‘Young Guns’ Under Fire
The Young Guns Network raises eyebrows with its support of Dick Lugar.

Kevin McCarthy, Eric Cantor, and Paul Ryan


Robert Costa

A non-profit political organization using the moniker of House leaders Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Paul Ryan is coming under fire for its support of defeated Indiana senator Dick Lugar.

The Young Guns Network, often referred to as the YG Network, spent over $100,000 trying to prop up Lugar in his bid to fend off conservative upstart Richard Mourdock.

“There is a certain irony in a group called the ‘Young Guns’ supporting an octogenarian running for an unprecedented seventh term,” says Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, an influential conservative advocacy group. “It’s clear that Cantor and the establishment-Republican leadership are fighting to protect incumbents they know will not challenge their orders.”

The YG Network, though not officially tied to the House leaders, uses the “Young Guns” imprimatur, a phrase inspired by the title of the trio’s 2010 paperback. That book, Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders, was published before the midterms and generated significant attention, and made Cantor, McCarthy, and Ryan media sensations.

The lawmakers’ relationship with the outfit is complicated. By law, the three congressmen cannot be involved with the strategy or operation of the YG Network, a 501(c)4 group that was founded by John Murray and Rob Collins, two Republican consultants who previously worked for Cantor on Capitol Hill. But that hasn’t stopped conservatives from asking whether the ties are too close for comfort.

Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a top ally of Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, tells National Review Online that he’s not surprised by the post-primary questions. “It’s certainly not the call I would have made,” he says of the support for Lugar. But he cautions political observers not to assume that the three congressmen have any involvement with the YG Network.

“Most folks who support [YG Network] probably think that their donations are going toward supporting the House majority, and that money should be,” Cole says. “They probably don’t think that money is going into Senate races. But the super-PAC phenomenon has changed the rules, and because they can’t legally coordinate, there are issues.”

Several House Republican aides, speaking with NRO, are also skeptical about whether the YG Network — which is associated with the YG Action Fund, a 501(c)3 group focused on congressional races — accurately represents the positions of Cantor, McCarthy, and Ryan.

There are also varying levels of comfort with the YG Network’s management and its potential to cause unrest for Republican leaders.

“There is some confusion about what they’re doing,” says one House Republican staffer familiar with the three legislators. “The super PACs supposedly are disconnected from what’s happening on the Hill, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case, and they have made some mistakes.”

Another Republican aide, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive relationships between leadership offices, believes that the YG Network’s pro-Lugar ad buy was a “strange call.” The framing of the primary as a battle of energy ideas was also seen as odd, and driven, perhaps, more by the interests of the YG operatives than by House GOP policy.