With all the insanity swirling around D.C. today, you may have temporarily forgotten that the United States government is in its third day of shutdown. How did that happen? Well, it turns out that a game of shutdown chicken may have been the plan all along.

The Daily Beast reports that last month Oregon Congressman Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, sat down for a lunch meeting with some fat cat GOP donors who worked in finance. The venue: Manhattan's tony Le Cirque. The topic of conversation: Why is the GOP so beholden to its most extreme members, some of whom seemed at the time to be hellbent on threatening the Obama administration with a government shutdown? Walden's response, reports David Freedlander, was simple: The GOP has to do what the Tea Party demands because the Tea Party consistently threatens to "primary" Republican candidates at the grassroots level.

"Listen," Walden said, according to several people present. "We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary."

Walden asked how many of those seated around the table were precinct captains. These were money men, though, not the types to spend night after night knocking on doors and slipping palm cards into mailboxes.

"A lot of the people there didn’t even know what a precinct captain was," said one attendee.

Not a single hand went up.

"I hear this complaint all the time," Walden said. "But no one gets involved at the local level. The Tea Party gets involved at the local level."

A National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman disputes that Walden mentioned the Tea Party at the lunch. Nevertheless, an anti-Tea Party sentiment is alive in at least some corners of the GOP. A Republican fundraiser interviewed for the Daily Beast article, Bobbie Kilberg, told Freedlander: "When you have a small segment who dictate to the rest of the party, the result is what we have seen in the last two days. People need to stand up and not be afraid of the Tea Party."

[Image via AP]