- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A top Republican fundraiser in the U.S. Senate has started a political action committee to help finance “true conservative” candidates, saying he wants to reshape the party and win back support from disgruntled conservative voters.

“Increasingly, people around the country are angry that Republicans are not acting like Republicans,” said Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who Tuesday launched the Senate Conservatives Fund.

The fund will contribute to Senate candidates who adhere to conservative principles of limited government, strong national defense and traditional family values, Mr. DeMint said.

“We are going to do everything we can to add to the number of conservatives who can reshape the Republican Party,” he said. “I do not think conservatism is a branch of the Republican Party. I think it is the core of the Republican Party.”

The move comes as Senate Republicans brace for a grueling election season and Democrats battle to pick up as many as 11 seats, an outcome that would enable the Democratic majority to break filibusters and ram legislation through the chamber.

Senate Democrats are eyeing possible wins of Republican-held seats in Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, Alaska, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Oregon.

They also expect Mr. DeMint’s PAC to backfire.

“It’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

“The more he focuses on things like radical conservative judges instead of dealing with important issues facing this country, such as the energy crisis, the better it is for Democrats,” Mr. Manley said.

Mr. DeMint said this election is critical for conservatives in the Senate.

“With Democrats in charge of both chambers of Congress, the Senate is the last line of defense against liberal, big-government policies that threaten our freedom,” he said. “Electing more conservatives to the Senate is essential to securing the future of our nation.”

He said he will announce some of the Republican candidates backed by the fund as soon as next week. He said the candidates will be both “rock-solid conservatives” and campaigns that will most benefit from the funds.

Mr. DeMint, who has raised more than $1 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), said the need for the new fund became apparent when he was making fundraising calls for the committee and being rejected by Republican voters who complained that the party’s senators were not conservative enough.

The fund differs from other senators’ PACs in that it will not spread money broadly to curry favor with colleagues. Instead, it is modeled after the House Conservatives Fund, which is dedicated to electing conservative candidates to that chamber.

Mr. DeMint said the fund “may even take sides in important GOP primaries, and it won’t hesitate to spend money educating voters in key races.”

The fund did not ruffle feathers at the NRSC, said committee spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher, adding that NRSC Chairman Sen. John Ensign of Nevada is “100 percent” supportive of any senator’s effort to raise money for Republican candidates.

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