Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that Karl Rove should not play the role of kingmaker in congressional races across the country.
Mr. Gingrich said it would be "repugnant" for Mr. Rove to use his newest super PAC — Conservative Victory Project — to ward off candidates that he doesn't deem fit for a general election race.
"I am unalterably opposed to a bunch of billionaires financing a boss to pick candidates in 50 states," the Republican wrote in an op-ed that appeared in Human Events, a weekly conservative newspaper. "This is the opposite of the Republican tradition of freedom and grassroots small-town conservatism. No one person is smart enough nor do they have the moral right to buy nominations across the country."
Mr. Rove's latest effort has come under scrutiny from conservatives and grassroots tea party activists, who say that he should not decide who runs for public office. For his part, Mr. Rove said that American Crossroads and its affiliated groups have put millions of dollars behind tea party candidates, including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida in 2010.
He has said the Conservative Victory Project will aim to build on those successes and will avoid putting its financial muscle behind "stupid candidates" that could cost the GOP winnable seats and hurt its chances of winning back congressional majority.
Mr. Rove launched the new money machine in the wake of the November election, where public stumbles from candidates — in particular Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana — hurt the party's national brand, sparking calls form within the GOP ranks that the party needed more candidates with a broader appeal.
"While Rove would like to argue his 'national nomination machine' will protect Republicans from candidates like those who failed in Missouri and Indiana, that isn't the bigger story," Mr. Gingrich said. "Republicans lost winnable senate races in Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida. So in seven of the nine losing races, the Rove model has no candidate-based explanation for failure. Our problems are deeper and more complex than candidates.
"Handing millions to Washington-based consultants to destroy the candidates they dislike and nominate the candidates they do like is an invitation to cronyism, favoritism and corruption," he said.
Other have agreed. "I basically told Karl Rove that what he was doing is counter-productive, and he needs to stay out of it," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told The Associated Press last week, recounting a conversation he had with Mr. Rove.
Some conservatives and tea party activists, meanwhile, have challenged Mr. Rove's political chops since Election Day — pointing out that his American Crossroads super PAC and affiliates spent more than $175 million on 2012 campaign season only to see President Obama win a second term and Democrats pick up seats in the House and Senate.
They also say that a number of candidates picked by the establishment dropped winnable Senate races. "Rove ran the biggest political action committee in political history in the 2012 campaign — and lost big," Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, said in a blog post on The Hill website earlier this month. "Why would anyone want a loser picking 'winners?' "
"This power-grabbing scheme is an assault on Federalism. It is an assault on states' rights. It is a war on conservative principles and on local, representative democracy. And it loses elections."
Mrs. Martin took the criticism to a new level on Tuesday when her group sent out a fundraising message with a doctored photo that cast Mr. Rove as a Nazi and read "Wipe the Smirk Off Karl Rove's Face."
Mrs. Martin later issue an apology. "We apologize to Mr. Rove. While we may have strong disagreements with Mr. Rove on the future of conservatism, we want to be clear this imagery is absolutely unacceptable and are working to ensure this type of mistake doesn't happen again," the apology read.
News reports said that Mr. Rove accepted the apology.
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