Hoekstra: No Party Money in Primaries - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Hoekstra: No Party Money in Primaries
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From the Better Late Than Never Department: Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan was the guest at a conservative bloggers’ briefing at the Heritage Foundation. He had plenty of interesting things to say about the FISA bill (the Dems have proposals that would effectively gut it/make it unworkable, and we need to keep it strong because we need its protections), about the exorbitant SCHIP (children’s health) bill (“Will [President Bush] find the veto pen, and will the ink have dried in it?”), about No Child Left Behind (“There is no indication that federal money has improved our schools at all”), about the need to rid the party of ethically challenged Members of Congress (“We are the party of values…. You lose the right to lead when you break the law”), and other topics.

I was most taken, however, by his reference to a well-reviewed book out by Lynne Olson, called “Troublesome Young Men,” about the group of Conservative Party backbenchers in Parliament who agitated for an end to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policies and then worked to force Chamberlain out as Prime Minister. (Aside: Olson spoke at the American Enterprise Institute on Sept. 10, and she was fascinating. “It was an intensely bitter, intensely personal fight,” she said. “Really quite Shakespearian.”)

“What we need in Washington,” Hoekstra said, “is more troublesome young men and women.” He said we need more people willing to fight against the Washington conventional wisdom and status quo.

Taking the opportunity, yours truly noted that Hoekstra himself had first come to Congress very much in the spirit of a “troublesome young man” by taking on an entrenched power, the longtime chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Guy Vander Jagt, in a heated primary campaign in 1992. Hoekstra surprised official Washington by beating Vander Jagt, and has been here ever since, with a stalwart conservative voting record. That led to me noting that A) the NRCC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee consistently lay out plenty of money to protect incumbents in primary battles and B) many conservatives have resented some of these outlays, especially the ones for Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chaffee last year against conservative Steve Laffey, and C) Fundraising for national Republican party committees this year is WAY down, and that anecdotally I hear again and again reports of people saying they refuse to give money to party committees as long as the committees get involved in intraparty primaries rather than using the money only in general elections against Democrats.

Apologizing for such a long lead-in to my question, I then asked what Hoekstra thought about the idea of forcing the party committees to adopt a rule that they would be prohibited from getting involved in party primaries, and instead use their money only for general election campaigns.

Hoekstra’s answer: Absolutely. He would support such a rule wholeheartedly. “Any time you try to dictate results in Washington,” he said, you get into trouble. “Let the people in the districts decide.” Furthermore: “We believe in freedom and that should extend to the political process as well.” And, flatly: “The NRCC should not interecede in [primaries in] our districts.”

Well… HOW ABOUT IT? I guarantee that adoption of such a rule, if well publicized, would have the effect of opening a geyser of contributions to all the party committees. And, really, why should the incumbents fear? Incumbent advantages already are so overwhelming anyway that any incumbent who can’t even be confident within his own party probably isn’t doing even a half-decent job anyway. Meanwhile, if the money flows in as I suspect, the vast majority of current GOP congressmen will be BETTER OFF, because while they won’t need to worry much about a primary challenge anyway (very few of them do), they will all be in much better position for the general election with a stronger, richer party committee behind them.

My conclusions: 1) Conservative activists should make this a cause celebre. 2) Intelligent congressmen ought to take up this issue within their party caucuses, and not rest until such a rule is adopted.

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