The head of a conservative advocacy group is calling on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to turn down an invitation to attend a conference being hosted by a moderate Republican organization, warning that by going, Mr. Cantor could hurt his standing with the GOP’s grassroots leaders.
L. Brent Bozell III, chairman of ForAmerica, sent a letter to Mr. Cantor this week, calling on the Virginia Republican to follow in the footsteps of House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, by declining to attend an event hosted by the Republican Main Street Partnership PAC.
“Aligning yourself with extreme opponents of the Republican Party would be an astonishing turn of events — with consequences,” Mr. Bozell said. “Mr. Leader: Don’t aid and abet sworn opponents of conservatives. If you do it will cause irreparable damage.”
“If your position is that grassroots conservatives and Tea Party supporters no longer belong in the Republican Party then it will permanently destroy any credibility you have left with conservatives,” he said. “Without conservatives the GOP will also collapse.”
Sarah Chamberlain, executive director of the Republican Main Street Partnership PAC, said the charges that are being leveled against her group are bogus and said that Mr. Boehner planned to attend the event, but changed his plans due to an overseas trip.
Ms. Chamberlain said the PAC supports its members — 53 House and three Senate lawmakers — from primary challengers from outside groups, including the Club for Growth.
“We have no beef with the actual tea party, it is the Club,” Ms. Chamberlain said. “We have never attacked a sitting member in a primary. We are just trying to defend them.”
The Main Street Partnership is a group of moderate Republicans. They regularly battle some of the conservative groups, leading to bruising primary battles in some races.
Former Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette has served as chairman of the group since 2013 and sits on the board of its political action committee.
Mr. LaTourette has come under fire from some of the party’s grassroots for saying, among other things, that “the reason Democrats control the Senate is thanks to the efforts of the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party.”
Mr. Cantor’s office, meanwhile, said the Republican leader addresses crowd across the nation with his conservative message in hopes of strengthening the party nationwide.
“This is judging a speaker by the audience,” a Cantor aide said. “When he speaks to an audience of moderate Republicans, it doesn’t mean he’s any less conservative, it means he is the Republican majority leader. We need to present our conservative solutions to all audiences, and grow our grassroots and our majority so we can stop President Obama’s liberal agenda and prevent Pelosi from becoming Speaker again.”
Still, Mr. Bozell’s group is urging its supporters via Twitter and Facebook to call Mr. Cantor and “tell him to stop attacking conservatives!” The group also plans on ratcheting up the pressure on Mr. Cantor through a five-figure digital ad campaign in the run-up to the two-day went this weekend.
News reports say that House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, also plans on attending the fundraiser at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island in Nassau County, Florida.
Mr. Bozell’s comments underscore the ongoing feud between some grassroots groups and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill over the stances they have made on spending and the national debt.
Mr. Bozell’s group is pushing to oust GOP leaders in the House and the Senate, accusing them of “failing to deliver a single conservative accomplishment” during their tenures.
The Senate Conservatives Fund and the Tea Party Patriots also have called on Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, to step down from his leadership post.
There are some signs, though, that rank-and-file conservatives would be willing to keep Mr. Boehner on board if Mr. Cantor is his most likely replacement.
“I think Boehner is doing an acceptable job, and I have not seen anybody who would do a better job, but that doesn’t go for all the leadership,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican. “I think that Boehner can survive anything … the discontent that the tea party and the more conservative elements of the Republican party has, but I don’t think that it true of Cantor.”
“Boehner is not considered someone who is an active adversary,” he said. “Cantor is — on immigration and a lot of other things — seen as someone who is very resentful of what would be the patriot Republican right.”