Business leaders are plotting to take down Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) as part of a broader effort to punish lawmakers over the government shutdown.
In a letter obtained by The Hill, prominent Michigan donors request financial backing for Amash’s primary challenger, Brian Ellis. Seven individuals, including prominent Michigan businessmen Mark Bissell, J.C. Huizenga and Mike Jandernoa, signed the fundraising plea.
They argue that Amash “and others have effectively nullified the Republican majority in the U.S. House.”
The letter was printed on Ellis’s campaign stationery.
“These are folks I’ve known for a long time, and they’re excited about my candidacy,” Ellis told The Hill.
Ellis said his supporters have expressed frustration with the conservative wing of the GOP and the shutdown strategy.
“To a large degree, they’re not happy with the faction that my opponent represents,” he said.
“I'm hearing it from everybody. [The shutdown was] no way to run a country. It's no way to govern.”
Amash is among a rebel bloc of House Republicans who pushed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to make a stand on ObamaCare in the fight over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling.
The tactic infuriated business groups, several of which have threatened to enter into GOP primaries in order to defeat hardliners in the GOP.
Amash has also been a thorn in the side of leadership and was one of a handful of Republicans who orchestrated a failed attempt to oust Boehner earlier this year.
Conservative groups are aware of the challenge to Amash and are pledging to match the business community “punch-for-punch” to defend one of their champions in Congress.
“He’s the gold standard of principled constitutionalism in Congress,” said Dean Clancy, the vice president of public policy at FreedomWorks.
“We have heard that the K Street establishment wants to knock him off — and we intend to defend him punch-for-punch.”
An aide to Amash’s congressional campaign said the letter’s signatories don’t speak for the Grand Rapids, Mich., business community, and noted that the congressman has substantial business support.
Executives at direct-selling giant Amway, for example, are backing Amash.
The Amash campaign shared with The Hill a letter from Doug DeVos, Amway’s president, calling on donors to support the lawmaker. In addition, Steve Van Andel, Amway’s chairman who also chairs the Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, has already contributed the maximum $5,200 allowed to Amash’s campaign for the 2014 election cycle.
The National Federation of Independent Business previously endorsed Amash, and a spokesman for the group said, while it hadn’t made a decision on the race this cycle, the group wouldn’t endorse his opponent because Amash has had such a strong record on the group’s issues in Congress.
The Amash aide also defended the lawmaker’s record, noting that during the shutdown fight, Amash only defied GOP leadership on the final deal that reopened the government and lifted the debt ceiling.
Still, Michigan’s 3rd District appears to be another front in the battle between the Tea Party and business wings of the party, which is being fought on the local level.
Last week, business groups helped Bradley Byrne triumph over the Tea Tea-Party-backed Dean Young in the GOP primary for the special election in Alabama’s 1st District.
The win has energized business leaders, who say they are now looking to engage in other races.
Byrne received significant support from local business groups and leaders, like the local arm of the National Retail Federation (NRF), which launched a get-out-the-vote effort on his behalf.
David French, senior vice president for government relations for the NRF, said the group is planning to recreate that engagement on the local level elsewhere.
“I think our goal with the retail community is to plug our folks into some of these races more aggressively than in the past, and not take it for granted that people are going to make the right policy choices,” he said.
But grassroots groups are pledging to fight back. FreedomWorks didn’t endorse in the Alabama race, but Clancy said that the takeaway from that election should be that “corporate America is scared of the grassroots.”
— This piece was corrected to reflect comments from David French at the NRF.