Among private sector Americans, the rift between GOP leadership and the conservative wing of the party remains a vigorous debate to be won in the spirit of free association. Yet, as we’ve covered here time and again, the behind-closed-doors split between GOP leadership and conservatives is not about ideology, but process.
GOP leadership runs on the same iron-deficient, integrity-challenged structure that defines the Democratic Party: any tactic that advances their power is considered moral. They employed such a tactic yesterday, when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — transparently in tandem with the campaign of their chosen GOP establishment candidate, as described below — chose to offer a quote to a local Illinois newspaper containing an outrageous lie about the conservative challenger.
Darin LaHood and Mike Flynn held their first debate last week on Wednesday for their primary campaign to replace disgraced Renaissance Faire honoree Aaron Schock. The election takes place in eight days, on July 7.
LaHood, son of former Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, is the candidate favored by national GOP leadership.
Despite shaping his campaign around defending his conservative credentials, on May 18 LaHood flew to Washington, D.C., where John Boehner and Steve Scalise threw a $1000-plus per head fundraiser for LaHood’s campaign.
(Left: invitation to Darin LaHood’s D.C. fundraiser. Right: Aaron Schock, Spring Break 2005)
At Thursday’s debate, moderator Ian Bayne brought up the Trade Promotion Authority bill and the TransPacific Partnership bill (together known as “Obamatrade“), an Obama administration-crafted push which had cleared a key hurdle last week in Congress due primarily to the support of GOP leadership in both the House and Senate. The bill has received tyrannical support from John Boehner, to the hair-raising extent that Boehner followed through on threats to remove House Republicans from their committee assignments if they dared oppose it.
The bill has also been rabidly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Said the Chamber in a press release:
TPA is the Chamber’s top trade priority before the Congress.
If unfamiliar, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the beating-heart target of conservative anger at GOP leadership’s fostering of “crony capitalism.” The Chamber is the muscle behind GOP leadership’s push for amnesty, which, for the Chamber’s purposes, would increase the supply of cheap labor, thus benefitting many of the largest GOP leadership corporate donors at the expense of the U.S. citizen worker.
At the debate, when moderator Ian Bayne raised the issue of this bill dubbed “Obamatrade,” LaHood answered that he would not have supported the bill. LaHood’s response was questionable for two reasons:
1) Considering John Boehner took the extraordinary step of punitive action against GOP dissenters on this bill, its hard to imagine Darin LaHood would get his own Scalise-headlined, Boehner-attended fundraiser if they knew LaHood would be coming to town in a few months with the intention of sinking it. It’s just as hard to imagine that Boehner wouldn’t have asked LaHood about his position prior to the fundraiser.
2) Just one day before the debate, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce flew a top-level figure to Illinois. There in Peoria, the Chamber held an event to announce they are endorsing Darin LaHood for Congress.
To defuse any claim that LaHood did not welcome the endorsement — LaHood attended and spoke:
Obviously they know my record, they know what I’ve advocated for. To have them here today, to come from Washington, D.C. to represent this organization and all across the country means a great deal, and I’m proud to have it today. I think it reflects the record I’ve had in the State Senate, and the issues I’ve advocated for here locally.
Remember: the Chamber says that Obamatrade is its “top trade priority before the Congress.”
So when Darin LaHood said at the debate that he would not have supported Obamatrade, Flynn responded with a zinger:
I hope you told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that when you accepted their endorsement yesterday.
This was, objectively, Lahood’s worst moment of the debate, a debate which was punctuated by several bursts of applause and cheer for Flynn, yet none for LaHood. This moment was even worse than the debate’s exchange on term limits, which had resulted in LaHood’s botched answer that led to a botched answer that led to a successful aggravated assault. (Pending the result of the Bloomington, IL police investigation, of course. The department is currently reviewing the hotel’s security footage.)
This was worse because term limits are not a vigorously upheld tenet of conservatism when compared to opposition to crony capitalism, “pay for play,” and amnestied labor. All of these issues, which are both promotedand facilitated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, far outweigh the relative outlier issue of term limits in the mind of conservative voters and private sector Republicans in general.
And the LaHood campaign’s response proves they are deeply troubled about fallout from Mike Flynn’s answer that threw doubt on the veracity of LaHood’s stated opposition to Obamatrade.
In the aftermath, they chose to publicly challenge the Obamatrade exchange from the debate, and they have challenged nothing else that transpired that night.
