Tea Party 'RINO Refund' Site Targets Kentucky GOP Congressmen
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell isn't the only Kentucky Republican facing Tea Party criticism for the plan ending the shutdown.
Tea Party Leadership Fund launched RINORefund.com this week targeting nearly 100 House Republicans for their Oct. 16 vote to re-open the federal government.
The site encourages donors to withdraw their support and asks for their contributions to be returned, including from Republicans Ed Whitfield, Brett Guthrie and Hal Rogers of Kentucky.
The group's treasurer Dan Backer says he respects some of lawmakers on the list such as Guthrie, who represents the Second Congressional District. But he adds Guthrie needs to answer for backing a plan that ultimately funded the president’s health care law.
"Brett’s a guy that I think highly of and we’ve always thought very highly of. We think he’s a good representative and by in large he’s very much a conservative, but then he took this vote," says Backer.
This trend of conservative activist groups criticizing incumbents has been criticized by national Republican groups in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, where the Senate Conservatives Fund has backed Matt Bevin over McConnell in next year's primary.
A spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee criticized it as a "purity for profit" way to fundraise.
Guthrie campaign spokesman Scott Jennings defended the congressman's record and points out Guthrie voted to either de-fund or repeal Obamacare nearly four dozen times.
"Brett Guthrie has compiled a long, conservative record in Congress that upholds the values of the people of the Second District. He received the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Award in 2012; has a 100 percent rating from Kentucky Right to Life; was named a 'Taxpayer Hero' by Citizens Against Government Waste; was one of the first Members to call for Eric Holder’s resignation over Fast and Furious, and has been one of the leading Members holding Kathleen Sebelius accountable on a number of issues," he says.
Polling shows the shutdown damaged both parties, but the GOP took the brunt of the blame for closing federal services, monuments and programs.
The 16-day shutdown cost Kentucky up to $127 million, according to Moody's Analytics. It is estimated that removed almost $2 million from the economy in Bowling Green, Ky. which is in Guthrie's district.
But that hasn't changed the tone of Tea Party activists who argue Republicans betrayed their conservative principles by voting for the plan.
"Guthrie's probably not at the top of the list of folks that we’re going to start going after one at a time. We’re a grassroots group and we have to be somewhat focused," says Backer. "But it doesn’t necessarily make sense to me that that’s the vote he would’ve taken and I don’t know his constituents would like that either. And so I think that’s worth looking at."