WASHINGTON — Several top Republican officials and campaign donors have distanced themselves from controversial conservative Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who’s regularly voiced extreme views on race and immigration.
But House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, who has sent campaign contributions to King in each of the past four elections, was mum this week on his level of support for the embattled Iowa Republican.
King, who’s long received intense criticism over his anti-immigrant views but is expected to win re-election to a ninth term, has come under fire over recent meetings with the far-right Austrian Freedom Party, which was founded by ex-Nazis, and his endorsement of a white nationalist candidate for mayor of Toronto, Canada, with ties to neo-Nazis.
King’s Twitter account has retweeted several far-right extremists and the congressman came under widespread condemnation after posting, “We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.” King stood by those comments, made in support of far-right anti-Muslim Dutch politician Geert Wilders.
The Scalise-run Eye of the Tiger PAC sent King $2,500 in February and also contributed another $2,500 to King in 2014. Scalise’s congressional campaign gave King a total of $7,000 in 2012, 2014 and 2016, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
The House GOP campaign chairman, Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, publicly denounced King on Tuesday in the wake of the deadly synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, pledging to withhold funding and campaign support from King.
“Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate,” Stivers said. “We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, have also declined to comment on King in recent weeks. McCarthy’s PAC, like Scalise’s, has directed money to King’s campaign.
Scalise has raised millions for Republican candidates over the past year and the $2,500 donation to King represents a small fraction of the Eye of the Tiger PAC's contributions.
Staffers with Scalise’s congressional office as well as his political campaign didn’t respond to messages from The Advocate this week seeking comment on the donations, Scalise’s previous backing of King and Stivers’ criticism. While a state lawmaker in 2002, Scalise gave a speech in Metairie to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a white-supremacist group tied to notorious former Klansman David Duke. After a liberal blogger disclosed the appearance in 2014, he congressman denounced bigotry and called his appearance a mistake.
Several corporate political donors have distanced themselves from King in recent days. The PACs for butter giant Land O’Lakes Inc. and pet-food maker Purina both announced they’d no longer support King, as did technology giant Intel Corp.
At least one other politically active Louisiana group — the American Sugar Cane League, which represents the state’s sugar cane industry — has chipped in to King’s campaign with a $1,000 donation at the end of June. The group gave that amount to King twice before, in 2013 and 2010, according to FEC filings. It declined to comment this week.
Last Saturday, on the day of the deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, King defended the groups he associated with, including Austria’s Freedom Party. “If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans,” King told The Washington Post.
King on Tuesday posted a tweet denouncing the attacks against him as “orchestrated by the nasty, desperate and dishonest fake news. Their ultimate goal is to flip the House and impeach Donald Trump.”
Most forecasters expect King to defeat Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten, a former pro baseball player, next Tuesday, though at least one poll suggests a close race. Six years ago, King defeated Democrat Christie Vilsack, the wife of former Agriculture Secretary and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilasck.
Associated Press Writer Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.