Cantor's policy group 'in a suspended state'
One year ago this week, a group of Republican luminaries led by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) gathered at Pie-Tanza pizzeria in Arlington for a town-hall style launch of a new group designed to help the GOP forge a policy agenda -- the National Council for a New America.
Now, the group isn't meeting anymore -- at a pizzeria or anywhere else -- and on Thursday, Democratic operatives were gleefully sending around a story in CQ and Roll Call noting the organization's demise.
Cantor spokesman John Murray confirmed to The Washington Post that NCNA was no longer operational. "It's in a suspended state," he said.
With the help of ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (R), who attended that first event, Cantor started NCNA to "engage with and empower the American people to develop innovative solutions that meet the serious challenges confronting our country." The group promised "a series of forums, town halls, and an online effort" to connect average Americans with experts and policymakers. Sarah Palin and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) were also enlisted to help the effort.
But the group quickly drew flak from Democrats, who questioned whether it was appropriate for Cantor to operate it from the taxpayer-funded minority whip's office. Last July, the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics asking for a probe into whether Cantor was violating House rules by using official resources -- including his office staff and Web site -- to maintain an organization that seemed political in nature.
Murray said OCE -- which is tasked with vetting allegations against lawmakers and deciding whether they should be referred to the House ethics committee -- had informed Cantor's office that it had dismissed the complaint against him. Following official policy, an OCE spokesman declined to comment on that assertion.
Murray contends that the NCNA was a success, pointing to the heavy media coverage the group's kickoff received. But it appears never to have held another public meeting after the first event in Arlington, and did not follow through on its pledge to conduct town halls around the country.
The national council's Web site is down, and Murray said the entire Minority Whip site was in the midst of a redesign. He noted that Cantor remains active in helping Republicans develop their policy platform. Cantor chairs the House GOP's Economic Recovery Working Group, which has helped spread the party message on issues ranging from economic stimulus package to the financial regulatory reform bill.
Cantor is also helping Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) formulate the "Commitment to America," a blueprint for how a Republican majority would govern modeled partly on the "Contract With America" that helped the GOP capture the House in 1994.
Off the Hill, a host of new outside groups have been formed with an eye toward helping Republicans compete intellectually and financially this November. One group, American Action Network, is run by Rob Collins, a former senior aide to Cantor.
It's unclear whether any of those groups plan to visit Pie-Tanza soon.
May 6, 2010; 3:03 PM ET
Categories: Ben Pershing , Election 2010 , Eric Cantor
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