Most people agree that Senator Ted Cruz, a freshman Senator from Texas, is the quartback of the federal government shutdown. He has his ideological reasons for pulling the plug, for sure, but instead of following the confusing politics behind his crazy Jihad against Obamacare, I decided to follow the money trail that backs him. Ultimate it is money, not ideology, that translates into the power to shutdown the federal government.
In the 2012 election Club for Growth and the Senate Conservative Fund were Sen. Cruz’ top two donors. These conservative fund raising groups contributed over a million dollars to his campaign.
The Senate Conservative Fund (SCF) was Cruz’ second biggest donor, contributing $385,103 to his campaign, according to OpenSecrets.org. The SCF is a leadership PAC, which means it is money raised by other politicians to support certain candidates running for office within their own party. The SCF is associated with James W. DeMint, a former South Carolina Senator and the current president of the conservative Heritage Foundation. SCF gave about $2.1 million to Republican candidates in the 2012 election cycle, which means Ted Cruz received 18% of their direct candidate support. This is significant since James DeMint has been characterized as the hidden hand behind the move to defund the Affordable Care Act (aka: Obamacare).
Club for Growth (CFG) contributed $705,657 to Ted Cruz, making them his biggest donor. That donation amounted to almost 17% of all the money CFG spent in contributions to support Republicans in the 2012 election. Only Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona received more money from CFG (one-million dollars).
But the most revealing fact about CFG’s support for Cruz is that the organization spent $4.27 million supporting a few Republican candidates while also spending a whopping $10 million (in outside spending) to oppose other Republican candidates. In other words CFG is like a wrecking ball destroying fellow Republican candidates who don’t meet their conservative standards.
I tried to learn where CFG gets its money, but this is difficult because it is a “527” organization, a 501(c)4 not for profit, that is allowed to collect unlimited contributions. CFG doesn’t have to disclose its donors or reveal its activity. According to a February, 2011 article by John Nichols of The Nation, The Club for Growth is “an organization funded by extremely wealthy conservatives to carry out their budget-stripping goals.”
What seems to emerge from this view of the government shutdown is a tectonic rift in the financial power base underneath the Republican party. Well organized and well funded sources of money are narrowly targeting resources to heavily fund a select few candidates while, in the case of Club for Growth, using resources to undermine Republican candidates who are less ideologically pure. Indeed, Club for Growth uses its club to cull the herd, a development that has no equal in Democratic politics.
Up until now the Senate and House Majority Leaders held all the purse strings of power to punish or reward members of their party. Not so any more. Ted Cruz does not stand alone when he defies his Republican colleagues in the Senate, as pundits have suggested. Rather, he is the tip of an iceberg around which his caucus has to navigate. He is able to side steps House Speaker John Beohner and whips support for defunding Obamacare in the House because he carries with him both a carrot and a club.
It is difficult to work out all the implications that may result from this rift in the fabric of Republican politics, but over the short term it can’t be very good. The rift is just the public view of a subsurface divide between the wealthy elite who are the titians of power in America. It isn’t clear, to me, exactly what is at play. What are the control points that one group seeks over the other and what would be the gain? Intrigue at that level of play is heavily cloaked in secrecy. For now, all we can do is to try and read the tea leaves.