27 February 2013

Opinion: What is the role of the State Party?

It appears I'm doing a series on the State Party, specifically the Colorado Republican Party.  That wasn't quite my intent when I started with my post about a week and a half ago, but another needed to be written... and now this one is here.

For those who don't know, on 2 March (this Saturday), the Colorado Republican State Central Committee has a choice between the Status Quo and a much-needed change (not that I have any opinion on the matter whatsoever).  My hope, in this post and the two proceeding it, is to lay the groundwork for why change is needed.

I don't get a vote, but it is the duty of all Republican Party members to let those who do have a vote know where we stand--and that doesn't mean you have to agree with me.  This is our Party, after all.  We should let those who represent us know how we feel, much like we do when we send letters to legislators on bills or testify before committees.  This election affects all Republicans in Colorado, not just those who can vote on it.

But maybe I got ahead of myself with the last two posts.  So let me back up a little bit with this one.

A question I often hear asked, and rarely answered simply, is: "What is the role of the State Party?" or "What is the role of the State Party Chairman?"

To those, I would add another question: "What is the measure of success for a State Party or State Party Chairman?"

To the previous questions, I've heard many answers, from the old and tired "fundraising" to "beat the Democrats at their own game" to "infrastructure" and "networking"... but all of them fall short.  All of them, to be sure, are part of the answer, but the answer is much, much more simple than any of those.  You want to know what it is?

Win elections.

That's it.  No more.  Nothing else.  Fundraising, technology, strategy, infrastructure, networking, ground game, recruiting, training and supporting candidates and staff, etc. are all a part of that, but they aren't enough alone.  They must work together, or we get the failures we've seen since 2004 in this state.  And it still amazes me that a Party supposedly all about individual freedoms and personal responsibility seems to think that a top-down, Denver-centric, one-size-fits-all approach actually works in every state, in every county, in every precinct, and in every race.

When will the National GOP learn its lesson?  When will the Colorado GOP learn its lesson?  Hopefully, this Saturday, at least in Colorado.

As to the second question, the measure of success, the answer is also pretty basic...

The measure of success is if elections were won.

I know, call me crazy.  That's too easy, isn't it?  There's nothing in there about fundraising!  Unfortunately, in Colorado, the Republican Party seems to be in the business of losing elections pretty consistently since 2004.  I don't know about you but I'm getting kind of tired of losing.

I've said it several times, so I probably don't need to rehash the total loses or plugs in the dam across the board again, but 2012 was not a great year for us.  Some of it has to do with how we message.  Some of it has to do with being way behind on the technological times.  It certainly wouldn't hurt if we had actual useable data, and that data was given to the people who need it when they need it.  A lot of it has to do with lacking strategy (or, at least, a strategy that isn't over 30 years old).

From my perspective, some of it has to do with where we chose to spend money in 2012 as well.  We can raise all the money in the world, but if it isn't put to effective use, it's nothing more than a tool buying our continued losses.

The Colorado Republican Committee summary page on TRACER for the 2012 election cycle, reflecting that $443,453.97 was spend in-state during that election cycle.

This picture and the previous picture are screen captures from the FEC website for the Colorado Republican Committee, reflecting the money spent on Federal (Presidential and Congressional) races and operating expenditures for 2012.

This shows the 2014 cycle (since 1 January 2013) on the FEC Website for the Colorado Republican Committee, reflecting operating expenditures for the cycle so far.

To look at these more in-depth, go to the TRACER website and search for committee number 19991500072, and the FEC website and search for committee number C00033134.

While I understand that Federal races tend to cost more money, are higher profile, and that they are indeed important, the State Party's first responsibility is to the State of Colorado.  We cannot keep sacrificing our state just to lose federal elections.  Colorado can't survive total Democrat rule any more than the country can, but we've allowed that to happen in this state because we focus our time and attention on national races.  Some of this is an education problem--let's face it, the undervote for down-ticket races is huge.  That doesn't make them any less important, as we are learning the hard way with the far-left agenda being jammed down Colorado's throat in the State Legislature right now.

I was recently reminded that we saw the highest delegate badge fees (at least in my recollection) this year, and candidates for President had to pay for the privilege of being on our non-binding straw poll ballot.  I wonder what the hard working and dedicated Republican activists who paid those increased fees think of having hundreds of thousands of dollars left unspent in perhaps the most critical election in the last century, if not our nation's history?  This one is none too happy.

