MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Lunging for control of the GOP ahead of high-stakes elections, the Republican National Committee on Friday took steps to end free-for-all presidential debates and vowed to punish potential contenders who participate in rogue forums.
At the same time, an independent organization with deep ties to the conservative Koch brothers has elected to spend $125 million on the battle for control of the Senate this fall, giving the 168-member central party meeting a stark reminder that outside groups will have significant sway over Republican political fortunes through the 2016 presidential race.
“At the RNC, we cannot control everything in politics. But we have an important mission, and we’re going to get the job done,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said as he opened the party’s meeting here on Friday.
As he spoke, reports circulated that Americans for Prosperity plans to escalate its television advertising across the nation, improve voter data collection and strengthen its 31-state ground operation. It was a bracing reality check for the RNC: Despite the committee’s efforts, the GOP establishment won’t be the only one setting Republican priorities.
A senior official with direct knowledge of Americans for Prosperity’s plans confirmed the election blueprint, outlined in a memo distributed to Republican donors this spring. The official confirmed the memo’s authenticity but wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss its contents.
Industrialist billionaires Charles and David Koch have already funneled millions of dollars to conservative causes. Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have roundly criticized the billionaires and claim Republican policies are being dictated by an agenda to grow the Kochs’ wealth.
In a nod to the Kochs’ heft, the RNC passed a resolution condemning Reid for what it called “hyperbolic attacks … on private citizens.”