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Conservative Donors Grow Frustrated With Congress Over Slow Legislative Progress


Republicans hope to keep hold on their majority in Congress in next year's midterm elections. But some major donors of conservative interests are reportedly upset with the failure of the Republican Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or pass other major legislation. Dan Eberhart is CEO of the Canary, LLC energy company. He has been a major contributor to the Republican National Committee and the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and Scott Walker. He joins us in our studios.

Mr. Eberhart, thanks so much for being with us.

DAN EBERHART: Thank you for having me, Scott. Good morning.

SIMON: You've spoken approvingly of Steve Bannon who has notably declared war - his word - against the Republican establishment. Do you share that feeling?

EBERHART: To a large degree, yes, I do.

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SIMON: And why?

EBERHART: Well, I think that, you know - from my perspective - I've worked hard to both, you know, give money that I've earned while working and to help raise money for these folks. And my frustration is particularly focused in the Senate more so than the RNC generally or the House side or the administration.

And I feel like the Republicans have raised so much money on Obamacare. And they've told voters over and over again they want to repeal and replace Obamacare or, you know, maybe some kind of major fix. And they've done that so much. They've raised so much money, and they've repeated it so many times to the voters that it's become core to the brand and they've elevated it to that status. And then when they've got the majority in the House, the majority in the Senate and the presidency, and they can't seem to get it done in the Senate.

And so I feel like it's a situation where the dog caught the car and there was no plan. And I'm frustrated because I want something to be done. If we're not going to use the majority, what's the point of having the majority?

SIMON: The dog caught the car. The dog is the Senate?

EBERHART: No, the dog is the Republican senators.

SIMON: Yeah, OK.

EBERHART: They caught the car being they've got the majority in all three branches and the ability to govern, and they're largely not.

SIMON: What about the argument, though, that any politician in any year has to be aware of public opinion polls and that there just didn't seem to be - the results of the election being noted, there just didn't seem to be the public support to overturn the Affordable Care Act because people, a lot of Americans, were concerned that they would be left without health care coverage.

EBERHART: Sure. Why - I think that's a good point. And I do think we have to look at the situation holistically. But I think that, you know, a lot of these people - you know, particularly - let's take John McCain for instance. You know, one of McCain's commercials said - he wasn't, you know, against Obamacare; he was leading the fight in the Senate against Obamacare. And then he, you know, does the kind of dramatic thumbs down, you know, late in the night.

I think that the voters expected people - the voters expect politicians, you know, whatever their stripe of - liberal, you know, conservative, Republican, Democrat or whatever - to, you know, if they get the majority when the election happens, to follow through on their campaign promises.

SIMON: Karl Rove, who is nobody's idea of a left-wing martinet, wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal this week that disdains many of the candidates that Steve Bannon now supports and might be asking for your support. Let me ask you about a couple.


SIMON: Kelli Ward - we mentioned Arizona, running against Senator Flake there - has claimed that jet contrails are really chemicals sprayed by the government for mind or population control and has praised Edward Snowden.

EBERHART: Yeah. In that race, I'm supporting Jeff Flake.

SIMON: OK. In the House, Mr. Bannon has backed former Representative Michael Grimm of Staten Island, who's just coming out of prison. He had to resign in 2015 after pleading guilty to tax fraud. Is he a good candidate?

EBERHART: Not really familiar with him so much but I - you know, from the surface level stuff, I think we could probably find someone better.

SIMON: Republicans are now working on a tax plan. If they're able to pass that, would you reconsider some of your some of your disdain for the...

EBERHART: Yes, absolutely. But going back to the other thing, you know, I think Steve Bannon has backed a lot of people that I am supportive of, like Hawley in Missouri, like Marsha Blackburn, like potentially what he's looking to do in Wyoming. In several other races, I think he's backing very strong candidates that have a great chance of winning. And I think the Arizona race is, at the very least, a toss-up right now. So - sorry, I - that's my completion to the earlier question. So your...

SIMON: Yeah.

EBERHART: Your last question was, you know, will I come back into the fold and support McConnell if he gets tax reform done? I think there's a really good chance. I think the country needs tax reform. I think it's been a long time. And I think, to some extent, McConnell and his team can put the toothpaste back in the tube if they win. You know, my analogy for this whole thing is college football.

SIMON: Yeah.

EBERHART: If - you know, if you're not winning on Saturday...

SIMON: Yeah.

EBERHART: ...At some point, we're going to need a change of leadership or we need a win.

SIMON: Dan Eberhart, thanks so much for being with us.

EBERHART: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.