WASHINGTON — The fiscally conservative Club for Growth, which backed Rep. Tom Cotton in 2012, is looking for a primary challenger to U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford in 2014.
The group on Wednesday launched a new website that features nine House Republicans the group says need to face challengers that are more conservative.
Club for Growth points first to Crawford’s proposal last year to increase taxes on earnings over $1 million as part of a balanced budget agreement.
"In addition to this massive tax increase proposal, Crawford also opposed limiting spending in the highway bill to just gas tax receipts, despite the fact that the Highway Trust Fund has needed repeated bailouts to cover its bloated spending budget," Club for Growth stated.
Crawford, R-Jonesboro, chalked up the attack to his supporting efforts to achieve a long-term and systemic fix to the budget crisis rather than nibbling at yearly appropriation measures.
"The ratings are a little squirrelly considering I had the second highest conservative score among the Arkansas delegation," he said. "It really boils down to a fundamental disagreement I have with some so-called conservatives about whether we push for temporary feel-good cuts that vanish in a few years or whether we do the hard work of fighting for permanent spending controls like a balanced budget amendment."
Club for Growth had a significant impact in Arkansas’s 4th District congressional race in 2012, backing Cotton, R-Dardanelle, in a primary over Beth Anne Rankin.
Cotton defeated Rankin after trailing in early polls by 47 percentage points. His success was due in part to raising more than $245,000 in contributions earmarked through the Club for Growth Political Action Committee, according to OpenSecrets.org data.
Club for Growth launched its "Primary My Congressman" project in conjunction with release of its 2012 Scorecard for Congress, which rates lawmakers on their voting record.
The latest scorecard found that only 39 members of Congress have lifetime scores of 90 percent or above relating to "economic freedom and pro-growth policy."
Meanwhile, the Cook Political Report found that in the 2012 election cycle the Republicans faced no competitive threat in 190 districts.
"There are literally dozens of missed opportunities to elect real fiscal conservatives to Congress – not more ‘moderates’ who will compromise with Democrats to just increase spending now and grow government a little bit slower than usual," the Club for Growth stated.
Among the Arkansas delegation, Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, has the highest ranking with the Club for Growth. He voted with the group’s position 75 percent of the time, its scorecard said.
Crawford was at 58 percent, former Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, 57 percent and Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, 56 percent.
Club for Growth also singled out Crawford on seven specific votes that he cast either to expand federal spending or to block proposed cuts. It noted that Crawford took the Club for Growth’s position on just five of 45 roll call votes it scored for seeking cuts in federal spending.
Among the 45 roll call votes the Club for Growth scored for spending cuts, Ross voted for none. Womack voted for just two, and Griffin voted for 24.
The two votes that Womack supported Club for Growth would have reduced spending by $1.4 million. Crawford and Griffin also supported the cuts. The three other votes Crawford supported would have cut the budget by another $58.9 million. Griffin also supported those cuts.
The National Journal 2012 "conservative" ranking for House members had Griffin ranked 80th, Crawford 103rd and Womack 150th.
A University of Georgia ranking of partisan voting in the 112th Congress found Griffin 140th of 243 Republicans, Crawford 188th and Womack 198th.
Womack represents the most conservative district in Arkansas and 42nd nationally, according to the Cook Political Report. Crawford’s district ranked 148th and Griffin’s ranked 188th while Cotton’s district ranked 126th.