Club for Growth President’s Bad Timing Undermines Clout

Today Phillip Rodokanakis of the Virginia Club for Growth attacked Congressman Frank Wolf in a piece at Bacons Rebellion. After reading his piece I came away thinking he and his group has a mistaken idea about creating political leverage, and are doomed to life on the political periphery instead of having the clout their libertarian issues should give them.

Mr. Rodokanakis waited until two weeks before the election to take issue with Mr. Wolf as a conservative force. I will leave aside the value of choosing five votes out of the thousands cast over twenty six years in Congress as a viable method of attacking someone’s conservative credentials. Two things struck me about the post.

Mr. Rodokanakis is so determined to make headlines he allows himself to be hoodwinked

I cannot speak to all the five issues Rodokanakis is upset about. However, I am familiar with the earmarks vote, which was on a bill that would have attached patrons names to spending bills. Frank Wolf crossed party lines to join the vast majority of Democrats voting against the bill.

Why? Because the bill was a fig leaf that did not address real reform.

This bill was not a law, but a rule that applies only to this Congress and at a point when there would be few appropriations bills sent to the floor. It applies only to appropriations bills and not to revenue bills or floor amendments to appropriation or revenue bills. It was designed solely to give the GOP political cover going into this election, and has no long term impact or value as a way to reform lobbying.

One would think Mr. R would applaud a Congressman who had the political courage to vote against such a bill…instead, he is shortsighted enough to criticize him for short term political points.

Mr. Rodokanakis has not learned about political timing

In his piece Mr. R suggests that if conservatives (i.e., the Club for Growth) don’t vote for Wolf in 11/2006 he might pay more attention to them in the next congress. However, bad timing ensures the opposite will happen.

The time to say this was in June, not in October. No self respecting candidate will negotiate with a gun to their head. Late campaign threats create resentment, not compliance. What is more likely is that Wolf will look at the exceptional lack of success of the Club for Growth candidates in last years General Assembly elections, and move on with his campaign plan.

In addition, Mr. R’s timing and threat is coming late in an election where by all counts the GOP is going to take a hit. No one will be surpised if GOP candidates totals are down. So, if Mr. Wolf wins with a lower total than he had in 2004, will it be attributed to the hands off attitude suggested by Mr. Rodakanakis or will it be attributed to general discontent with the GOP?

I tend to think it will be the latter.

Twas the time for Mr. Rodakanakis to say that although he had disagreements with Mr. Wolf, they paled in comparison to the vast differences he had with the Democratic nominee. Mr. R should have urged all conservatives to be sure to turn out and vote for Frank Wolf. Then, if the disagreements still exist into the next session of congress, then Mr. R comes out early for a primary opponent.

Mr. Rodakanakis could have scored points by taking the long view both on legislation and on political timing. Instead, he chooses a short term satisfaction that will not benefit him, his group, and relegates them instead to the cold periphery of the political arena, among those who prefer making noise instead of making progress.

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