Sunday, January 05, 2014

GOP civil war comes to Texas

It is on like Donkey Kong.

Some of Texas’ biggest business trade groups are moving to counter tea party and anti-government forces that have dominated recent Republican primaries.

The Texas Future Business Alliance — a mix of 10 major business groups, including the chemical industry, bankers, builders and contractors — is sending out mailers and providing other support on behalf of GOP candidates who have supported water infrastructure development, highway construction and education spending.

Many of the incumbents have been pilloried as big government spenders and liberals by fiscal hawk groups.
The movement mirrors the schism happening nationally between hard right and establishment Republicans. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently pledged $50 million to back pro-business Republicans in U.S. Senate primaries and fight tea party insurgents. Republican leaders, such as House Speaker John Boehner, have castigated hard right groups, accusing them of wanting contributions more than solutions.

“It’s part of the same trend you’re seeing nationally. A lot of the business community is tired of people who don’t want to govern,” said a person involved in the Texas Future Business Alliance, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Guess who's mad, y'all?  "I'm Not a Lobbyist" Mucus.

Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of the fiscal-hawk group Empower Texans, said the Texas Future Business Alliance is nothing but a group of big-money interests wanting taxpayer dollars to flow into their pockets.

He described the consortium as a “fake group” of large trade associations masquerading as a grass-roots organization and sending out leaflets that give incumbents “A Rated” report cards.

“This is what we’ve come to expect coming out of the Washington, anti-Ted Cruz movement,” Sullivan said. “They want people who will vote for cronyism and corporate welfare.”

Sullivan said he did not see the business interest as a battle against tea party groups. Instead, it’s about a divide that’s been in the Republican Party for a long time, he said.

You need enough popcorn to last all the way into March, and then the runoffs in April.  And while the Democrats have their own problems, the Republicans have much, much bigger ones.  Such as the Neanderthals who are their primary-voting base.

The business community is concerned that the Legislature, pushed by tea party groups, “is swinging too far” against government and is unwilling to make even sensible, modest investments. As for corporate contracts, Hammond said, the state has to pay someone to build highways.

“If you cannot advocate for more roads when they’re desperately needed without being accused of being in the pocket of road builders, then there’s no room for honest debate,” Hammond said.

Sullivan countered that fiscal hawks do not oppose investments. “That’s ridiculous,” he said. But they want the money spent carefully, and they are not convinced that is happening.

Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, is one of about two dozen Republicans the business alliance is backing so far.
He said its support is vital to balance groups “that set themselves up as judge, jury an executioner of all things conservative... They just want to purify the party over and over again where they have only their people doing what they say all the time. That to me is just power, and it’s dangerous for our future,” Keffer said.

Keffer said he is a conservative who wants the state to keep pace with the crush of its huge population growth. The trade coalition is welcomed as a group willing to “support those people who are trying to govern.”

“I’m very glad the business group is standing up,” Keffer said. “It’s about time.”

Watch carefully how this plays out.  It won't just be about who has the most money or the best (sic) consultants.  It may break along a similar fault line as the Ted Cruz-David Dewhurst 2012 primary for the US Senate.  In fact, the lieutenant governor primary battle among the Four Stooges could be a microcosm.  Republican candidates jostling to get furthest to the right may well carry the day in the spring, but perhaps not with the country club conservatives -- desperate to rein them in -- writing big checks to the lesser of two (or three or four or twelve) kooks.

And the open question remains: can Texans finally see through the crazy and vote for sensible candidates of any of the four parties on the ballot in the fall, thus turning back the Tea tide, as has been happening for a couple of cycles in other states?

A stay-tuned development for sure.

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