WASHINGTON ― As House Republicans get ready to release the details of their tax reform proposal on Wednesday, rank-and-file GOP members spent Tuesday morning learning what consequences might befall them if they don’t get onboard.
During a closed-door meeting with House GOP members on Tuesday, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) let American Action Network’s executive director, Corry Bliss, present members with three different ads that the tax-exempt, 501(c)4 organization has been running in some districts ― and might run in their districts, with a slightly different tone, depending on how upcoming legislative battles go.
All three ads were supportive of tax reform ― and none of them were explicitly negative against members ― but they showed different endings depending on whose district the ad was running in, according to members in attendance. As one example, an ad made a pitch to overhaul the tax code and then urged viewers to call the office of Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) to tell him to support the reform.
In the words of one member present, the ad “kind of left a strange taste in my mouth.”
“Like a teacher showing the kids a paddle on the first day of class, the blatant implication was that those who misbehaved would be spanked,” the member said.
Another member raised the point that ads imploring voters to call congressional offices don’t really come off as positive, while another GOP member called the whole presentation “kind of creepy.”
“Since when do you let some outside PAC come in and talk?” the member asked.
“This is nuts. Like, really?” the Republican continued. “That’s what it’s come to? You’ve let the head of an outside PAC come in and talk to the Republican conference? I don’t know. I think it’s goofy.”
Most of the members HuffPost talked to would only speak on background, citing a fear of retaliation from the group and the fact that conference meetings are supposed to be off the record. And many of the most hardline conservatives who might be offended by the presentation were not in attendance, as GOP conference meetings held at the Republican National Committee building are typically consumed with updates on who is paying their dues to the National Republican Congressional Committee, and who is not. (Conservatives generally belong to the latter category.)
But some conservatives ― some of whom weren’t at the meeting ― were willing to speak on the record about the situation and an already tense relationship…