How they challenged the exchange — as stated in the headline — is the type of textbook beltway insider, House of Cards, Primary Colors, Clintonian tactic which the GOP leadership now doesn’t bat an eye about employing.
On Sunday, Illinois newspaper State Journal-Register published an article by columnist Bernard Schoenburg titled “Candidates Spar On Way To Special Congress Primary.”
For background: on June 21, Breitbart.com’s Katie McHugh published a blockbuster article uncovering an apparent several-million dollar conflict-of-interest scandal involving Darin LaHood. In a nutshell, LaHood — an attorney — promoted and voted for a bill on the state Senate floor that would give his law firm a million dollar contract if it passed.
At no point did LaHood mention that he, you know, worked at that firm.
Such a scandal is a huge deal, objectively. And even the State Journal-Register itself has thought so in the past: They covered virtually the same scandal back in 2010, when GOP candidate Bill Brady’s campaign for Illinois governor was sunk by conflict-of-interest revelations.
The Flynn campaign tells me they reached out to the State Journal-Register with the documents pointing to a multi-million dollar LaHood scandal, but the paper had no interest this time. They didn’t cover McHugh’s story until this Sunday — on page two of this Schoenburg article, after page one included the following:
The special primary elections to pick major-party candidates to replace former Republican U.S. Rep. AARON SCHOCK in the 18th Congressional District are just more than a week away.
So perhaps it wasn’t a surprise that an opponent would find fault after a news conference last week at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce office in Springfield to announce endorsements of state Sen. DARIN LaHOOD, R-Peoria, by that group and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
MIKE FLYNN, a Quincy native and now a resident there who has lived in the Washington area for 20 years and who founded the website biggovernment.com with ANDREW BREITBART, criticized the endorsement.
“If you love big bank bailouts, loved the (BARACK) OBAMA stimulus, love corporate welfare for big defense contractors, and loved Obama’s executive amnesty, then evidently, you should vote for Darin LaHood,” Flynn said in a prepared statement aimed at what his campaign indicated were chamber policies. “If you’re for limited government, lower taxes, free market competition, and securing the border first, then it’s clear: You should vote for me.”
ROB ENGSTROM, senior vice president and national political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who was at the endorsement event, later responded: “Mike Flynn’s comments are confusing, given that he actively sought the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement on May 18. In doing so, he affirmed that he supports the U.S. Chamber’s mission, which is to advocate for American free enterprise.
“Washington has enough politicians who say one thing in private and do another in the public arena,” Engstrom continued. “The fact is that Mr. Flynn’s nonexistent campaign isn’t gaining any traction, and he is getting desperate.”
Flynn later said LaHood would “do what they want down the line and vote for more of the same instead of an end to big government doing the bidding of big business to the detriment of ordinary Americans.”
Folks, shortly after LaHood gave a questionable answer claiming he would have opposed the Chamber’s top priority, Obamatrade, a VP from the Chamber of Commerce weighed in with a prepared comment for a local paper.
You might expect that the Chamber’s PR-crafted comment would show concern that LaHood, you know, just rejected their number one priority.
It didn’t. Instead, it smeared Mike Flynn with an easily falsifiable lie intended to hurt his candidacy.
I emailed Flynn on Sunday morning about Engstrom’s claim that Flynn “actively sought the Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement on May 18.” Responded Flynn:
They sent me a survey. I filled it out. The survey asked questions about my opinions on the trade bill and on the Export-Import Bank. Two of their top concerns. I told them in the survey that I oppose both.
What do you think: Did Flynn “actively seek” the Chamber’s endorsement?
Or did he, by choosing to answer their survey honestly, intentionally take himself out of the running for it?
Do you believe the Chamber INDEPENDENTLY felt an urgent need to offer the Journal-Register a quote to aid the LaHood campaign after LaHood supposedly rejected the Chamber’s top priority issue the day after they went out of their way to endorse him?
Rob Engstrom, senior vice president and national political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: show us the surveys!
There is a second, final debate tonight at 6:00p.m. tonight. Ironically — or not at all — the debate will be held at the offices of the State Journal-Register.
Release the surveys before the debate to the audience, the participants, and the moderator. This way, the 18th District will know if integrity and openness matters to your organization … or if you instead intended to mislead the public about both candidates’ stances.
And readers, ask Darin LaHood to request the same of Mr. Engstrom. If LaHood’s stump speech paeans to conservatism and to the people of Illinois’ 18th are genuine, surely LaHood would want them to have all the relevant information on him before voting on July 7.