Steve King Is Low On Money And Out Of Friends
Iowa Congressman Steve King finds himself low on campaign cash and with virtually no support from his party.
Steve King, the eight-term Republican Congressman from Iowa who has largely seen his party and his supporters abandon him in the wake of a series of controversies about past remarks about race and other issues, finds his reelection campaign nearly broke and himself without much support from his party:
As he gears up for a difficult re-election cycle, Rep. Steve King’s campaign is strapped for cash. Individual donations to the Iowa Republican have continued to flow but support from corporate donors and King’s own colleagues have vanished entirely.
King has not received a single contribution this year from a political action committee associated with a sitting member of Congress. Corporate PACs and interest groups have also completely shunned him. Through the first six months of the year, King received just two contributions from third party political entities: $2,000 donations from PACs associated with two former members of Congress, Lamar Smith (R-TX) and the infamous Todd Akin (R-MO).
It is a remarkable though not entirely unpredictable abandonment of a sitting member of Congress. Though he was always controversial and further to the right than most of his colleagues, King has burned virtually all his bridges in the party this year with outlandish comments about white supremacy and abortion.
But while those comments have made King a pariah in the party—with House Republican leaders stripping him of his committee assignments—King has refused to leave office. Now, as he faces the toughest campaign since he was first elected in 2002, he is doing so with a potentially catastrophic lack of resources. The $18,365 that King’s campaign had in the bank at the end of June was the least cash on hand he’s ever reported after the first six months of a cycle.
King is dealing with that lack of resources as he faces very immediate threats to his incumbency. His 2018 Democratic opponent, former professional baseball player J.D. Scholten, lost by fewer than three points last year, and is making another run for the seat. This time around King also has a formidable Republican primary opponent, state senator Randy Feenstra, who has already scored endorsements from influential Iowans such as evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats. At the end of July, Feenstra’s campaign committee reported having $337,314.30 cash on hand, compared to King’s $18,000.
Things weren’t always so financially dire for King. Throughout his time in the House, he has received more than $3 million from political groups associated with private companies, trade associations, members of Congress, and ideological advocacy groups. That support peaked during the 2012 cycle, when such groups donated nearly $700,000 to his re-election campaign.
King’s top industry donors throughout his career, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records, were the American Bankers Association, the National Association of Homebuilders, AT&T, Crystal Sugars, and the Rain and Hail Insurance Society. All of them last donated to King during the 2018 election cycle but have so far declined to do so in this cycle.
In fact, some are even funding his primary challenger. At least six industry PACs that have donated to King in the past, including those affiliated with shipping giant UPS and trade associations representing construction and agricultural firms, have chipped in to Feenstra’s campaign this year instead.
political problems began in January as the result of an interview with The New York Times during which the nine-term Iowa Republican questioned why favoring white supremacy was a bad thing and acknowledged his previous history of racist comments without repudiating them, was only the latest development in a long history of racist comments by the ten-term Iowa Congressman. This is, after all, a man who made his fame as the Republican Party’s loudest and most vitriolic voice in the anti-immigrant wing that began to grow late in the term of George W. Bush when party activists blocked an immigration reform plan back by Bush and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In the past, he has also become more and more bigoted in his comments about Muslims, including incidents in which he has spoken out against Muslims being allowed in the United States, suggested that Muslim-Americans should be barred from holding office, and against those who were elected and chose to be sworn in with their hand on a copy of the Koran.
Over the years, King has seemingly become more open about his sympathy for what are clearly white supremacist points of view, and an examination of his history shows he has a long history of remarks that can only be described as racist. Over the course of the past several years, for example, King has endorsed a candidate for Mayor of Toronto, Canada who has neo-Nazi ties, he has met with the leaders of a far-right political party in Austria that has been accused of questioning and downplaying the seriousness of the Holocaust. Among the accounts he follows on Twitter is an activist on the far-right of Australian politics who has, among other things, called for the hanging of a portrait of Adolf Hitler in every classroom in that country.
When he spoke with a far-right publication in Austria last year, King seemed very familiar with racist conspiracy theories, books, and ideas embraced by white supremacists and neo-Nazis across the globe. For example, as the Times article noted, King spoke of something called “the Great Replacement,” which is basically a far-right conspiracy theory that so-called “elites” are seeking to reduce white populations across the globe and replace them with minority groups from other parts of the world. This is the conspiracy theory that inspired the torch-bearing protesters in Charlottesville who chanted slogans such as “Blood And Soil!,” a slogan that has its roots in Nazi Germany, and “Jews will not replace us!” King has also forged close ties with far-right political leaders in Europe such as France’s Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, who has built his reputation on being one of the most virulent anti-Muslim politicians in Western Europe and has advocated ideas such as closing mosques. in response to the influx of mostly Muslim refugees and immigrants from Syria and other parts of the Middle East. In March of 2017, King tweeted his endorsement of Wilders in a tweet, saying that “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” Obviously, in both that comment and this one he’s referring to white, Christian babies. More recently, King made headlines again earlier this month when he defended his opposition to exceptions to a ban on abortion even in cases of rape and incest by stating that humanity would not exist if it weren’t for rape and incest.
None of this means that King is going to lose either next year’s GOP primary or the 2020 General Election, of course, but it does show that he is uniquely vulnerable this time in a way he hasn’t been before. Speaking frankly, there isn’t anything about the racist rhetoric that finally caused most Republicans to break with King that isn’t profoundly different from what we’ve heard from him for years now. It has been apparent for years that King is an anti-immigrant bigot who would be happy to see immigration from non-European nations essentially cut to zero.
It’s also been apparent for a long time that he is, at heart, a white supremacist. Notwithstanding that, though, King continued to receive the support of his party and plum committee assignments that allowed him to direct agricultural pork back to his district and to the agri-business corporations that supported him with campaign donations. Once the worst of his rhetoric became public, though, it was clear that he had crossed a line that the party could not tolerate, so they tossed him overboard and now clearly hoping that voters take him out in the primary next year so they don’t have to worry about having him on the General Election ballot. While it’s good to see this happen, the natural question for the GOP is, what took you so long?