It appears as if the Republican Party has developed a practice of deflecting criticism by casting blame at the Tea Party. Now, Missouri’s 3rd District Congressman, Blaine Leutkemeyer, is taking fire for attacking the Tea Party and accusing the them of “undermining” the Republican agenda. On a St. Louis, conservative, talk radio station, KFTK 97.1 FM , Leutkemeyer specifically accused the Tea Party groups, Heritage Action, Freedomworks and Club for Growth of working in opposition of conservative values and of being liberal organizations whose only interest is to raise money for themselves.
During a press conference in December, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner took a stab at Tea Party groups and various members have followed suit. Congressman Blaine Leutkemeyer rallied to Speaker, John Boehner’s defense for his comments attacking the Tea Party in his radio interviews with Randy Tobler.
“They are misleading their followers. They’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be, and frankly I just think they have lost all credibility. You know they pushed us into this fight to defund Obamacare and to shut down the government. And most of you know, and my members know, that wasn’t the strategy that I had in mind.”
Leutkemeyer specifically targeted Heritage Action as being a non-conservative organization and outlined that they were thrown out of the Republican Conservative Study Group because they were seen as undermining its members, and acting in opposition to the caucus agenda. Leutkemeyer went on to say Heritage Action is actually a liberal organization in conservative clothes. In an interview, with Randy Tobler, on January 4, 2014, Leutkemeyer cited Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, scored a 70% rating on what he, and his staff, considered the most important 20 bills of last year’s session, and 100% on the top 10 bills. He failed to cite specific bills in the interview, or if the bills were also Heritage Action identified bills.
On the Heritage Action Scorecard website, Pelosi actually scored a 16%, which is also equal to the House Democrat average. Leutkemeyer scored 63%, two percentage points below the House Republican average, and he is also the lowest ranking Missouri House Republican, according to the HA scorecard. Heritage Action calculates scores by awarding percentage points to members who vote for and/or co-sponsor bills. Voting against and not co-sponsoring does not negate percentage points in the calculation.
“These groups have a different agenda, that is not a conservative agenda. They do not understand the concept of how to be part of a team.”
The criticism began during a December 28, 2013, interview, on the Randy Tobler show, on KFTK 97.1 FM. Tobler took calls from grassroots listeners and fielded a variety of civil but irate comments, so he gave Leutkemeyer an opportunity to return, the following week, to clarify his statements. Leutkemeyer minced no words for his disdain for the three organizations.
Ben Evans, the St. Louis Regional Coordinator for Heritage Action for America, believes Leutkemeyer is falling into lockstep with establishment Republicans, and mimicking the Tea Party attack tactics, because he may be receiving a great deal of heat from his district's constituents.
“None of these guys want to have conversations about the bills that are in play, right now. They just want to focus on the fight between the grassroots and the GOP. So they use this sort of thing to get the conversation away from what is actually going on in the bill. So you think about what Boehner said before they passed the budget deal, The reason why he made that comment was not because we were fighting him. It was because he didn’t want anyone to see what was going on in that bill, and of course, once it was passed we saw that it cut pensions to the military, and didn’t cut pensions to current government employees. That is the tactic that Leutkemeyer is using right now. They are doing this sort of thing to distract from the real issues.”
Conservative talk show host, Randy Tobler, sees it a little differently. According to Tobler, it’s a matter of miscommunication between the factions. While many grassroots may identify with groups like Heritage Action, he feels Leutkemeyer separates the organizations from the actual conservative, Tea Party and grassroots voters. He cites data from last year’s polling on 4th quarter news media, points out the constituency is much larger than the grassroots movement and defends the incremental political strategy of the Republican Party due to the need to reach more than the Tea Party demographic.
“Things are different when you are in the minority. You don’t even have the power to call an issue to vote. Look at the data, [in the wake of the government shutdown] . . . [and the messaging of the number of Republicans who were against the shut down] . . . 75% of conservatives blamed the Republicans for the government shut-down. Sadly, we have a lot of education to do.”
Tobler believes a strategy to maintain a unified focus on the Obamacare failure, up to the 2016 elections, will provide a conservative success in the next election cycles.
“Maybe we need a reality check as to where our audience is coming from because they are not coming from anywhere near the same place we are.”
He comments that all conservative elected might just be in a double bind.
“I am sympathetic to someone who has a lot of integrity and a lot of idealism but is not in a position to implement that.”
There will be further discussion on the Randy Tobler Show, in weeks to come, concerning this controversy.
Freedomworks and Club for Growth did not respond to requests for comment at the time this article was posted.