For those who know me, you probably remember the hubbub I caused in El Paso County as the GOP Secretary for daring to disagree with a policy put forth by a State Legislator.  The horror!  You would think if someone did something that relatively minor (I dare you to find me any Republican I agree with 100%--even my husband and I aren't lock-step on policy issues), a Republican County Party Officer donating to a Democrat during his tenure would have gotten at least the same response--scorched earth, character assassination campaign, a gag order, censured... and at the very least, threatened with removal for actually violating the By-Laws in their letter (not just the spirit as folks argued against me), right?

Turns out, not so much.  In 2007, while the Vice Chair of the Denver County Republican Party, Chairman Ryan Call maxed out a contribution to Bernie Buescher, a Democrat candidate for State Representative out near Grand Junction.

My understanding, from talking to many active members of the Denver GOP at the time, is that no sanctioning action was taken, and Chairman Call certainly wasn't removed from office for his violation.  And, in the interest of fairness, Chairman Call then maxed out to the Republican in the race, Laura Bradford--so that makes everything okay, right?  Here's my question... why did he not ask for the contribution to Buescher back, at the very least?

We could move on and forgive an indiscretion, certainly.  It becomes much harder to do so when that rule is then unfairly applied.  This Party, I thought, believes in the rule of law--rules are rules and apply to everyone.  So, in 2010, why were Tancredo supporters not removed from their Party offices (even down to precinct leader)?  Why did Chairman Call take the position he did regarding my censure (on something that did not clearly violate the By-Laws, unlike an out-right contribution to a Democrat), saying one thing in public and another in private?  Why did Chairman Call participate in the removal of three precinct leaders from voting earlier this month at the Eagle County Republican Organizational Meeting... for doing the exact same thing he did, publicly support a non-Republican candidate?

I'm all about everyone getting to vote their conscience, and to support whom they choose--in fact, I encourage it.  I don't believe Party always trumps person (most of the time... almost all of the time, even... but not every time).  But there is a standard for Party officers--and we should hold all to it, or none to it.  It can't be arbitrarily applied.  That, at the very least, creates the appearance of a ruling class and a "rules for thee but not for me" mentality that is dangerous and not very Republican.

And speaking of Denver County... it is my understanding that Chairman Call, when he left the Denver GOP and subsequently became State Party Chairman, left a parting present of nearly $10,000 in debt.  It seems to me ironic that Chairman Call, who frequently makes a point of discussing the debt that the State GOP was in when he took over (and to the credit of those raising funds, was taken care of), left a similar problem for his successor.  Again, this could be overlooked, but from what others have told me, this is a pattern dating back to his days in the College Republicans.  Being hearsay, I won't go into the details shared with me until I can get some physical documentation.  Regardless of whether this is a one-time incident, or a series of unfortunate events, there is great irony considering how Chairman Call begins most speeches I've heard from him recently--that he dug the State GOP out of the same problem with which he left the Denver GOP.

Not that anyone is asking my opinion, but let me offer it anyways: my advise to win elections?  Let's start with don't donate to the "enemy", spend your resources wisely, and don't leave entities in debt.

21 February 2013

Opinion: More failure: Messaging, support, lies and the Colorado GOP

I frequently hear that "social issues are killing the Republican Party."  And while I personally would tend to take the libertarian approach to social issues (i.e. keep the government entirely out of them), I don't agree with that statement at all.  Social issues aren't killing this Party, how we message social issues (and just about everything else) is what is doing us in.

There is a fine line between candidates who get so distracted by everything thrown at them that they can't stay on message, and ultimately lose, and candidates who are so rigidly adherent to talking points they sound robotic, insincere, and fake, and ultimately lose.  Our Party has not done enough to help candidates message in their races, nor do they do enough to help amplify that message.

There are common themes to races at all levels: reducing the size and scope of the government, limiting taxes as much as possible, promoting the free markets rather than government solutions, focusing on the rule of law (not the rule of man), and most importantly, a great emphasis on personal responsibility.  With these themes applicable to everything from local utility board to US President, why has the Colorado Republican Party (and the Republican National Committee) continued to ignore their responsibility to make sure that candidates are well-trained and well-supported?

Under campaign finance law, the Colorado Republican Party is the only entity in this state that can coordinate on a large scale with all Republican candidates.  They can also contribute in much larger quantity to State Senate and House candidates ($20,500 and $14,805, respectively--this number is an aggregate between all political party donations, meaning County, State and National, this is per the SOS website).

What astounds me is not so much that the GOP hasn't gotten their messaging act together (if they continue to insist upon campaigning like it's 1980, why not continue to message like it's 30+ years ago, too?), but some in the Party bald-face lie about supporting candidates.

