In a move that’s likely to cause heartburn for the GOP establishment and Democratic Party, a band of hardcore conservative politicos have grouped together to form a new scorecard and rating system for members of Congress.
FreedomWorks’ director of minority outreach Deneen Borelli; Daniel Horowitz, a conservative who worked for Madison Project and has written columns for Breitbart News and RedState; former U.S. Senate Steering committee policy adviser Gaston Mooney; and conservative communications staffer Rachel Semmel, among others, have just launched the “Conservative Review.”
“I am excited to be a part of an organization that pulls back the curtain on lawmakers,” Borelli, the new group’s president, told Breitbart News. “More often than not, conservatives are sold a fake bill of goods and campaign-trail promises to bring conservative values to Washington. Conservative Review will offer a front row seat to information beyond the scorecard, such as member profiles, to hold lawmakers accountable for not only the way they vote but what they say and do when they think we’re not watching.”
Each one of these staffers and the others there, while maybe not widely known to the general public, are well-known conservative insider politicos in Washington who regularly find themselves battling the GOP establishment on the front lines of politics and policy. Borelli, for instance, is a black conservative who recently hammered U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and his allies for using the “race card” to attack state Sen. Chris McDaniel in that state’s GOP primary this year. Horowitz is well known for not pulling any punches when he’s doing political work for groups or campaigns pushing a message.
The Steering Committee for which Mooney worked will be headed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) next year, and until recently Mooney helped craft strategy to get conservative legislation and objectives passed through the Senate–or stop liberal bills in their tracks.
Semmel handled communications for Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) for some time a couple years ago, back when Schweikert was “purged” from various committee assignments at the beginning of this Congress for his conservative voting record–something that kicked off the latest stages of the very public open war between conservatives and the establishment over the past couple years. Semmel then handled communications for Matt Bevin, the primary challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who McConnell beat in a bloody match earlier this year where the minority leader’s political team had pledged to “crush” Tea Party rivals.
“One of the things I’ve learned coming off of an election season is that every candidate wants to project a conservative image on the campaign trail,” Horowitz, the group’s senior editor, told Breitbart News. “Yet when they get to Washington, they use smoke and mirrors from a complex legislative process to hoodwink voters into thinking they are conservative. CR will help expose the players, process, and legislative issues that are helpful or harmful to the conservative cause. Too many politicians are trying to redefine conservatism to comport with their political agenda; we seek to anchor current policy challenges in timeless constitutional conservative principles.”
They say the organization will feature scorecards for members of Congress, similar to the widely-known conservative scorecards from groups like FreedomWorks or Heritage Action or Club For Growth. This group’s scoring, however, is generally much harsher–there are hardly any As–and is designed to encompass the entire conservative movement. FreedomWorks, for instance, focuses its energies on specific parts of the movement often aligned with libertarian thinking. The Club For Growth similarly hones in on what’s in the interest of true free market capitalism, and Heritage Action hammers members on a variety of issues, especially cronyism.
What the Conservative Review is trying to do, the group says, is help those other facets of the conservative movement coordinate its messaging better to correctly define what being a “conservative” actually is–and help people across America understand what their members Congress are actually doing rather than just what they’re saying. Their website, which is still being upgraded but has been soft-launched online, is designed to function like a social media site where people can create their own profile and track how their members of Congress vote.
For most–eventually all, once they have it all together–members of Congress in both the House and Senate, the Conservative Review will have a scorecard with a “Liberty Score,” but will also have lengthy sections that go deeper than just a grade in explaining what members of Congress are actually doing. For instance, even though Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has an 80 percent Liberty Score–which even though it’s a “B,” it’s relatively good by this group’s harsh ranking system. His member profile that lays out “What You Don’t See on the Scorecard” notes Sessions’ work for the conservative movement in fighting the efforts of the political elite to pass a comprehensive immigration reform, or amnesty, bill through Congress.
“Sessions is widely considered the conservative leader in the Senate on immigration issues,” the group writes on that page.
There are only three U.S. Senators with “A” grades–Lee, who a has 100 percent rating, and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Rand Paul (R-KY), who have 95 and 94 percent ratings, respectively. Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Jim Risch (R-ID), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sessions are the only ones with “B” grades, getting 84 percent, 84 percent, 83 percent, 81 percent, 80 percent, and 80 percent respectively.
The group’s ratings contrast sharply with similar ratings from organizations like the American Conservative Union (ACU). For example, ACU, which recently came under the helm of a new executive director and has made overtures to conservatives, awarded McConnell an “A” in its latest rankings. McConnell, by contrast, receives a “D” from the Conservative Review.
The reason why their scorecard is harsher, they say on their website, is because it “grades members of Congress on the top 50 votes over the past six years.” The purpose behind it–and the other parts of their site, which will aggregate news from conservative and other sources as well have its own editorial staff–is to put the key votes, statements, actions, and everything else lawmakers are constantly graded on into perspective and context that’s often lost in Washington.
“The rolling six-year window shows a more accurate picture of a politician’s performance than the standard one or two-year scoring methods,” the group writes. “The Liberty Score empowers conservatives to quickly determine if a politician is supporting conservative principles separating their rhetoric from reality.”
The organization they’ve set up is a for-profit company, designed as a news and information source–something that’s sure to feed allegations from the political establishment that they’re pushing “purity for profit,” a line the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and McConnell’s team coined to attack Bevin and other Tea Party challengers this year.
But right now the organization is not making any profit and isn’t asking for donations from the public, nor does it expect to ever ask for those donations–it’s just asking people across the country to sign up and create social media profiles on the site to select which members of Congress they want to track. After creating a profile, the site will then email, text, or through other means notify users when the members of Congress they’re tracking make a key action or take a key vote. Assuming this stage goes well, they’ll later roll out other products designed to supplement this one–from which they’ll make the profits they need to operate the media organization.
This article has been updated.