A union-backed “centrist” group led by Speaker John Boehner’s friend Steve LaTourette is looking to flex its muscles in the newly Republican-controlled Congress.
Republican Main Street Partnership, which calls itself “the governing wing” of the Republican Party, claims the loyalties of 68 sitting members of Congress. LaTourette, a lobbyist and former congressman from Boehner’s native Ohio, has been president and CEO since leaving the House in 2013.
LaTourette was elected to Congress in the 1994 GOP wave, and for the past 20 years has called himself a conservative while using “govern” as a synonym for “pass the legislation unions pay me to pass.” He’s an Americans for Tax Reform pledge breaker with lifetime ratings of 35 percent from Heritage Action and 45 percent from Club for Growth.
LaTourette has elevated sneering appeals to pragmatism and compromise into an art form. He openly despises free-market groups – perhaps none more than Club for Growth, which he attacked as part of “the grifting wing” of the GOP in a Politico column last August.
“This isn’t about ideology,” LaTourette wrote. “The Republican Party is a conservative party. This fight is about whether we will govern or continue to let the grifters profit off of the dysfunction in Washington.”
If “grifters” seems severe, consider that LaTourette raged against the “bloodsuckers” at ATR in one of his final speeches on the floor of the House. In the past two years he has called Club for Growth “a cancer on the Republican Party” and described the Club and its allies as “an Ebola virus that spreads” and “messes up the process.”
“The atmosphere today no longer encourages the finding of common ground,” LaTourette complained when announcing his retirement in 2012.
Contrary to LaTourette’s assurances conservatives should blithely vote Republican and let the pros do their thing, his continued influence proves the need for more and better-organized advocacy of limited government.
Main Street Partnership, through vehicles including its heavily union-funded super PAC, spent millions in 2014 in what LaTourette hilariously described as an attempt by big-government Republicans to “level the playing field” against Club for Growth, Heritage Action, and Senate Conservatives Fund.
“Political grifting is a lucrative business,” LaTourette wrote in his Politico piece last summer. He would know.
During the 2010 and 2012 campaign cycles, around half of LaTourette’s top donors were labor unions. He resigned from Congress after Republicans refused to support a union-handout highway bill and his alternative budget, which included smaller spending cuts and larger tax hikes than Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.
“We’re talking about building roads and bridges for Chrissakes,” LaTourette griped, fuming that conservative intransigence prevented “getting the no-brainers done and governing.”
Pining for the days before the Tea Party, LaTourette said, “Things that needed to be done to move the country forward, like student loans, like the farm bill, like the highway bill, they got 350, 400 votes and there was no such thing as a Republican bridge or a Democratic road.”
LaTourette’s decision to drop out of his cakewalk reelection race in the summer of 2012 also coincided with his failure to win a coveted leadership spot on the House Transportation Committee. He insisted this had nothing to do with his resignation.
Observing one of Capitol Hill’s most hallowed traditions, LaTourette was announced as head of a new lobbying office at D.C. law firm McDonald Hopkins within a week of his January 2013 departure from Congress. He was named president of Main Street Partnership the same day.
One of few Republicans to ever vote for the AFL-CIO dream policy of card check unionization, LaTourette owes his political success to his Big Labor backing, his earmarking prowess, and his friendship with Speaker Boehner.
LaTourette’s passion for lobbying – and lobbyists – isn’t new, either.
In 2004, Congressman LaTourette admitted to having an affair with his former chief of staff, Jennifer Laptook. According to his wife of 21 years, LaTourette told her over the phone that he had a girlfriend and wanted a divorce.
By the time LaTourette and Laptook were married in 2005, Laptook was vice president of D.C. lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates, having capitalized on connections she made while sleeping with her former boss.
In a fawning profile on LaTourette’s retirement, Slate’s Dave Weigel described him as “a pragmatic conservative and ally of John Boehner, there when the party needed him, and there to shame extremists when they blew up a compromise.”
As LaTourette told The Hill in 2012, “when you say that I have to believe in X, Y and Z to be a good Republican, that isn’t what the Republican Party stands for.”
Standing for things is not what the Republican Party stands for, and don’t let the extremists who say otherwise get you down. Steve LaTourette is from the governing wing of the GOP, and he’s here to help.