Suddenly, business executives — like their allies in the Republican Party — are getting a little nervous about candidates favored by the tea party. With a couple of exceptions, the GOP has generally welcomed the enthusiasm generated by the tea party, even if several tea party-backed candidates endorse positions that are not in keeping with Republican orthodoxy.
But now, business interests are taking another look, hoping several of the tea party-backed candidates don’t actually mean what they say. The GOP still favors them over Democrats, of course, since they back lower taxes and less government regulation. Still, according to The Wall Street Journal:
“Most of K Street thinks it’s tall corn and lollipops with all these new Republicans coming to town, but lobbyists should realize there could be a rub between client priorities and the governing plans of tea-party members,” said Eric Ueland, a lobbyist who represents companies including Pepsi Co., Time Warner Inc. and General Motors Corp.
Congress plans next year to consider a $500 billion road and highway plan, and industry representatives are already bracing for opposition from tea-party Republicans.
“It’s probable that some” of these will oppose the transportation bill, said Pete Ruane, president of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. “I wouldn’t say we are worried, but we will be more challenged, for sure.”
“In many instances, we don’t know enough about the concerns of some of the winners in the primaries to be comfortable that they understand the intricacies of the battle for free enterprise,” said Larry Harlow, who handles the Washington interests of the American Petroleum Institute and such firms as Boeing Co. and Union Pacific Corp.
“They may view some of the tax incentives as some type of corporate welfare,” said Trent Lott, the former Senate Republican Leader and now a lobbyist. “But if you care about jobs and the economy, you have to give people incentives.”
Congress is also scheduled to take up a multibillion-dollar farm bill in 2011 that includes expensive subsidies for crops and farmers. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Senate candidate who was backed by the tea-party movement, has been critical of farm subsidies.
“We know that Mr. Paul has taken positions that are sometimes on the other side of the aisle of what we would support,” said Dan Smaldone, the director of public relations for the Kentucky Farm Bureau. “But we see this as an opportunity to work with him.”
Paul is absolutely right about farm subsidies. They are an outrageous giveaways to agribusiness, and they need to end. (Why don’t more conservatives complain about corporate welfare? I love this quote about whether they “understand the intricacies of the battle for free enterprise.” That’s just another way of saying, Big Business loves ’socialism’ as long as it benefits them.) I could muster a bit of enthusiasm for Paul’s campaign — despite his loony positions on many other issues — if I thought he would stick by his principled opposition to farm subsidies.
But I’m betting that he won’t. He has already begun re-shaping his platform and abandoning old policy positions so that he sounds much more like a conventional Republican. I don’t think Big Business has anything to worry about from most of the tea party candidates. They will dance to the tune of their business allies.