A political action committee that specializes in taking on incumbent Republicans attacked U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander Monday over reports that his campaign worked with the Tennessee State Museum to organize a traveling exhibit about him, notes the Tennessean.
The head of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a PAC that helped Rand Paul and Ted Cruz win seats in the Senate, accused Alexander of “political favor swapping” and said the organization is working with others in Tennessee to find a challenger to the two-term senator before next summer’s GOP primary.
The group was reacting to news that Alexander’s campaign manager, Alice Rolli, was involved in discussing plans for the traveling exhibit even as the senator was gearing up his re-election effort, and also that Alexander successfully pushed through $400,000 in federal funding for the museum in 2009. (Note: Recent story HERE) The exhibit was postponed until after 2015 — so it won’t be on display until Alexander has stood for re-election — after those discussions became public.
The involvement of the Senate Conservatives Fund increases the chances that he will face a primary challenge. Founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican who emerged as a leading voice of tea party conservatives, the fund has a history of working aggressively to defeat sitting Republicans senators — often to the chagrin of other party members.
“We think he is out of step with the state,” said Matt Hoskins, the PAC’s executive director. “We want to make sure that voters in Tennessee have an opportunity to vote for somebody who represents their values.”
The Senate Conservatives Fund raised and spent nearly $16 million during the 2012 election cycle and it spent $8 million during the 2010 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Paul and Cruz were among the winners it backed, as well as Utah’s Mike Lee and Florida’s Marco Rubio.
The group’s goal is to increase conservative representation in the Senate, but it also has supported a host of unsuccessful Senate candidates, including Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Todd Akin in Missouri, all ultimately defeated by Democrats. DeMint left the organization when he resigned from the Senate to become president of the Heritage Foundation.
So far, the Senate Conservatives Fund has raised about $1.4 million for the 2014 election. Much of its work has been focused on Sen. Mitch McConnell, but the organization sees Alexander as a potential target.
Note: The Alexander attack news release is below.
News release from Senate Conservatives Fund
ALEXANDRIA, VA — Today, the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) highlighted a WTVF NewsChannel 5 investigative report, which caught U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) coordinating with a state museum on its plans to use a $44,000 traveling exhibit to promote him during his re-election campaign. Alexander secured a$400,000 earmark for the museum in 2009.
“This is a classic example of political favor swapping and it shows why congressional earmarks should be permanently banned,” said SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins. “Earmarks inject politics into government spending decisions and lead to waste, fraud, and abuse.”
According to the NewsChannel 5 report:
“The taxpayer-supported museum had been working with Alexander’s campaign on an exhibit that would travel across the state — while the senator was running for re-election.
After NewsChannel 5 Investigates requested e-mails from the state museum, officials abruptly postponed the exhibit until after next year’s election.
The e-mails show Alexander’s campaign worked with the museum on the timing and even funding for the exhibit.
The exhibit highlighted Lamar Alexander’s two terms as governor and his unprecedented swearing in three days early to end the scandal-plagued administration of Gov. Ray Blanton.”
In 2009, Senator Alexander requested and secured a $400,000 earmark for the Tennessee State Museum in the Omnibus Appropriations Act, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). As of March of this year, $100,000 from the original earmarkhad not been spent.
“The fact that the museum wanted to create an exhibit like this for Senator Alexander is not surprising,” said Hoskins. “After he got them the earmark, I’m sure they felt compelled to return the favor. It’s how the earmark game is played — ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch your back.’ But while the politicians win this game, the taxpayers lose.”
Even though most Republicans in Congress now oppose earmarks, Senator Alexander continues to support the controversial practice. Last year, he voted against a permanent ban on earmarks.
“Senator Alexander’s unwillingness to ban earmarks is another reason why Republicans in Tennessee deserve a chance to vote for a true conservative next year,” added Hoskins.
The Senate Conservatives Fund advocates for conservative policies and helps elect true conservative leaders to the United States Senate.