WASHINGTON — A tea party group has launched a campaign to support primary challenges against all 87 Republicans who voted for the deal in late October to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.
The Tea Party Leadership Fund, a PAC affiliated with the group TheTeaParty.net, began a fundraising push — dubbed the "Primaries for Traitors Fund" — shortly after the shutdown deal passed in the House, and they are now ramping up efforts to find "credible candidates" in each of the districts, said the fund's treasurer, Dan Backer.
"From our perspective, we see this as a signature vote. You can't be a conservative and vote to raise the debt ceiling," Backer said. "I recognize there are some places where voters may actually think that was the right vote. And there may be places where you have an incumbent who wins with 90% of the vote every time and there's not a credible challenger. I recognize that, but we're certainly going to do our best."
Backer says the group has honed in on a few specific members to start: Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, New York Rep. Peter King, North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger, Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany, and most importantly, Backer said, House Speaker John Boehner in Ohio.
"Our goal is to keep going one after another after another as our resources allow. To get our feet wet, we're starting out with a few, but nobody is going to get a pass," he said.
Questions have been raised about the PAC's fundraising. The liberal blog ThinkProgress called their fundraising push a "gimmick." Despite raising more than $1 million in 2012, the group only spent around $27,000 in support of two Republican candidates last cycle, according to Open Secrets, and no money against Republican incumbents.
Backer says they are deadly serious about finding candidates. He acknowledges their goal may be unattainable but doesn't think that should stop them from trying to make life difficult for members. And those members whose voting records have been otherwise solidly conservative? Backer wants to take them out too.
"Everyone says, 'We want to elect leaders.' No we don't. We're electing representatives," Backer said. "If they were good representatives they shouldn't have taken that vote. And if we're wrong, they'll win their primary and that's healthy for democracy."
Note: This story has been updated to include details of the group's 2012 spending.