Club for Growth threatens to outspend House leadership in Ariz. primary race

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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House Republican leaders should stay out the upcoming Arizona Republican congressional primary between Rep. Ben Quayle and Rep. David Schweikert, the Club for Growth warned Wednesday, or they will be outspent and outmatched by outside groups.

This was the message in an open letter from Club for Growth president Chris Chocola about the incumbent-on-incumbent battle caused by recent redistricting.

The warning came after the Young Guns PAC, aligned with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, endorsed freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger over longtime Rep. Don Manzullo in a similar Illinois fight. the tea party-aligned group FreedomWorks stepped in to support Manzullo, who has the more conservative voting record by most available ratings.

Chocola’s group remained “neutral” in the Illinois race since neither candidate had a sufficiently conservative record to merit its support. But he wrote that the Club for Growth was “alarmed” by the leadership’s involvement. Kitzinger, a House freshman, ultimately beat his more senior opponent.

Chocola wrote that the Club is also neutral in the upcoming Schweikert vs. Quayle battle, but only because both have “outstanding pro-growth voting records.”

However, “should it become apparent that you are choosing sides on behalf of Rep. Quayle, the Club for Growth PAC will consider it necessary to intervene on behalf of Rep. Schweikert. As is our practice, if the Club’s PAC entered this primary, it is highly likely that our 75,000 members would donate considerably more funds to Rep. Schweikert’s campaign than the Republican leadership would contribute to Rep. Quayle’s campaign,” Chocola wrote.

The concern over the Arizona race stems from the fact that Speaker of the House John Boehner has donated already to Quayle, but not yet to Schweikert.

“We’d be more than a counterbalance” in Arizona, said spokesman Barney Keller. “Aside from the party committees, last cycle, no one raised more money for the Republican candidates” than the Club for Growth.

“We’ll put our record up against anyone’s,” he said, pointing to the Club’s support of Sen. Pat Toomey and Sen. Marco Rubio over their establishment opponents, and its support of Sen. Rand Paul even when his bid seemed like a long shot.

The Club for Growth would get involved on behalf of Schweikert, Chocola wrote, only if House Leadership should choose to help Quayle.

“It is our preference to remain on the sidelines of the Arizona race, as both candidates have fine records. However, we will not sit back and allow House Republican leaders to invest resources with impunity against an incumbent fiscal conservative like Rep. David Schweikert.”

Asked whether the same would hold if the House Leadership were to side with Schweikert, an operative with ties to conservative groups — including the Club for Growth — simply said, “we believe they should remain neutral.” The source repeated the same response when the Daily Caller pressed for an answer.

FreedomWorks chief operating officer Ryan Hecker questioned the premise of taking action solely in the case that house leadership does so first.

“We don’t get involved just because of what the leadership does or doesn’t do,” Hecker said. He explained that involvement with the Manzullo campaign came after a process of consideration. The timing, coinciding with Cantor’s support of Kinzinger, he said, was simply “fortuitous.”

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