No House Republican did more to anger anti-abortion groups last year than Rep. Renee Ellmers, the North Carolina lawmaker who last January scuttled legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks. At the time, anti-abortion leaders vowed that they and their members would remember Ellmers’ betrayal during her next primary.
Apparently, they forgot.
Nearly every one of the country’s most prominent anti-abortion groups have stayed out of Ellmers’ primary, not even offering so much as an endorsement to her opponents – much less the financial and grassroots support vital to defeating an incumbent member of Congress.
Frank Cannon, a contributor to The Pulse 2016, said the lack of groups spending in opposition to Ellmers is a symptom of a larger problem:
“Social-issue groups across the board need to recognize that if there are no consequences to people disagreeing with you, you’re not going to get taken seriously,” said Frank Cannon, a leader within the anti-abortion movement and president of the American Principles Project, a social conservative group. “We spend virtually nothing in directly engaging in elections. And the absence on that is one of the big dramatic flaws … for the social conservative movement.”
Cannon explained why this is taking place:
Money is the biggest obstacle facing social conservative groups, Cannon says. They don’t have much to begin with, he explains, because rich donors are more interested in fiscal issues. And what money these groups do have is funneled to other endeavors, such as legal strategies.
There’s no doubt, he adds, that in the era of unlimited contributions to super PACs, that organizations that don’t receive million-dollar checks easily have lost influence.
“Post-Citizens United, there has been a mismatch between the strength of the grassroots operation and ability of that to move the party and the ability of donors to move the party,” Cannon said.
Jon Schweppe is Deputy Director of Communications for the American Principles Project.