GOP Civil War Claims Its First Casualty

Republican Study Committee director Paul Teller was shown the door for leaking to outside organizations.

Maybe we can get a sense of where Republicans are going by who they fire. Today's scalp belongs to Paul Teller, long-time director of the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee. According to Politico, Teller was fired for coordinating with outside groups in order to push the conservative agenda on House Republicans.

As Dave Weigel noted, Paul Teller should have been fired in 2011. His job was to push members and GOP policy to the right, but he was also coordinating with outside groups, which so infuriated House members that they came together to call for his head on a platter during The Great Debt Ceiling Debacle of 2011.

House Republicans on Wednesday morning were calling for the firing of Republican Study Committee staffers after they were caught sending e-mails to conservative groups urging them to pressure GOP lawmakers to vote against a debt proposal from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Infuriated by the e-mails from Paul Teller, the executive director of the RSC, and other staffers, members started chanting “Fire him, fire him!” while Teller stood silently at a closed-door meetings of House Republicans.

“It was an unbelievable moment,” said one GOP insider. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

An RSC aide sent a Tuesday e-mail to outside conservatives seeking to “kill the Boehner deal.” The RSC emails were sent to a listserv with conservative activists.

Teller and the RSC were also active in the Groundswell listerv. Ginni Thomas and her Gang of Groundswellers memorialized their coordination with Teller in a March 7, 2013 list of action items for the group, which included a list of "asks" for conservatives to put in front of John Boehner in exchange for their support for the Paul Ryan budget.

According to Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller, he was actively working to build opposition to the Murray-Ryan budget agreement, which would have caused yet another government shutdown. Washington Post has more details:

According to GOP aides familiar with the decision, the ouster came after Scalise learned earlier this week that Teller had been working with outside conservative groups against the two-year budget deal that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) unveiled Tuesday night.


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One GOP aide familiar with the decision said that Teller had even worked with outside conservative groups to get them to pressure a few dozen of the most conservative Republicans not to support a"clean" funding resolution at the minimum level for the rest of the year – believing that doing so would provide full funding for President Obama’s health-care law for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Predictably, Teller's comrades-in-arms are howling in anger over his firing. The group For America fired off a letter of support for him, headlined by Edwin Meese III, Phyllis Schlafly, Mike Needham, and Colin Hanna, among others, all of whom were involved or had groups involved in the Groundswell strategy/messaging discussions.

National Journal reports that members were fed up with the constant moving of goal posts, which is what led to the freeze-out of Heritage Action earlier this year.

To some conservative members, this was Heritage Action moving the goalposts, plain and simple. And they were furious about it. Members mumbled to each other about how it had become impossible to please these powerful outside groups, which are known to raise more money off Democratic victories than Republican ones. There was, as one Hill aide put it, "enormous discontent" among conservative members who were tired of feeling threatened by an outside group that existed as a parasite living off the Republican members of Congress.

It appears that the purity brigade has finally exhausted the patience of Republicans who are interested in actually doing something other than stepping on their own chances for re-election next year. Could they finally have found their cojones? If Boehner's outburst is any indication, perhaps they've decided the time is nigh to take control and (finally) marginalize the wingnuts.

Time will tell.

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