Former Ohio Republican congressman and Republican Main Street Partnership head Steve LaTourette on Wednesday blasted a new effort by the conservative organization Club for Growth to field primary challengers for moderate Republican congressmen, calling the organization a “cancer” on the Republican Party. Club for Growth quickly shot back, calling LaTourette a “liberal RINO.”
The feud between the two organizations highlights the growing conflict within the GOP as the party prepares for the 2014 midterm elections.
The Washington-based conservative organization Club for Growth has launched a new website, Primarymycongressman.com, as part of its campaign to field and fund Republican primary challengers for at least nine targeted incumbent GOP House members who are up for re-election in 2014.
The group’s Republican targets include congressmen Mike Simpson, Frank Lucas, Steve Palazzo, and Renee Ellmers.
LaTourette, who retired from Congress in January and hopes his organization will be a key factor in 2014 Republican efforts, said in a statement, “The Club for Growth is a cancer that has attached itself to the Republican Party.” LaTourette added, “The Club repeatedly backs candidates who espouse bizarre views on rape, incest, immigrants and even witchcraft. … The left wants to caricature the Republican Party as out-of-touch and extremist and the Club spends millions to help them do this.”
LaTourette told the Daily Caller that the Club for Growth is waging an “online game” that will hurt the Republican Party, both in the short term and in the long run.
“I don’t know who’s funding it, and that’s the problem,” LaTourette said. “They should reveal their donors so that people can look at them and decide whether or not these are people worth listening to.”
A Club for Growth spokesman quickly shot back at LaTourette in an interview with TheDC.
“It’s not surprising. He’s a liberal,” Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller said. “He’s defending his fellow liberal RINOs. He’s never met a bailout he didn’t like. Primarymycongressman.com is designed exactly so voters are aware of the other Steve LaTourettes out there.”
“The Club for Growth PAC has endorsed the leaders of the Republican Party, oftentimes over the objections of the establishment. If Steve LaTourette had his way, we’d still have Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio and Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey.”
Club for Growth, which discloses its donors to the Federal Elections Commission, believes that its efforts help create the kinds of political figures who will make the Republican Party electable in the long run. “Principle is what creates electability,” Keller said.
“Steve LaTourette sounds like a liberal commentator on MSNBC,” Keller added.
The Republican Party is characterized by the media and political observers as having great internal conflict as it heads into the 2014 elections — a problem that the Democratic Party, which includes a progressive grassroots base and a party establishment much more aligned in its viewpoints, does not face, according to Washington insiders on both sides of the aisle.