A current State Republican Party officer said last week at a public event that the reason they had approximately $300,000 left in the bank after Election Day was because they had maxed out to every Republican State House and Senate candidate in Colorado and there was nothing more they could do with it because campaign finance laws tied their hands.  Were it true that they had, indeed, maxed out to every Republican State House and Senate candidate, I can think of plenty they could have done with $300,000 myself, but I digress.  Except it is patently FALSE.
  1. In order to have maxed out to every Republican State House (65) and State Senate (20) candidate at the maximum allowed (assuming the County Parties didn't chip in at all), it would have cost the State Republican Party $1,372,325.  Considering they spent less than half that total in the State of Colorado on non-federal races, that would be mathematically impossible.
  2. A quick TRACER search shows that the Colorado Republican Party only contributed to 12 individual Republican candidates for State House or Senate directly out of 85.  That's only 14% of Colorado Republican State House or Senate candidates.  
  3. In my brief look at TRACER, only two candidates (Brian Watson and Amy Attwood) were given a maximum contribution, with another (Jennifer George) receiving almost a maxed-out contribution.  It looks like 2-3 more may have received the rest of the maximum after County Parties contributed as well.
In other words, very few got a "maxed out" contribution from the State Party, and certainly not all candidates.  

How can we advance any message when we can't even be honest with our Party members?  How are people supposed to trust the message we offer if they can't trust us to be honest about easily verifiable issues?

After a closer review of TRACER, the numbers above have been revised.  12, not 13, individual candidates received contributions directly from the Colorado Republican Committee, totaling $122,962.10.  There were 14 candidates in the "Trailblazers" program, two of which received no direct contributions from the Colorado Republican Committee: Rick Enstrom and  Ken Summers--which, again, pokes holes in the narrative that all Trailblazer candidates received contributions (they may have received indirect contributions, but nothing directly from the Colorado Republican Committee that I can find).

Here are the direct contributions candidates did received (mailers were done for several of these candidates through the "Colorado Republican Party Independent Expenditure Committee" which are not reflected in the numbers below--totaling $85,847.65, which when added with direct contributions only totals $208,809.75--short of the approximately $265,000 that Chairman Call has been saying was contributed to State Legislative Races, I'm unsure where the rest of the money, if there really was more, came from):
  • Cindy Acree, $4,931.22
  • Amy Attwood, $14,805
  • J. Paul Brown, $2,706
  • Larry Crowder, $6,968.13
  • Jennifer George, $14,804.44
  • Ellyn Hilliard, $5,000
  • Dave Kerber, $14,306.64
  • Dave Pigott, $5,000
  • Robert Ramirez, $10,142.90
  • Lang Sais, $19,500
  • Brian Vande Krol, $9,992.81
  • Brian Watson, $14,805
Of those candidates, only ONE won his election: Larry Crowder.  We lost sitting legislators Acree, Brown, and Ramirez, and lost all the other races (Attwood, George, Hilliard, Kerber, Pigott, Sais, Vande Krol, and Watson).

Edit #2: As you can see in the comments below, it has been brought to my attention that both Ken Summers and Rick Enstrom, while not receiving direct contributions from the CRC, took their contributions in coordinated expenditures.  I appreciate the correction, and when I have the chance, I'll take a look at TRACER so the numbers above can reflect this information.

16 February 2013

Editorial: It’s time for the Redprint

Wall Street Journal, 4 February 2013, “Party Eyes 'Red-State Model'to Drive Republican Revival

See that blue splotch in the center just to the left of the middle?  That’s what Colorado has looked like for almost a decade now.  We got “blueprinted” in 2004, and instead of leading the charge to counter the extremely effective model the Democrat Party used with Colorado as the test case, we’ve continued to remain a sickly blue every election cycle since (with the exception of the 1 seat majority in the State House brought on by the Tea Party surge of 2010).  It now takes a state, Kansas, with a supermajority and Republican control of the Governor’s office and both chambers of the State Legislature, to attempt to build a counter to that model—10 years later.

Since it started right here in Colorado, it should end right here in Colorado, but the Republican Party continues to do nothing about it

Why?  Why has the strategy not changed?  Why do we continue to use the same anemic top-down, Denver-centric model for campaigning?  Because there are people in power who benefit from our continued losses—and why not?  They continue to be paid to help us lose, to implement the same strategies that we’ve used for decades (with minor updates) that they think will somehow work again someday.

