The end of Americans for Prosperity?

Well, at least one observer thinks the TEA Party will be awful mad about a recent statement by the group’s president.

Writing at the Green Hell Blog (h/t Blue Ridge Forum), Steve Milloy posits that a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Rep. Fred Upton, incoming head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Americans for Prosperity head Tim Phillips charts a course toward capitulation to the Democrats and Obama Administration through a “sensible bipartisan compromise” on delaying the EPA regulations until the courts can determine their fate.

Obviously each individual chapter of AFP need not follow the dictates of the group’s president, but at a time where the group has been criticized locally (by a onetime AFP head) and around the state for being too co-opted by “establishment” Republicans who wanted to take advantage of the TEA Party and its energy, this is probably not the way for the organization to go.

Conservatives and TEA Partiers were already upset that it was Upton’s turn to be head of that committee, preferring instead that Rep. Joe Barton reassume the job he lost when Republicans were ousted from the majority in 2006. He would have needed a waiver of a six-year term limit on the chairmanship, but argued that his term effectively was wasted for four of those years by being simply the ranking member.

The problem with “sensible bipartisan compromise” is that one man’s ‘sensible’ is another man’s ‘surrender’ and it seems to me we have the mandate on our side. (Never mind that one side also has the tendency to lie through its teeth when it comes to cutting spending or the size of government. Their idea of government cuts? How about the ‘peace dividend’ and other ways of gutting the military?)

Furthermore, we’ve just come out of a ‘lame duck’ Congressional session where bipartisan compromise in the Senate gave us gays serving openly in the military, a bad nuclear treaty, another round of unemployment benefit extensions, and restoration of the death tax in exchange for a puny two-year extension of current income tax rates. Perhaps some of these shortcomings can be addressed in the upcoming 112th Congress (which will, among other things, replace our local ‘Blue Dog’ Democrat Frank Kratovil with conservative Andy Harris) but if this piece by Upton reflects the tenor of House leadership toward Democrats the TEA Party will be sorely disappointed.

At risk is a group which already has a serious strike against it by being, as they state on their website, “a section 501(c)(4) organization under the Internal Revenue Code… AFP can advocate for and against specific legislation at the state and federal levels.” But they can’t advocate for or against particular candidates, which becomes a problem in the cases where a conservative squares off against an “establishment” party member in the primary. While other TEA Party organizations scored successes in that area (like electing Marco Rubio in Florida) AFP had to remain silent and watch as other TEA Party conservatives like Joe Miller in Alaska or Sharron Angle in Nevada lost close races, in part because of the reluctance of ‘establishment’ Republicans to back the upstarts.

On a more local scale, imagine if AFP could have openly backed Michael James for a Maryland Senate seat or Joe Ollinger for County Executive. It could have made the difference, particularly in the Senate race where Democrat Jim Mathias all but portrayed himself as Ronald Reagan reincarnated.

Locally, the AFP chapter has waned since one co-founder left after her ill-fated run for office and the other, ironically enough, vacated to take an elected position in the local Republican Party. The former has shifted her involvement into the Wicomico Society of Patriots, an offshoot of the state group.

And she’ll be the one who might be saying “I told you so.”

Obviously, unless they decide to seek office and win, the amount of fealty an officeholder has to someone’s set of principles will almost never be 100 percent. (Witness the results of the ongoing monoblogue Accountability Project, which will return next summer.) But in the political arena, where making law is akin to making sausage, compromising the broad set of principles most in the TEA Party stand for should be a last resort and not an opening parlay. That’s a gambit which will never pay off in dividends for freedom-loving Americans like those in the TEA Party and may lead to a damaging third-party effort come 2012.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

10 thoughts on “The end of Americans for Prosperity?”

  1. Milloy’s response to the Upton and Phillips op-ed is moronic and should be taken seriously by no one. As Upton and Phillips say, the best course is for Congress to overturn the regulation. As they also acknowledge, that probably isn’t going to happen given the makeup of Congress and the presidency. However, they give a second-best alternative for both Democrats and Republicans to join together to delay the rule. If it’s delayed and the rule is overturned, then great. If it’s delayed and we get a new president, then that’s great, too.

    You can support unrealistic policies to overturn a regulation if you want. Defunding the EPA or shutting down the government over this rule just isn’t going to happen and it’s a far more costly way of getting to the goal than what Upton and Phillips propose.

    Standing firm on principle is good sometimes, but sometimes doing so means you lose out entirely. Look at what happened in Delaware — conservatives got rid of moderate Republican Castle, all right, but in return they got a candidate who was completely unelectable and now they have a very liberal senator. It’s far wiser to pursue a winnable policy that takes you close to your goal. That’s what Phillips and Upton are advocating.

    Conservatives need to jettison the idea that having a realistic grasp of political realities means you are somehow compromised. Unless conservative activists get a grip on the realities that face our GOP elected officials in governing, then they are going to sabotage many efforts that could produce good results. Compromising and getting 75% of what you want is far better than insisting on 100% and getting nothing.

  2. I told you so.

    Also, Americans for Prosperity’s State Director, David Schwartz has accepted a position as Communications Director for Andy Harris’ leadership team, which makes some wonder the fate of AFP in Maryland.

