‘It just all smelled really bad…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) With the veering of the Democratic left wing toward a socialist platform, many have fretted over the vulnerability of battleground Democrats who managed to flip historically conservative districts.
Meanwhile, center-leaning Republicans also have struggled with their own identity crisis in the age of Trump.
Now, even their own support structure seems to be eroding from within.
In February, quibbling from within the Republican Main Street Partnership, an outside funding group that raises money for GOP moderates, led to the dissolution of its official congressional caucus, reported NPR in a profile published Friday of the group and its financial dispute.
The RMSP has been around since the mid-1990s, “driven by a desire to counterbalance the weight of the conservative wing inside the House GOP,” NPR’s Susan Davis wrote. “Lawmakers believe that rebuilding the centrist coalition is key to improving the GOP’s odds of winning a House majority in 2020.”
Its eponymous caucus, however, lasted only two years. Although it began in 2017, the heavy casualties among moderate GOP representatives in the 2018 midterm election left the lawmakers “licking their wounds,” NPR said.
Of the roughly 40 incumbent members in the Republican Main Street Caucus, 18 were defeated. That accounts for nearly half of the net loss of 37 GOP seats (with one GOP seat in North Carolina still pending the outcome of a special election).
Some former caucus members fear the infighting and divisions will spill over into the 2020 races as well.
In the wake of the election disaster (although still relatively mild when compared with Democrats’ 63-seat loss under Obama in 2010 and 54-seat loss under Clinton in 1994) the caucus members blamed RMSP chief Sarah Chamberlain
They questioned why RMSP had left more than $722,000 in the account of its super-PAC, Defending Main Street that might have been put to good use.
Chamberlain said that the partnership’s organizations had invested nearly $6 million in the races, but the legislators’ subsequent demands for an independent audit went unanswered.
“It just all smelled really bad,” said one unnamed former congressman, according to NPR.
Compounding the outrage was that Chamberlain received at least $700,000 in compensation—or roughly 20 percent of the operating budget—according to disclosure reports.
In response, the RMSP disputed the figure, saying her salary was a mere $500,000, and claimed that the criticism was the result of underlying sexism.
“It is not surprising that Sarah Chamberlain is being attacked,” wrote RMSP board member Doug Ose in a statement to NPR. “RMSP is the only Republican organization other than the RNC that is [led] by a woman.”
But with many crediting the defection of suburban women for the 2018 Democratic upsets, RMSP’s emphasis on women’s issues has rightfully come under scrutiny.
Among the operations funded by the RMSP umbrella was Women2Women, a speaking tour that Chamberlain founded that claims to support female empowerment as its main goal but does not appear to be aligned with any specific GOP objectives.
The organization’s website quotes Chamberlain as saying, “There are more men name John in the US Congress than there are Women in Congress.”
However, that claim is demonstrably false. Currently, there are 25 women in the Senate (17 Democrats and eight Republicans) and 102 in the House (89 Democrats and 13 Republicans)
According to a search of the Congress.gov database, 75 percent (15) of the 20 men named John in the 116th Congress are Republican.
Additionally, two incumbent Republicans named “John” (Reps. John Culberson in Texas-07 and John Faso in NY-19) were among those who lost their seats to Democrats in the 2018 election. Culberson—a nine-term incumbent—lost to a woman, Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher.
With Chamberlain exercising near-complete control over the operations, several prominent congressmen chose to disassociate themselves with the RMSP.
Among them was Rep. John Katko, R-NY, who drafted a formal resolution for the lawmakers in the caucus to suspend their association with the RMSP. The group also outlined its concerns in a December memo.
“How does money flow between each entity?” asked the lawmakers in the memo. “Is there any wall in place? If so how do we prove it? Sarah is the only person in a position to know as the only check signer.”