It’s time for a drastic shift and change in leadership, vision and strategy (all three of which have been entirely absent the last decade in the Colorado GOP).  Colorado is not the solidly-red state it once was.  We can’t continue to campaign like its 1980 and assume we will win like we always did.  Clearly, that isn’t working.  Instead of fixing it, we’ve kept the same model and suffered terribly for it for 10 years.  Enough is enough.

It’s time for the Redprint—in fact, it is long overdue.  After the abysmal showing in 2012, it should be clear to even the most hard-headed that what we have been doing simply isn’t working.  We need vision, strategy and leadership—not platitudes and pandering.  It’s hard to imagine we could do any worse than we did in 2012, and we can definitely do better.  But I don’t think we can do better without change at the top in Colorado. 

Ryan Call is a nice guy—but clearly, he is the wrong guy for this job.  As he said himself in December 2012 (and I’m paraphrasing), it wasn’t his job to lead, but to follow the dictates of the Romney campaign and the RNC.  What did that get us?  Losses across the board.

It’s great that we spent more money on State Legislative races than before, and nice that we raised $2.4 million.  But what did that buy us?  A very cushy salary for Chairman Call (after saying he wasn’t sure if the position should be paid on the campaign trail back in 2011).  Great kick-backs for all the crony political hacks who have ensured Democrat dominance in this state since 2004—people who are supposedly on our side!  Here’s what it also bought us:
  • A loss for Romney in Colorado.
  • A loss in our only statewide election. 
  • No change in Congress (despite a potential pick up in CD7).
  • No change at the CU Board of Regents (when there was one, possibly two, potential pick-ups).
  • No change at the State Board of Education (granted, with only CDs 2 and 4 up, there wasn’t likely to be any change this election cycle).
  • No change in the State Senate (despite 2 very winnable seats, and another possibility or two there).
  • A 9 seat swing in the State House, from 33R-32D to 37D-28R (the largest loss since 2004).

Additionally, Chairman Call guaranteed in 2011 that we would win in November 2012—or our money back.  Listen around the 12:30 mark to hear this pledge.

That $2.4 million raised?  That’s also helping to buy Chairman Call’s reelection.  From using Party fundraising letters and emails to promote his campaign (that is the only reasonable interpretation of several of those) to using Party Staff and resource to “select” Bonus Members to, apparently, using the new Regional Offices to all but bribe votes to refusing to share the contact information for the voting pool with other candidates for Chair, Vice Chair and Secretary, Chairman Call, in an unprecedented misuse of State Party funds and resources, is using your contributions to reelect himself.

If you are a contributor to the Colorado Republican Party, please ask for your contributions back and don’t contribute again until this gross misuse of Party resource is rectified.  This is inexcusable.

In 2011, Chairman Call made a number of campaign promises, including monthly meetings with Tea Party groups, providing needed resources to County Parties, to help County Parties fundraise, etc.  You can read the entire letter here.  To the best of my knowledge, he didn’t follow through on much, if any, of those. 

In the same letter, Chairman Call promises a transparent and accountable State Party, but we don’t even know what his salary is (rumor is that it is anything from $135,000-$175,000/year).  In fact, other than generic items on TRACER and the FEC, we don’t know where any of the $2.4 million raised (and over $7 million given by the RNC, Republican Senatorial Committee and Massachusetts GOP) was spent.  How is that transparent or accountable?

In 2007, while Vice Chair of the Denver County GOP, Chairman Call maxed out a contribution ($400) to Bernie Buescher, a Democrat candidate.  While I don’t have an issue with folks doing this, when you are a Party officer or official of any kind, that is unacceptable.  When he got caught, instead of doing the right thing, he made excuses.  He didn’t apologize, and he didn’t ask for his contribution back.  The explanation I have heard was that Ryan’s employer at the time (John Zackum—State Party Legal Counsel) asked him to, so he did—while they were Republican Party Officials, an offense that would get most people removed from their office (strangely enough, both Mr. Call and Mr. Zackum remained in their respective positions).

The bottom line is, we lost.  We lost badly.  We have not received an acknowledgement of that from Chairman Call, nor have we received an apology—and we’re not likely to.  We can’t keep winning when we keep using losing strategies.  We need a change.  It really can’t get any worse than total losses, but it can get better if we have a real leader focused on strategy and vision.  As nice as he is, that person isn’t Ryan.  For the good of the Party, he should have resigned on 7 November.  But he didn’t, and he won’t.  $135,000/year is an awful lot of money to give up easily, so I understand why he would fight for this—but without results, he doesn’t deserve that salary; he doesn’t deserve the job.