Brent Bozell, a prominent conservative activist and fundraiser, is threatening to steer donors away from the Republican Party if GOP lawmakers sign a deal to raise taxes.
Bozell sent a letter to Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus on Wednesday pledging to make it his mission to counsel conservative donors to shun the party if its leaders in Congress agree to raise taxes.
Bozell, the chairman of ForAmerica Inc., has been active in conservative political circles for three decades and estimates he has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for “an alphabet soup of conservative causes.”
“Reince, it pains me to say this, but if the Republican Party breaks its word to the American people and goes along with President Obama with tax increases, it will have betrayed conservatives for the final time,” Bozell wrote.
“I will make it my mission to ensure that every conservative donor to the Republican Party that I have worked with for the last three decades — and there are many and they have given tens of millions to Republican causes — gives not one penny more to the Republican Party or any member of Congress that votes for tax increases,” he warned.
A spokesman for the RNC did not respond to a request for comment.
Bozell is the founder of the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog group, which has an annual budget of more than $10 million.
He sent a separate letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) earlier in the week, pushing them to reject Obama’s call to raise taxes on the wealthy.
“With the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ rapidly approaching, both sides are making opening gambits and the talk so far is alarming,” Bozell wrote in a letter dated Nov. 27 to Republican leaders.
“Conservatives have one question to ask: If you now claim a tax increase on small business is the correct course of action, were you lying all along when you claimed this tax increase would decimate the economy?” he wrote. “Because if you were not lying, you will now be willing participants in the destruction of American jobs in a time of economic crisis.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and incoming Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) were included on the letter.
Several Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), have said in recent days that they do not feel bound by the anti-tax pledge they signed in the past.
The pledge, sponsored by Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, requires signatories to oppose any legislation that raises tax rates or eliminates tax breaks without offsetting the action by cutting other taxes.
“When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece, and Republicans — Republicans should put revenue on the table,” Graham said in a television interview over the weekend. “We’re this far in debt. We don’t generate enough revenue. Capping deductions will help generate revenue.”
Boehner and McConnell have signaled in the wake of the election that they would be willing to strike a deal with Obama that raises taxes to reduce the deficit, although they insist it must be linked to reforming entitlement programs.
Bozell is not the only conservative to warn that signing onto a deal hiking taxes would prompt a strong backlash.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Tea Party caucus, warned that conservatives could back challengers to sitting lawmakers who vote for tax increases.
“If there is a bad deal, I just think you’re going to see conservatives around the country coalesce around better candidates, better-trained candidates, and to recognize the Republican Party needs to reflect more conservative principles,” he said.
DeMint said a lot of conservative donors have already stopped giving to the official Republican Party committees and sent their dollars instead to outside groups. He said that trend is a major reason why the Senate Conservatives Fund, which he founded, has raised millions of dollars.
On Tuesday, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, urged colleagues to extend the Bush-era tax rates only for families earning below $250,000 to avoid a tax increase on middle-class families at year’s end. He said Republicans could resume the fight against higher taxes on wealthier families next year.
DeMint, however, said decoupling tax rates for families earning above $250,000 per year and those below that threshold would be a mistake.
“I don’t think any decoupling of the rates is a concession we should make. I think that’s capitulation. It doesn’t help the country. For the Republicans to agree to that is bad policy and I think it’s bad politics,” he said.
In his letter to Priebus, Bozell warned of dire political consequences if GOP leaders fail to stand their ground against Democrats.
“If the GOP again abandons its pledge of fiscal responsibility, including the promise not to raise taxes on ANYONE, again conservatives will walk,” he wrote.
“Pure and simple, in the ongoing debate over the so-called ‘fiscal cliff,’ the Republican Party is giving new definition to the word ‘surrender.’ The GOP is signaling a desire to abandon its solemn commitment to advance fiscal restraint,” he added.
Brian Darling, senior fellow for government studies at the Heritage Foundation, predicted a conservative backlash against any deal leaders strike to raise taxes.
“You’re going to have a lot of pressure in the Republican caucus against any measure that hikes taxes, that closes loopholes to gain more revenue,” he said. “Some would be outraged if a deal was cut where Republicans affirmatively voted to raise taxes. I think the Tea Party would be outraged.”