The email that killed Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker of the House went out Thursday morning to wealthy donors, various Republican representatives, and conservative members of the press, “threatening to expose an alleged affair with a colleague,” according to the Huffington Post.
Rumors about Representatives Renee Ellmers and Kevin McCarthy’s affair have been intensifying in D.C. for months, though some say the rumor itself has been around since 2013. There is no evidence of said affair, but if you’re a Republican loathed by GOP extremists, the rumor itself is as bad as if it were confirmed.
Adding insult to injury, the affair story was “broken” by Charles C. Johnson, the disgraced racist blogger who has been permanently banned from Twitter for his offensive and harassing tweets of people he doesn’t like.
More important, however, is that the email was sent by Steven Baer, a Chicago-based GOP donor and operative known for mass-emailing high profile conservative donors and Republican lawmakers as a matter of routine.
Steven Baer has one apparent goal: to end legal abortion in this country forever. To do that, he is unafraid to use his email account, rumors, and his electronic Rolodex to destroy the careers of anyone he perceives as standing in the way. And it seems he’s just getting started.
Who Is Steven Baer?
The picture at the top of this article is a newspaper photo of Baer in 1990, the year he ran for the Republican nomination for Illinois governor. His primary backer was secretive Chicago millionaire Barre Seid, who is closely affiliated with the Koch-funded Heartland Institute. Seid is also one of the primary funders of Islamophobic organizations around the country.
Baer was 30 years old when he declared his candidacy for governor. The executive director of the United Republican Fund of Illinois, which was created to promote conservative principles in Illinois, Baer ran on a platform of cutting taxes for the wealthy and opposing all abortion rights. In a state where Republicans running for office depend on getting Democratic votes, Baer was the designated candidate to yank the GOP to the far right. He lost his bid to Gov. Jim Edgar, who won with 63 percent of the vote.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Baer left the United Republican Fund in a financial shambles after his failed bid for the gubernatorial nomination. He left politics for awhile, but came back in 1994 with a third-party bid, bankrolled primarily by Seid. They named their new party the Term Limits and Tax Limits Party, but were disqualified from the ballot because too many petition signatures could not be verified. Chicago Tribune writer Thomas Hardy went so far as to allege that the petition signatures were evidence of overt election fraud.
Baer’s campaign, short-lived as it was, consisted of visual stunts and taunts against the mainstream—those the press might characterize as serious—politicians. One of his more memorable stunts was to dress his wife and children in pig snouts to parody his opponents.
Other conservatives in Illinois felt betrayed by his third-party bid, and ultimately separated themselves from him, alleging that he routinely stabbed them in the back by refusing to support them after they supported him.
The years between 1994 and 2015 are a cipher, but reports say Baer sold reverse mortgages after leaving the front line of Illinois politics. Apparently he did quite well in that industry, since he now has the means to offer $500,000 donations for groups willing to attack Republicans he views as “squishes.”
Steven Baer Is an Anti-Abortion, Single-Issue Zealot
Abortion is the centerpiece of Baer’s political zeitgeist. He uses the debt ceiling and budget initiatives as his hammer, but his goal is to ban abortion forever. In 2014, he sent a mailing to church pastors, rabbis, and leaders promising them donations in exchange for distribution of voter guides targeting all candidates who supported any abortions, including those sought in cases of rape and incest. And as he stated in his four-page pitch, he has no problem taking down Republicans who finance “baby-killing”:
Abortion appears to be the only issue that fires Baer up, and it stretches all the way back to when Robert Bork was nominated for the Supreme Court. Baer was serving as executive director of the United Republican Fund (URF), and he used that position to beat any senator who might have opposed Bork. Specifically, he zeroed in on Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Paul Simon (D-IL), according to Ethan Bronner’s book on the Bork nomination.
According to Bronner’s book, Baer “set up Senators Biden and Simon as targets since both were committee members running for President and were against Bork.”
“Baer’s group sent a plane with a banner over the Iowa State Fair during a debate, saying BIDEN AND SIMON, BORK BASHERS, LIBERAL LAPDOGS,” Bronner wrote, adding:
At the Illinois fair [URF] handed out large tickets to a Biden and Simon Puppet Show, “starring Joe ‘Absolutely Open Mind’ Biden and Paul ’50 Ways to Leave Your Principles’ Simon, produced by bootlicking, sycophantic political ambition, directed by the liberal special interests that control the Democratic presidential primary process and the activist agenda of the Supreme Court.”
Abortion was the key reason Democrats opposed Bork’s nomination. There was a very real fear that if Bork were elevated to the court, he would reverse Roe v. Wade, consigning women to die at the hands of back-alley abortionists or forcing them to give birth to children they did not want.
Baer was a pioneer in what we recognize today as the usual Tea Party Taliban politicos, and he wants to see a debt default and a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding. To that end, it’s necessary for him to use any resource at his disposal to remove from leadership anyone who might actually govern responsibly.
Baer, Serial “Email Harasser”
These days, Baer is famous for firing off bombastic emails to a number of wealthy donors and congresspeople at their personal email addresses. In 2013, the National Review called him a “serial email harasser.”
According to reporter Jonathan Strong, “Baer has mocked those who try to unsubscribe and seemingly has no bounds to the language he will employ in exhorting conservative and Republican officials to take a harder stance against President Obama, particularly over the matter of abortion.”
His “Who’s Who” of email recipients is quite impressive, including David and Charles Koch, Foster Friess, Matt Kibbe, Tony Perkins, Grover Norquist, Erick Erickson, and Rick Santorum, whom he personally supported in his 2012 bid for the Republican nomination.
Using graphic subject lines like “Feast on RINO flesh,” Baer acts as a behind-the-scenes agitator and strongman, threatening on the one hand to mete out discipline to anyone in the party who strays from the extreme conservative line, and on the other, offering to donate up to $500,000 to anyone who will run ads against “squish” RINOs who dare to govern.
In an email about John Boehner’s decision to fund the government and not default on the national debt, the subject line called Boehner a “child-sacrificing, Baal-worshiping bow-down to Obama.”
Baer claims that, “House Republicans are actively financing abortion subsidies.” Not content to stop there, he further claimed that “John Boehner’s House Republicans have become the world’s biggest abortion financiers.”
Baer Won a Round. Now What?
Whatever the outcome of the speaker race, it’s fair to assume we are staring into the face of a government shutdown, which will come about as a result of conservatives’ claim that federal funding for Planned Parenthood pays for abortions. Worse yet, we have a renegade group of Republicans who are beholden to Baer and his donor friends who have no compunction about defaulting on the national debt rather than increasing the debt ceiling.
All of this, because one anti-abortion extremist worked behind the scenes to undo Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker. Whether McCarthy’s real sin was exposing the true motive behind the Benghazi committee or failing to dispel rumors of an affair with Rep. Renee Ellmers, who is also being primaried because she is now viewed as a “squish” over her refusal to vote for a 20-week abortion ban, Baer succeeded.
That success wasn’t enough for Baer, though. After Baer sent the first email with links to the Ellmers rumors, he sent a second email out to the same group. This one was more threatening than the first, because he clearly didn’t intend for McCarthy to only walk away from the speaker’s chair. This time, Baer wanted his congressional seat too.
The subject line read, “Kevin, why not resign like Bob Livingston?”
Steven Baer is not finished. Not by a long shot.