Mitch McConnell foes helping back Ted Cruz behind the scenes

Story highlights

  • A pair of leading GOP operatives who have tried to oust Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are quietly helping Ted Cruz's presidential campaign behind the scenes
  • Two of the main rabble-rousing outside groups that have been a thorn in the side of Senate leadership are also helping organize donors and turn out voters for Cruz

Washington (CNN)A pair of leading GOP operatives who have tried to oust Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are quietly helping Ted Cruz's presidential campaign behind the scenes, strengthening Cruz's ties to the most rebellious parts of Washington.

Leaders behind the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project, two of the main rabble-rousing outside groups that have been a thorn in the side of Senate leadership, are also helping organize donors and turn out voters for Cruz, group officials tell CNN. Cruz, who himself has been a McConnell nemesis in the past, has controversially raised money for the two groups, which backs primary challengers against incumbents like McConnell.
Matt Hoskins, the co-founder of the Senate Conservatives Fund, is fundraising for a pro-Cruz PAC, Make DC Listen, the Cruz group confirmed. Make DC Listen bundles hard-dollar contributions for the Cruz campaign much like Hoskins' group does, accepting donations up to $5,000.
    Hoskins did not respond to requests for comment. SCF is not officially backing Cruz, and other SCF consultants have presidential clients as well.
    Another agitator of Senate leadership, Drew Ryun, recently began helping the coalition of Cruz super PACs, Keep the Promise, with its voter ID and grassroots programs, Ryun said. A former deputy director of the Republican National Committee, Ryun helped run the get-out-the-vote program for the party in the 2004 election cycle. Ryun is the political director of the Madison Project, a PAC that has supported Cruz.
    The Keep the Promise groups, after months of spending very little money, are slowly ramping up their staffs and early-state activity, launching this week a $600,000 ad campaign. Earlier this fall, the groups hired its first professional fundraiser, Campbell Smith, from the National Rifle Association.
    Cruz has long had a tense relationship with McConnell, made worse by Cruz's past fundraising solicitations for the two conservative groups. He no longer helps the groups raise cash, but the two groups argue that incumbent senators are often too spineless in standing up to Democrats -- an argument that Cruz himself has made.
    In 2014, both SCF and the Madison Project spent money to try and elect McConnell's primary challenger in Kentucky, Matt Bevin. Cruz has made it a point not to specifically call for McConnell's ouster.