One of my favorite groups in Washington is Heritage Action for America. A major indicator of their success is that the Washington GOP Establishment planted a story in Roll Call about their lack of influence.The article was clearly planted by House Republican leadership staffers, the same staffers who planted a story about me in the Washington Post at the end of July about how I have no influence and nobody listens to me. Two weeks after these House leadership aides declared, anonymously, that I had no influence I introduced Rick Perry at the RedState Gathering where he declared his candidacy for President.No influence. It is the same with Heritage Action for America. You know a conservative wields influence when House leadership staffers push out stories about the conservatives’ lack of influence, but are too chicken to go on record about it. Nobodies don’t get booed.
Kicking off the attack was Congressman Geoff Davis of Kentucky (HAFA Score: 63%) telling Ginni Thomas at the Daily Caller that “Heritage Action is a self-interested fundraising organization led by a former Giuliani staffer who is not taking counsel from real conservatives … It is a worthless organization to the conservative movement. I’ll be the first to say that.” Congressman Davis, who opposed social security reform, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform, and offshore drilling while supporting farm subsidies, cash for clunkers, green energy subsidies, the AFL-CIO, and NEA spending, was the only person willing to go on record attacking HAFA.Heritage Action for America is so worthless in fact that House Republican Leadership staffers are forced to give anonymous quotes to Washington newspapers about how no one listens to HAFA. By the way, the sources are most likely from Eric Cantor’s Office (HAFA Score: 60%). I say this rather factually because the Politico was the first to drum up an anti-HAFA piece and a source at the Politico all but flat out told me it was Cantor’s office more than Boehner’s office pushing the line of attack. Same with the “Erickson and RedState have no influence” story at the Washington Post. Not that Boehner’s office has clean hands, but his office doesn’t yet seem to be the driving force behind these stories. In fact, with the Politico story, which substantially changed from its original form, the key motivator was a feeling among some leadership staff that Heritage Action for America is staffed by people who went to Washington and decided it was more important to fight for conservative causes than to sell out for the “greater good” of the Republican Team.Frankly, in my experience, conservatives who sell out their values are usually the most embittered, angry people in Washington — full of self-loathing every time they look in the mirror and realize, in the quiet of the night, what sell outs to their own values they’ve become. But unable to hate themselves, they hate those who haven’t sold out instead.Outside of the psychology of these hit pieces, what is interesting is that while, like with me, leadership aides are unwilling to go on the record to smear HAFA, congressmen are willing to go on record to defend HAFA. Congressman Jim Jordan, leader of the conservatives in the House, (HAFA Score: 96%) took to their defense as did South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney (HAFA Score: 95%), and my Congressman, Austin Scott of Georgia, (HAFA Score: 80%) has used Heritage Action For America’s support on legislation as a key selling point for why other members of Congress should sign on to legislation. The latest “they’ve got no influence” story came after House leaders were able to get a highway bill through with a voice vote when Heritage Action had scored against it. The reaction by members of Congress and the backpedaling of leadership (and of Senators) on this legislation suggests that instead of having no influence, Republican Congressmen are scared to death of HAFA and fear not only being on record against them, but also being in opposition to them.Like with RedState, these hit jobs from Republicans come because Republican Leaders in Washington, who campaigned throughout 2010 saying they’d learned the lessons of 2006, are being proven squishy and resent their conservative base holding them accountable for betraying the trust not just of the Republican base, but of the American people.