April 19, 2012

TIM CARNEY: K Street and Tea Party again fight for soul of GOP.

Big business and the Tea Party are at swords’ points once again, with GOP Senate primaries for the second straight election becoming proxy battles in the war over the soul of the Republican Party.

Conservative insurgents pose serious threats this year to establishment Republicans in at least three open-seat Senate races. In every case, political action committees and lobbyists have hugely favored the establishment pick with contributions. One reason: The GOP establishment rallies industry donors behind the Republican seen as stronger in November. A deeper reason: The revolving-door clique of K Street and Capitol Hill operatives needs Republicans elected to upper chamber who are likely to play ball.

“We don’t need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples,” former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said last election cycle. “As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.” Lott is now a millionaire corporate lobbyist whose clients include bailout beneficiaries like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, subsidy sucklers like General Electric and for-profit colleges and government contractors like Raytheon. He likes Republicans who don’t take their limited-government talk so darn seriously — team players who won’t rock the boat, in part because they are eying K Street jobs after retirement.

I don’t suppose that Trent Lott is the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with the GOP over the past decade, but it’s close. . . .

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