Thursday, April 14, 2011

FOLLOWING THE MONEY IN ARIZONA'S POLITICS: Rep. Jeff Flake's Ties To Club For Growth Grow Closer Every Week; Flakes Spend CFG-Sponsored March Weekend In Palm Beach

Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (R-CD6) has long* been a favorite of the conservative organization the Club For Growth ("CFG").  However, the ties have grown significantly closer in the past two months and the amount of support from CFG has mushroomed.

Since its high-profile campaign (after Sen. Jon Kyl announced that he would not seek re-election in 2012) to convince Flake to run for the Senate seat, CFG and its members have played a large role in bolstering Flake.

The Club's endorsement of the Mesa Republican moments after his announcement sent a strong signal - both to its members and to other potential Republican candidates for the Senate seat.  Two weeks later, Flake (and his wife) were guests of the Club For Growth in Palm Beach Florida - a weekend trip worth more than $2,500. ($2,573.66).  It was the seventh time in the past eight years that the Flakes attended CFG's Winter conference;  this time, it allowed him to meet with CFG's donors and fundraisers as a guest of honor. (Sure, several potential presidential candidates were also there, but Flake was the only candidate with a CFG endorsement splashed across their website.)

Flake has been featured in two prominent spots on CFG's website for the past few weeks: once just above the scroll (i.e. near the bottom of the page as it initially displays) as the only CFG-endorsement, and once just below that as the leader in the Club's "Power Rankings".  (Flake is slightly edging out Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul as the current darling of CFG members, an honored slot that he has held in the past.)

Besides the prominent placement and the endorsement, the Club For Growth spent more than $22,000 (as an independent expenditure) on Flake's behalf in the four days following the campaign announcement, to help raise funds.

All of the visibility and hard work has materially helped Flake in his Senate bid.  The Club For Growth is apparently responsible for about one-third of all the money that Flake raised in the first six weeks of his campaign.  His first report should be filed tomorrow, but he has already announced that he raised more than $1 million by the March 31 reporting deadline.  A week earlier, the Club For Growth boasted that its members had already contributed more than $350,000 to Flake. 

For comparison purposes, Arizona's other Senator ran for re-election last year.  Sen. John McCain raised more than $21 million.

The partnership of Jeff Flake and the Club For Growth is not only filling Flake's coffers and providing weekend trips, but it has also likely helped keep the Republican primary field clean.  Rep. Trent Franks (R-CD2) has also attended CFG winter conferences in the past, and decided at the last minute to not run against his colleague.  Other potential GOP candidates have also, to date, steered clear.

There is nothing nefarious either implicit or explicit in the Flake/CFG relationship - Rep. Flake has consistently been a fiscal conservative, even before he was in Congress.  However, it is of interest when one ideological organization provides such a large portion of a candidate's campaign fund.

*Although not always a favorite.

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