Big Business Puts Mike Simpson in Awkward Spot

Club for Growth criticizes Idaho Republican, asks whether he now supports expanding Medicaid in the state.

WASHINGTON - APRIL 05: (L - R) Alec Baldwin, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Kevin Spacey pose for a photo at an Arts Advocacy Day visit to the Rayburn House Office Bldg., on April 5, 2011 in Washington, DC.
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Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
Nov. 20, 2013, 11 a.m.

Big busi­ness wants to get more in­volved in Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies. It does so at its own per­il.

On Wed­nes­day, the Club for Growth cri­ti­cized GOP Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho for ac­cept­ing the en­dorse­ment of the Idaho As­so­ci­ation of Com­merce and In­dustry, a busi­ness group that re­cently de­cided to sup­port ex­pand­ing Medi­caid in the state as part of the Af­ford­able Care Act. Many con­ser­vat­ives con­sider back­ing any part of Obama­care heresy, and a spokes­man for the free-mar­ket group ques­tioned wheth­er Simpson thought the same way.

“Does Mike Simpson sup­port or op­pose ex­pand­ing Medi­caid un­der Obama­care in Idaho, just as his sup­port­ers in the Idaho As­so­ci­ation of Com­merce and In­dustry do?” said Club spokes­man Barney Keller. “Medi­caid ex­pan­sion will cost tax­pay­ers bil­lions and stick fu­ture gen­er­a­tions with the bill. Con­ser­vat­ives across the coun­try are re­ject­ing Obama­care’s Medi­caid ex­pan­sion, and Mike Simpson should have to an­swer if he joins with the Idaho As­so­ci­ation of Com­merce and In­dustry in sup­port­ing Obama­care’s Medi­caid ex­pan­sion in Idaho.”

The Club has en­dorsed Simpson’s primary op­pon­ent, law­yer Bry­an Smith, mak­ing the state’s 2nd Dis­trict race one of the premi­er battles between es­tab­lish­ment and con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans. The IACI, mean­while, has not only an­nounced its sup­port of Simpson, it has formed a su­per PAC to help him win reelec­tion. After the gov­ern­ment shut­down in Oc­to­ber, busi­ness groups like the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce said they would be­gin to ag­gress­ively sup­port busi­ness-friendly Re­pub­lic­ans over tea-party con­ser­vat­ives.

But as Wed­nes­day’s epis­ode demon­strates, their in­creased in­volve­ment car­ries risk for them­selves and the can­did­ates they back. Can­did­ates who ally them­selves with busi­ness risk be­ing seen as the es­tab­lish­ment choice, which some con­ser­vat­ives see as syn­onym­ous with be­ing too mod­er­ate. As the Club did, they will ques­tion wheth­er Simpson — who has voted to re­peal Obama­care dozens of times in Con­gress — is OK with Medi­caid ex­pan­sion in Idaho.

In oth­er words, the groups’ in­volve­ment can hurt more than it helps. It’s why some polit­ic­al op­er­at­ives work­ing with them are deeply skep­tic­al they can do any­thing to af­fect the out­come of these primar­ies.

The Simpson cam­paign, which was also en­dorsed by Mitt Rom­ney earli­er this week, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. 

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