It’s pledge politics. How far should the enforcers go to enforce? And when does enforcement count as informing on your fellow enforcers?
A series of e-mails among conservative activists, obtained by National Journal, reveal the tensions between the demands of governing and those of ideological purity.
The e-mails highlight the fissures that the debt-ceiling debate has opened in the GOP and illustrate the overlapping loyalties that led to the iconic moment of the House Republicans’ week of disorder: The angry outburst behind closed doors on Wednesday, when GOP lawmakers excoriated a Republican Study Committee staffer who worked with outside conservative groups to build opposition to Speaker John Boehner’s debt-ceiling bill.
In a Monday night missive to a Google Groups list formed by conservatives who supported the House Republicans' "cut, cap, and balance" deficit-reduction plan, RedState.com editor Erick Erickson predicted that Boehner’s alternative proposal for raising the debt limit would result in a drop in the federal credit rating, and give Democrats an opening to blame Republicans.
"In that vein, time to rack up pledge violators," he wrote. Among the names on his list: Reps. Allen West, R-Fla., and Bill Flores, R-Texas. "Who else?" he asked the group.
The coalition e-mail list is long, dotted with prominent conservative groups committed to enforcing the pledge. At least one member saw fit to tip off Flores that he was being queued up for the rack.
A little over two hours later, Erickson received an e-mail from Flores, using a Gmail address: “I received a copy of your e-mail blast where you called me a ‘Pledge Violator.’ How did you develop that claim? I support 'cut, cap, balance' and I am a cosponsor of that legislation, which passed last week and for which I voted ‘YEA.’ I do not see how you can make your claim.”
Erickson responded, “If you support the Boehner plan, which is not faithful to cut, cap, and balance, you are violating the Cut, Cap, and Balance pledge, which specifically ties passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to raising the debt ceiling.”
Then Erickson sent an e-mail to the whole list, suggesting somebody had betrayed him: “Funny, I only sent that e-mail to this list.”
Erickson did not respond to questions on Friday about the leak to Flores.
But Flores’s former campaign manager, Matt Mackowiak, acknowledged that he apprised the congressman's camp.
“I decided to personally alert a member of his team to make sure they understood that voting yes would be a pledge violation,” Mackowiak told National Journal. “That’s the only time I’ve taken any information that’s been a part of the coalition effort and shared with anyone outside.”
Two days after the contretemps over Flores, the conservative coalition's e-mails became an issue for the entire House Republican Conference when members vented on Paul Teller, the RSC executive director who had worked with the Cut, Cap, and Balance Coalition to pressure members. RSC Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, ultimately apologized.