Club for Growth suddenly silent in Simpson-Smith contest

sberg@idahostatesman.comMay 13, 2014 

Between the beginning of this year and April 22, Club for Growth spent almost $500,000 attacking incumbent Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson.

That's in addition to at least $222,000 Club for Growth's political action committee contributed to the campaign of Bryan Smith, an Idaho Falls attorney running against Simpson in the 2nd Congressional District.

Now, with the moment of truth - Idaho's May 20 Republican primary - approaching, Smith's biggest benefactor is nowhere to be found. Club for Growth hasn't bought an ad in the race since April 22 and hasn't spent money on other campaign promotions since April 24.

Wall Street Journal reporter Brody Mullins interpreted Club for Growth's silence in Idaho as evidence that it is conceding the race to Simpson and choosing to focus its resources elsewhere, such as the campaign for Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

"We're in a constant state of assessing and reassessing our races, moving resources in and out - depends on the day or week," Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller told the Wall Street Journal. "We did move considerable resources into the Nebraska senate race in the last two weeks."

Statesman efforts to contact Keller were unsuccessful.

Carrie Brown, Smith's campaign manager, didn't return a phone call Monday afternoon. Monday evening, she sent the Statesman an email that said: "As we travel across the district, we are overwhelmed with the grassroots support for Bryan's conservative message of smaller government, less spending and no new tax increases. We are confident the voters of the district will choose the true conservative next Tuesday, Bryan Smith."

Simpson's campaign representatives wouldn't comment on Club for Growth spending.

Meanwhile, Simpson's backers, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the NRA and the National Association of Realtors, continue to pour money into the effort to re-elect him to a ninth term.

Over the past two weeks, the Realtors association alone has spent almost $270,000 on mailers, production of an online video and other items that support Simpson, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign finance spending.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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