In The Hill on May 21, David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), made serious waves when he gave his personal endorsement of Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) in the Pennsylvania Senate race pitting the veteran senator against Rep. Pat Toomey.
HUMAN EVENTS ran the following item in the June 16 Capital Briefs:
*NOT SO KEENE: Many conservatives are not very happy these days with longtime American Conservative Union (ACU) Chairman David Keene. Keene, in his May 21 column in The Hill newspaper, gave his “personal” endorsement to Pennsylvania liberal Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (lifetime ACU rating: 42%)-who is locked in a tough primary battle with Rep. Pat Toomey, a solid conservative (lifetime ACU rating: 96%). “I may be going soft, but I like him,” Keene wrote of Specter. “I like his honesty and his willingness to listen.” Was it honesty, some conservatives wonder, that drove Specter to vote “Not Proved” on impeachment articles citing President Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice?
Following Keene’s endorsement, the ACU received numerous complaints from conservatives, including a letter from several of Toomey’s House colleagues. In response, the ACU sent the following letter to Rep. Toomey.
The Honorable Pat Toomey
224 Cannon HOB
Washington DC 20515
Dear Congressman Toomey:
As you may be aware, some of your colleagues sent a letter to ACU concerning David Keene’s recent column in The Hill in which he personally endorsed Senator Specter. Below please find the body of a letter that was sent to each of the members of congress who signed the letter.
As the letter explains, ACU has endorsed you and supports you in your candidacy to be the next Senator from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The text of the letter follows:
“Thank you for your letter of May 22, 2003 concerning the upcoming Republican primary for U.S. Senator in Pennsylvania between your colleague Representative Patrick Toomey and the incumbent Senator Arlen Specter.
“I am writing to ensure you are aware that on April 7, 2003 the ACU-PAC sent a $500 contribution to Representative Toomey for his Senate campaign. This contribution was and is an endorsement by ACU-PAC of Congressman Toomey’s candidacy. ACU stands by its endorsement of Congressman Toomey in his bid to be the next Senator from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“ACU chairman, David Keene, wrote a column in The Hill newspaper six weeks after this organization endorsed Mr. Toomey. As you noted in your letter, Mr. Keene specifically mentioned Mr. Toomey’s ‘spectacular’ ACU Rating of 97 and characterized Senator Specter’s rating of 47 as ‘anemic.’ In that same article he expressed his personal favorable view of Mr. Specter: a view, based upon their many years of friendship. Mr. Keene’s personal view, in this case, does not reflect the stance of the ACU.
“As I am sure you know, David wears a number of ‘hats.’ He is chairman of the ACU, of course, but he is also a member of the board of the National Rifle Association, a columnist for The Hill, and a registered lobbyist. His work for the ACU is voluntary and always has been, and he devotes an inordinate amount of time to it.
“He also tries to make sure that those he deals with in any of his capacities knows which ‘hat’ he is wearing. He has a right to his personal views and I am sorry some confused them with the views of ACU.
“Since 1964, ACU has fought for our shared conservative principles of defending free-market capitalism, limited government, traditional values, and a strong military: all necessary elements for maintaining a strong and secure nation. ACU will continue to fight for and support those conservative principles and ideals that have made this country great and that I know we collectively cherish.
“I look forward to working with you in supporting our conservative movement on the many issues and concerns that face our country.”
W. Stephen Thayer