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.
National Journal
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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