Conservative groups cash in on attempt to oust Boehner

Conservative groups cash in on attempt to oust Boehner

Outside conservative groups have been raising cash off the long-shot bid of Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy GOP lawmakers jockey for positions as managers The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — Sparks fly as House Judiciary debates impeachment articles MORE to oust Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director MORE (R-Ohio), even as the Tea Party insurgent insists his plan has nothing to do with dollar bills.

The influential group FreedomWorks launched an online petition featuring the North Carolina Republican’s likeness and asking members to “Stand with Rep. Meadows and Remove the Speaker.” It links to a website that asks donors to contribute between $15 and $1,000 to “fire Speaker John Boehner.”

ADVERTISEMENT

On Thursday, the Tea Party Leadership Fund blasted an email to supporters implying that a House vote was imminent on Meadows’ resolution to strip Boehner of his Speaker’s gavel. The email also linked to a page where grassroots conservatives could donate to the cause.

“The vote could happen at any time in the next two days,” Tea Party activist Katrina Pierson wrote in theemail.Even if it takes late into the night, we must make the most of this opportunity ASAP!”

The only problem: The House already had adjourned the day before, on Wednesday, for the summer recess, and no vote on the Meadows’ resolution was ever planned.

Meadows, who last month was punished for bucking Republican leaders, has a reputation as a lackluster fundraiser. He pulled in a paltry $46,878 in the first quarter of 2015, and raised another $103,000 in the second quarter. That wasn’t much more than he took in during the same period in 2014.

But just like in 2014, Meadows, a real estate investor and former local GOP official, hasn’t attracted a primary challenger in his deep-red 11th Congressional District. And he’s rejected suggestions by some GOP colleagues that his Boehner measure was simply a ploy to raise money — or burnish his national profile for a potential bid for higher office.

“The end game for me is to change what we’re doing in the House with regard to leadership,” Meadows said in a phone interview with The Hill. “If we can have a dialogue that leads to that change, that’s great. If we can figure [out] a way to change that without changing the Speaker, that’s great.

“For me, this is all about changing the way we do things in D.C.,” he added. “That is my end game. That is my only motivation.”

But Meadows, who’s in his second term representing far western North Carolina, also hasn’t told these outside groups to stop raising money off his battle against Boehner and his leadership team.

In fact, on Sunday — just two days before he rolled out his resolution “to vacate the chair” — Meadows signed an email from the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) thanking supporters for sticking by him and donating money after his run-in with Boehner allies last month.

Meadows was stripped of his Oversight subcommittee gavel shortly after opposing a leadership-backed procedural vote to advance a trade package. But Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was forced to give back the gavel just days later after an outcry from Meadows’ comrades in the House Freedom Caucus.

“When the Washington Establishment made the decision to punish members of Congress for voting their conscience, and specifically to remove me from my position as chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee, YOU came to my defense. ...” Meadows wrote in the email to SCF members.

“For the encouraging notes and financial support sent to a representative that in many cases you have never met ... I thank you. But for the undying support of our beloved country and the blood bought freedoms we enjoy, I applaud you!!”

SCF alone raised $32,715 for Meadows after he was punished by leaders in June, spokeswoman Mary Vought confirmed. That money was bundled together from SCF members.

“Congressman Meadows is a principled leader and we may raise money for him again in the future if it's needed,” Vought said, adding that SCF President Ken Cuccinelli backs Meadows’ efforts to depose the Speaker.

The aggressive fundraising push has rubbed some Republicans on Capitol Hill the wrong way.

Meadows “may be right that he hasn't raised money directly, but laziness — not principles — appear to be the driving force here. And I certainly haven't seen him speak out to ask third-party groups to stop using his name to raise money,” said an aide to a senior House Republican. “So if this really isn't about the money, when will he call on these groups to stand down?”

In a statement after the phone interview, Meadows underscored that his motivation has been to "make sure Congress listens and works for the American People."

"I have made no personal fundraising appeals off the resolution, nor have I spoken to any groups to encourage or discourage fundraising," Meadows said. "Obviously, we have received numerous online gifts from across the country as people express their support for making Congress work for them."

In his 258-word resolution, Meadows accuses Boehner of causing the “power of Congress to atrophy" due to inaction; punishing members who "vote according to their conscience"; limiting amendments on the House floor; and failing to give lawmakers enough time to review bills before votes.

But the resolution is probably going nowhere. Because it was not “privileged,” it was immediately referred to the Rules Committee, whose chairman, Boehner ally Pete Sessions (R-Texas), is expected to just ignore it.

And Meadows said a vote on his plan wasn’t the point, anyway. The “family conversation” he hoped to spur is already happening, even as he’s faced blowback from fellow conservatives who say his stunt has distracted the party from key issues like the Iran nuclear deal and the Planned Parenthood videos.

As House Republicans head home for the five-week summer recess, they’ll now be asked at town halls and in local media interviews whether they back Meadows’s move to overthrow Boehner. The question has already been posed to Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), who told a reporter he’s reviewing the resolution but “absolutely supports new leadership.”

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who serves in the Freedom Caucus with Meadows, said she was completely blindsided by her colleague’s resolution and didn’t agree with the approach. But she added that the issue has put her in a tricky spot.

“The Speaker has not been, quite frankly, a good friend to my state, but I don’t want to disrupt the apple cart at this point. …” Lummis told The Hill.

“I love Mark Meadows, will always love Mark Meadows, consider him a great friend,” she said. “If the Speaker would have brought it up for a vote, I would have had to seriously consider it.”