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.


  1. So in one breath you admit to excluding money from the totals and then in the next question why the number you come up with is smaller?

    1. I would be very impressed if you could pull off coordinated expenditures with all Republican candidates for less than $50,000-$60,000, but I'm willing to be corrected if that is possible. If not, of course, the question is what Republicans did the State Party neglect? Perhaps that is what the additional $300,000 could have been used for...

      It amazes me that some folks think they can win statewide races when they don't support all our candidates. Support for down-ticket candidates turns out the vote up-ticket--it's a no brainer. Not realizing that has been one of the many reasons why we continue to lose in this state, and that's sad.

  2. Great breakdown of the expenditures.

  3. Well you're saying that not all Trailblazers got contributions, which is untrue. Summers and Enstrom took theirs entirely in coordinated expenditures. So, yeah you should probably update your figures so they're accurate.

    The problem with your second argument is that you're assuming there is a limitless pool of money that can be spent on state races. It's much more effective to give the maximum to the competitive races than to give a few hundred bucks to every single candidate that's running.