Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey has a friend in Jim DeMint, the Tea Party darling and right-wing senator from South Carolina. Toomey, who faces Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) in November’s Senate race, is one of 10 politically orthodox GOP hopefuls receiving millions from DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund. And since DeMint’s opponent this November is Alvin Greene—a mysterious unemployed dude who does not own a cell phone or computer and faces obscenity charges for showing pornography to a teenager—DeMint is likely to spend much of his own $3.7 million war chest elsewhere. Like here in Pennsylvania.
According to the Fund’s website, it has already spent $201,000 on Toomey—either in direct donations or on advocacy on his behalf—and hopes to give double that before Election Day. Toomey has tapped his substantial war chest to unleash a barrage of advertisements attacking Sestak.
“Congressman Toomey has a long and consistent record of aligning himself with the most extreme elements of his party,” says Sestak spokesperson Jonathon Dworkin. “It’s no surprise that another far-right Washington interest group would choose to pour money into Toomey’s campaign. But all the attack ads money can buy won’t be able to hide his extreme record from ordinary Pennsylvanians. They want practical solutions, not smear campaigns.”
Toomey’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Even fellow Republicans think DeMint, a man driven to cleanse the party of moderates, is extreme. The first-term senator and author of “Saving Freedom: We Can Stop the America’s Slide into Socialism” has annoyed many of his colleagues, upending Senate protocol by backing primary candidates not endorsed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and refusing to endorse Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bob Bennett (R-Nev.) and then-Republican Arlen Specter, who faced a tough primary challenge from the right. DeMint told Specter he would be supporting Toomey on April 23. Specter announced he would be leaving the party just five days later.
DeMint is fielding a ballot-box militia to take over the government, and faults most everyone for insufficient conservatism. The Fund, as it turns out, rates sitting senators on their right-wing political orthodoxy: DeMint is the only one that earns a perfect 100 percent.
“The greatest enemies to the Constitution today are domestic,” says DeMint, according to McClatchy. “And most of them are in the United States Congress or in the White House now.”
But DeMint may be the greatest enemy to his party. If these right-wing candidates sweep the GOP primaries only to lose to Democrats in November, there could be a backlash against the far right. Last week’s Tea Party victory in Delaware has Democrats giddy. DeMint endorsed winning candidate and Christine O’Donnell—previously best known as a campaigner against masturbation and leader of the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT)—days before the election.
True, Toomey does not have quite the same propensity for wackjob commentary, though he did lead the Club for Growth, a far-right organization with its own track record of opposing moderate so-called RINOS (Republicans In Name Only). Sestak ads have so far zeroed in on Toomey’s stint on Wall Street, the only place in America less popular than Capitol Hill.
Sestak’s task is to let Pennsylvanians know how extreme people like DeMint are: He supports replacing the federal income tax and IRS with a nation-wide sales tax and privatizing Social Security, and has suggested that gays and pregnant women should not be allowed to teach in public schools. He even tried to gut George Bush’s $50 billion global AIDS initiative. A representative of the deeply conservative Heritage Foundation put it this way: DeMint “may be the junior senator from South Carolina, but here we call him the senior senator from the Heritage Foundation.”
As H.L. Mencken once said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Toomey’s website certainly doesn’t, featuring an “extremism watch” that asks questions like “Who is Joe Sestak?” It’s only a matter of time before he starts asking for Sestak’s birth certificate. Given the stakes this November, Pennsylvanians ought to know that there are far more important records to check.
Election Day 2014: Tues., Nov. 4