Mitch McConnell Says Tea Party Got ‘Hijacked’

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Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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In his new memoir, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t hide his contempt for some of the conservative groups that became aligned with the tea party movement.

“The growth of the Tea Party was great for base enthusiasm, and was widely believed to have generated more votes for Republicans in the House elections,” McConnell writes in his new book, “The Long Game.” “But much to my irritation, this movement was being hijacked by a few groups for their own mercenary purposes.”

McConnell singled out the group the Senate Conservatives Fund, which he referred to as “the worst of the worst.” The group, founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint in 2008, endorsed McConnell’s Republican Senate primary challenger in 2014.

“For the first four years of his presidency, if Barack Obama didn’t have these guys working on his behalf, he would’ve had to invent them because they would go on to elect more Democrats than the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee,” McConnell wrote.

McConnell wrote that “for a self-proclaimed conservative organization” the Senate Conservatives Fund “had a particularly interesting way of handling itself.”

“It raised the vast majority of its money from well-intentioned conservatives who sent in small contributions when informed by mail or e-mail that their dollars would ensure a conservative agenda…What was left unsaid is that the hard-earned dollars these donors sent to SCF were used exclusively to attack Republicans, to the great delight of liberals across the country,” McConnell wrote.

The Republican leader also accused the organization of “campaigning against the most electable Republicans from the comfort of their townhouse on Capitol Hill” while outfitting their offices “with luxurious amenities like a hot tub and a wine cellar.”

The Senate Conservatives Fund often supported challengers to Republican incumbent senators, saying they were backing purer conservatives over the establishment. But McConnell argues in his book the group “cost us at least two Senate seats in the elections of 2010, in Delaware and Colorado, and possibly a third in Nevada.”

“In Delaware and Colorado, unelectable candidates backed by SCF unseated established Republicans in primary elections, but they lacked both experience and a message, and were promptly trounced in the general elections by liberal Democrats,” McConnell wrote.

“In Nevada, where Majority Leader Harry Reid was vulnerable enough to be unseated by a viable candidate, he was able to portray his opponent, Sharron Angle, as too extreme,” he added. “This was maddening on so many levels. Not only because SCF was misleading Americans, but it was also hurting the conservative movement because, as I frequently say, unless you win the election, you can’t make policy.”

The Senate Conservatives Fund is pushing back against McConnell’s accusations. They say they didn’t back Angle in the Nevada GOP primary, so it’s wrong for him to say they are responsible for her nomination. They also deny the “luxurious amenities” charge — the house they rented already had a wine closet that the owner built and they say there was never a hot tub.

In a statement to The Daily Caller, Ken Cuccinelli, the Senate Conservatives Fund president, said: “Mitch McConnell’s book appears to be nothing more than an attempt to blame others for his own failures. He’s currently the least popular senator with voters in his home state, and he’s trying to do everything he can to whitewash his record. It won’t work. No matter how much Mitch McConnell attacks conservatives like Jim DeMint and Ted Cruz, history will show that he was just another career politician who went to Washington and lost his way.”

“Mitch McConnell hates SCF because we supported Matt Bevin against him in his primary, but we were right to do that and now Matt Bevin is the Governor of Kentucky,” Cuccinelli added. “McConnell says that SCF has helped the Democrats, but we’re not the ones cutting deals with Barack Obama to increase the debt limit and to fund Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, and executive amnesty. McConnell was the one who did that. He has hijacked the Republican Party and betrayed its principles so that even when Republicans win elections, the Democrats still get to make policy.”

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