, I find it interesting, but not surprising, that a justification for, as well as a stepping back from, the Tea Party actions in Congress is taking place. Those people who hold lofty sentiments and principles regarding politics as usual have been very badly served by the Tea Party leadership, especially those in Congress.

Congressional and other leaders have debased those principles for greed, power, and control, and utilized extremist strategies that failed miserably and hastened their demise. These actions showed a culture of obstructionism, ignorance, and spite that are truly pathological.

History shows that generally speaking, extremism, although winning the occasional battle, rarely ever wins the war.

You have my sympathies, Wolverine - your beliefs and desires, as principled as they may be, will more than likely never be enacted. Thanks to the actions of the Tea Party leadership, the popularity for the Tea Party has taken a big hit, and garnering enough support to start a successful third party that can win a general election is practically nil. And when the GOP establishment as well as Corporate America speaks out against it, the jig is up.

Barry Soetoro
Barry Soetoro

New York Times disputing reliability and pointing out bias? I just dumped my Big Gulp on the floor.

Mystic Michael

You don't think that Nate Silver has some serious street cred in the public opinion polling business? Really?

Barry Soetoro

I suspect it doesn't really matter to you what I think.

Mystic Michael

And yet you've just cited a poll with a well-known & notorious reputation for inaccuracy & bias, to establish a very specious claim about an alleged degree of public support for the Tea Party for which there is little if any evidence - then cavalierly dismissed a critique of that poll's methods & techniques from an expert in public opinion research with an unsurpassed record of accuracy & success...while subsequently trying to evade accountability for your misleading statements, now that you've been challenged to substantiate them.

That matters to me.

Mystic Michael

George W. Bush is a progressive? This is exactly the kind of "Through The Looking Glass" thinking that passes for rationality in the TP. Unreal.

No doubt the culture of Washington is corrupt. On that there can be no dispute. But the knee-jerk reaction of the TP to weaken and to undermine government ignores the reality that it is largely the multinational corporations, the Wall Street banks, the defense contractors, and the right-wing billionaires that are controlling the government. That's why the government has become so unresponsive to ordinary people.

So what would happen if the TP was actually successful in largely dismantling the government? Whose interests would most be served by that? Do you still believe the Tea Party just sprang forth spontaneously - out of nothing? Have you never heard of the corporate astroturf front groups "Americans For Prosperity", and "FreedomWorks"? Who do you think first planted the idea for a "Tea Party"? Who do you think provided the seed capital, the staffing, the messaging, the organizing...and all the funny-looking hats? How gullible can you possibly get?

Not only do we ordinary people need our government, we need it to fight on OUR behalf for a change - and against the self-serving interests of the already-wealthy and the already-powerful that would continue to divide us and to exploit us for their own narrow purposes. At the end of the day, what other mechanism do we have that is capable of standing up to the special interests, and beating them?


That was quite the 180 you turned from your first comment to this one.


And yet completely on-target, accurate, and forthrightly correct both times.


MandM you are one mixed up dude. Two faced. "A slice of corporate America thinks tea partyers have overstayed their welcome in Washington..." You cannot hide what you are. Keep talking out of both holes.


And it turned into people finding anger in everything, from the time their feet hit the floor in the morning. I had a Tea Party movement this morning and it was awesome.


And it turned into people finding anger in everything, from the time their feet hit the floor in the morning. I had a Tea Party movement this morning and it was awesome.


Grassroots, erm, "groundswell" is an interesting way to describe the Tea Party.

Who is doing what the "leg humping media" is telling them again?




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