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Tea party group takes credit for McConnell's stimulus opposition

FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe claimed in a 2009 memo that he strong-armed Mitch McConnell into opposing President Obama's stimulus.
By Gabrielle Levy Follow @gabbilevy Contact the Author   |   July 31, 2014 at 2:12 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 31 (UPI) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly needed a little convincing to oppose the federal stimulus, potentially undermining his efforts to convince Kentuckians of his conservative credentials as he faces a stiff re-election challenge.

A leaked memo from FreedomWorks CEO and President Matt Kibbe takes credit for convincing a reluctant McConnell to oppose President Obama's stimulus and "fomenting the tea party movement."

In the May 2009 document, Kibbe describes fighting to oppose the $787 billion package meant to pull the U.S. economy out of recession. He writes that Republicans in Congress, including McConnell, were not willing to block the stimulus, and claims responsibility for strong-arming members into trying to do so.

"Early in the stimulus battle, we learned that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was leaning towards letting Senate Republicans 'vote their conscience,' code words for an unwillingness to lead," Kibbe writes. "Our campaign team was able, with just several hours notice, to mobilize a grassroots firestorm that systematically shut down every phone line in the Leader's offices, both in Washington, D.C., and in Kentucky. This unreported story resulted in a very strong Senate Republican Leadership position opposing the trillion-dollar stimulus bill and a surprisingly unified opposition in the Senate."

In campaigning against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell has touted his conservative credentials by claiming the title as the biggest thorn in Obama's side. He has maintained that he was opposed to the stimulus from the start, and had consistently encouraged his fellow GOP senators as well. In the end, the stimulus passed 60-38, with all but three Republicans voting against.

The senator and FreedomWorks are often at loggerheads, with the tea party group attacking McConnell as having "gone native" in Washington and supporting his challenger in the Kentucky primary this spring.

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