    The Tea party moves on, even here and Maryland and I am looking forward to the Maryland CAN event on the 8th.

  3. The problem is that we get far from 75 percent of what we want, particularly when you’re dealing with a group which has no problem at all with lying through their teeth to get what they desire.

    We have a President who has no problem with using regulations to get what he wants without the approval of Congress (the institution of so-called ‘death panels’ by regulatory language is just the latest example.) If he chooses to use that end run to get what he wants, you just might have to fight fire with fire – Congress holds the power of the purse.

  4. Except that the solution offered by Upton and Phillips would get us pretty close to what we want. At the very least it would get us much farther than insisting on repeal. Insisting on repeal gets us nothing. Delaying the regulations gets us likely court-ordered repeal or an opportunity for a new president. If neither of those work, then we are no worse off than we are today. It’s a very smart strategy and they deserve commendation, not condemnation, for crafting it.

    Yes, Congress can withhold appropriations, but that would likely lead to a presidential veto. Unless one side budges, a government shutdown results. That’s an incredibly risky strategy as Gingrich and crew found out in 95. I’m fine with a government shutdown but many Americans aren’t. If Congress took the “fight fire with fire” strategy that you desire, it could easily lead to a whole new crop of Democratic House members in 2012 replacing some of the good conservatives we just elected.

    Even if Congress succeeded in withholding appropriations for the implementation of certain regulations, those regulations would still be in effect and could be funded when the Democrats retake Congress.

    Activists have to decide if we want Congress to get stuff done or do we want Congress to posture? Congress can certainly only pursue things that meet with 100% conservative approval. 0% of those things will be enacted. Or Congress can pursue smart strategy — which involves compromise — and make incremental gains for liberty.

  5. That all depends on what is traded off for the delay in regulations. To use another example, look what we had to endure to maintain our tax rates for another two years.

    But if you read the WSJ article, they are already conceding the better position:

    The best solution is for Congress to overturn the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations outright. If Democrats refuse to join Republicans in doing so, then they should at least join a sensible bipartisan compromise to mandate that the EPA delay its regulations until the courts complete their examination of the agency’s endangerment finding and proposed rules.

    As a ‘reward’ for this retreat off their principles to a compromise like that, I’m sure the Democrats will extract their pound of flesh. So why are we sending the signal that we’re already going to surrender on that front? All they have to do is say, yeah, we’ll allow that but in return we want more subsidies for wind farms or the elimination of some tax loophole for oil producers – somehow we would lose larger on that front than we would gain on pushing back regulations for two years. (And remember, we’ve counted on the courts to overturn other items they eventually let stand, like campaign finance reform.)

    I say bring up the overturn and dare Democrats to vote against it for higher utility rates and gas prices. Screw this compromise.

  6. Sure, screw the compromise and let the regulations go into effect. Republicans running against the Democrats who voted against repeal get a campaign issue and we all get higher utility and gas prices. Good politics, maybe, but bad policy.

    Or we could follow the path of Upton and Phillips, likely get a delay in enactment of this policy and possibly get a court to overturn it. Even if neither of those things happened, then you get your chance to play politics with the issue when the delay period is over.

    Worst case scenario in the Upton/Phillips plan — a bad policy is delayed two years. Best case – the regulations are overturned by a court case or they are delayed long enough for a Republican president to overturn them.

    Worst case scenario in your plan — the regulations go into effect as planned. Best case scenario in your plan — the regulations go into effect as planned and some negative TV ads are run against Democrats because of their vote.

    I’ll take the Phillips/Upton plan.

    Your point about what Democrats would want in return for the compromise is a good one and we’ll have to wait and see. However, there are probably a good number of Democrats out there who wouldn’t support a repeal but who would support a delay. I’m sure Upton has members in mind when he wrote this op-ed. You assume these Democrats want something in return for their vote for a delay. Not all votes in Congress involve horse-trading of that sort. If they demand outrageous things in return for their support, then that’s the time to criticize. But the plan as outlined by Upton and Phillips is completely solid.

  7. While interesting with several innuendos. Using the example of people leaving AFP for other positions or opportunities does not evidence anything.

    In addition to its objectives, Americans for Prosperity is an incubator of ideas and for talent and will never be able to satisfy the personal objectives of all its employees and volunteers. People will move on to other opportunities, hopefully even leading organizations, becoming elected officials or whatever. There are a myriad of potential reasons for people leaving or changing positions.

    Organizations like AFP provide people the opportunity to develop as leaders Eventually individuals reach a level of development where they need to move on to new positions and even should be encouraged to move on and experience new opportunities. This make room for a new group of potential talent to be developed

    AFP has successfully expanded in four years in new states with its message of limited government. Last year, AFP successfully invested in Arkansas and partnered with TEA parties and other groups providing them avenues to be involved as advocates for limited government.

    As for Rep. Fred Upton, I would suggest people read “Congressman Fred Upton and AFP’s Tim Phillips on WSJ: How Congress Can Stop the EPA’s Power Grab”

Comments are closed.