Heritage Action has spent the past several weeks relentlessly hammering Sen. Marco Rubio for his sponsorship of an immigration reform bill that the conservative political outfit characterizes as "amnesty." But the high-profile battle hasn't stopped the group from using Rubio's conservative all-star status to raise money.
In a letter sent to prospective donors across the country, Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint took some credit for Rubio's work in the Senate, suggesting it was proof of DeMint's success in challenging the Republican establishment and championing grassroots conservatism from Capitol Hill.
"As a result of all those efforts, I truly feel our beliefs are being ably represent in the Senate, with what's been referred to as a '1927 New York Yankees lineup' of powerful conservatives, including Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey, Ted Cruz, and now my successor Tim Scott," DeMint wrote.
The letter, dated June 17, came amid a series of attacks on Rubio by Heritage, which has waged an aggressive campaign to discredit Rubio's immigration rhetoric, and to convince Republican voters that he's misleading them on the issue.
On June 10, for example, Heritage posted an ad online with a photo of Rubio alongside a quote from an interview he gave to Univision: "First comes the legalization. Then come the measures to secure the border." The ad's headline read: "Amnesty? Guaranteed. Border security? Not so much."
And at a June 19 Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C., Heritage Foundation scholar Robert Rector riled up the crowd by delivering what The Washington Post called "a sustained rebuke of the turncoat (Rubio)."
"Senator Rubio says that [illegal immigrants] are going to have to pay a penalty, 'cause this bill is tough," Rector said, derisively, adding, "The thing I find most offensive of all is Senator Rubio's staff saying that we need to have more low-skill immigrants because American workers can't cut it."
Heritage spokesman Michael Gonzalez said there was no contradiction in Heritage touting Rubio in a fundraising letter while battling him on immigration.
"Look, DeMint likes Rubio, and Rubio, I think, likes DeMint," said Gonzalez. "They happen to disagree on this one issue, but they never expected to agree on everything."
He added, "Rubio is still a very conservative senator."
With reporting by Jacob Fischler.
Letter from Jim DeMint
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated a word in Gonzalez's quote. The current version is accurate.
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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