Copyright ©2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now, a story about big political spending by outside groups not in the presidential campaign, but in a Senate race. Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana is facing a primary challenge.

And one group that's supporting him is causing some confusion, as we hear from NPR's Tamara Keith.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: YG Network describes itself as supporting center-right policies and the policy-makers who fight for those policies. YG is short for Young Guns, a brand created in part by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The YG Network and two similarly named sister organizations were started late last year by former Cantor aids.

And, in their short existence, these YG groups have generated their share of controversy. Most recently, it came in the form of a mailer sent to Indiana voters. William Jacobson runs the Conservative Legal Insurrection blog and wrote about the mailer.

WILLIAM JACOBSON: A reader actually emailed me a copy that he received, which he was quite upset about.

KEITH: Last week, the YG Network spent more than $200,000 on mailers in support of Indiana Senator Dick Lugar, who's facing a tough primary challenge from the state treasurer. What got people upset is what the mailer said. In not so many words, it encouraged Democrats and Independents to vote in the Republican primary and support Lugar. Jacobson and a lot of other conservatives don't like the message that sends.

JACOBSON: You're basically saying, we don't care what the Republican voters think, what we care is that Richard Lugar gets the nomination. And I think that's what sits poorly with a lot of people.

KEITH: And, generally, encouraging people from the other party to try and sway your party's primary is a big political no-no. Mitt Romney was none too happy when Rick Santorum's campaign did something similar in the lead-up to the Michigan primary. This was Romney on Fox News channel.

MITT ROMNEY: It's confusing people. It's a new low in this campaign.

KEITH: When it comes to the YG Network mailer in the Senate race, former GOP congressman from Indiana, Mark Souder, is baffled.

REPRESENTATIVE MARK SOUDER: Why a Young Guns movement to try to make sure we have future leadership that's strong and advocates consistent conservative principles would join in with Lugar is just strange.

KEITH: Not least because, at 80 years old, Lugar is one of the longest serving members of the Senate and could hardly be described as a young gun.

This isn't the first time the YG groups have created a flap within a Republican primary. The YG Action Fund, a superPAC, spent $52,000 on radio ads to support Adam Kinzinger in an incumbent versus incumbent primary in Illinois this year. It worked and 10-term congressman, Don Manzullo, lost. Souder says this caused some unrest.

SOUDER: It was very upsetting to him and many friends of his that they got involved in that primary, but at least you could understand a little. This is much more bizarre.

KEITH: For Eric Cantor, the majority leader, these intraparty forays by the YG groups are generating ill will. Virtually every story about this controversial mailer describes the YG Network as a Cantor-affiliated group and those are the charitable ones.

Many conservatives and conservative groups are blaming Cantor directly, including the Club for Growth, which has endorsed the challenger in the Indiana Senate race, Richard Mourdock. Barney Keller is the group's spokesman.

BARNEY KELLER: You know, there's a big difference in what those two candidates stand for and it's just unfortunate that Eric Cantor and the Republican leadership is promoting the more liberal candidate.

KEITH: The club has poured nearly a million and a half dollars into the race. YG Action and YG Network did not respond to repeated requests for comment and Cantor's office stressed that he has nothing to do with the YG superPAC or any other superPAC.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.