The Republican National Chairman as Sinecure, Signs of Things to Come

The Republican National Committee will hold its annual election on January 15. This is an analysis primarily designed for the voting delegates…about things to come.

In the late 1970s my father was the treasurer of a church in Arizona. Disturbed by what they had seen from the national office of his church; involvement with Castro, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and various UN initiatives, he and a delegation went to the minister to ask if their annual pledges could be distributed solely to the operations and maintenance of the local church and the field missions.

The minister said no, that by charter, a fixed percent of their money had to go to the national office.

This did not end well, as both sides were unyielding. The big loser of course was the church itself, although the mission office did pretty well. I left Arizona that year, my parents joined another church the next year, as did many others. By 1983 or 84, the church closed its doors. The members had all moved on. At least the national office owned a nice piece of historic Arizona real estate.

Of seeming unrelated interest, the Koch Brothers (Charles and David) gave the Republican National Committee app $600,000 over a ten year period, 1999-2010.

A sinecure is defined as a position that carries no power, although it may carry a lot of glamor, pomp and circumstance. An empty office for a nice fitting, well-appointed empty suit. When there was still a House of Lords, sinecures were important in England, for it allowed Sir Harry to seem relevant and necessary, and, two-three times a year, to show off his new ascot and tweeds, or new recipe for meat pie on the Beebs. Our government is also filled with sinecures; meaningless commissions that meet once or twice a year, but pay very nicely for just showing up.

The Republican National Chairman may be about to become a sinecure as well. The RNC (all of it) is very near this crossroads of choosing; to either once again become the standard bearer of a Party that is Constitution and People-based, ready and willing to do battle with the Left, or, pass out a new business card,


Money is the mother’s milk of politics. The Republican Party not only raises money, but spends it in a way to insure it can raise even more. And this is probably where they lost their way, as Erick Erickson pointed out on Jan 3, when he laid out his first set of concerns about Reince Priebus, a candidate in this election, the former General Counsel of the RNC and erstwhile comrade-in-arms with Michael Steele until only a couple of weeks ago, when he suddenly flipped, quit his job and began bashing Steele, deciding to run for Steele’s seat himself.

The RNC runs its operations, as noted above 1) by the generous donations of men like the Koch Brothers, as well as 2) through a small army or men and women stuffing envelopes and manning phone banks contacting every person who ever gave them a dime the past 40 years. The mom-and-pop contributors. I haven’t given the RNC money since Reagan was in the White House, have changed addresses three times, but still, four times a year I get that damned letter and/or questionnaire in the mail. In that one thing they are very good. Go figure.

The hard truths are these, Mr and Ms Delegate:

That second cash register, the mom-and-pop contributor, the grassroots, is about finished with the RNC. There is only a small window to get them back.

This had been a long time coming, and 2010 probably pealed its death knell. The worst thing the RNC could have done was allow them to latitude to believe they could do it on their own, for you know what?, they could. Mom-and-pop are leaving the RNC out of disappointment, distrust and quite frankly disgust. But they also found a better way to spend their political tithe, just as my Dad did in Arizona. In 2010, they began giving directly to the “mission effort”, bypassing the RNC and even the state party structures altogether.

Know this: Without some renewed, honest and dedicated outreach, this cash drain will grow, in part because I, along with many others, intend to see it happen. In these times I can’t see throwing good money after bad. And I think many of the RNC’s bigger donors will agree.

Without going into detail about what the RNC did spend its money on, what it did not is probably more telling:

We found out there was almost no money for GOTV (“Get out the Vote” for you Republicans in Wilmington.) The RNC gave to individual campaigns, but as EE pointed out (above), a lot of that money was given preferentially to candidates using certain inside-the-Beltway political consulting firms. For the most part, the campaigns had to fend for themselves.

Only they did swimmingly, thanks to mom and pop and local GOTV efforts, for which our Concord Project provided lots of help.

The fiduciary responsibility of the Party to insure GOTV was ignored somewhere inside 1st Street. Oh, there were national GOTV efforts, our Concord Project included, but these were cobbled together by private citizens, with almost no money, but also with a sense of scope, urgency, and can-do that apparently the RNC didn’t have. On a side-by-side comparison, the citizens did better. They will do much better in 2012…with money that will not be going to the RNC.

In other words, that massive landslide of voters that showed up in November, 2010? The national committee had almost nothing to do with it. The citizens and Tea Parties did, almost solo. The money the RNC was supposed to spend went elsewhere.

And as for that first cash register, generous deep-pocket donors such as the Koch Brothers, well, the conservatives at least seem to want a little more bang for their political buck as well. Most of their money goes to 501(3)c groups which have to show some non-partisan purpose, but the dollars they give directly to political parties, mainly the RNC and the SRCC, need to show more, I think. They didn’t make their millions by tolerating sloth and self-indulgence.

To be sure there is a lot of old blue-blood money out there that still wants to make sure Collins and Snowe remain the poster girls for political centrism in America, and the RNC will likely see some of it. But we have been discussing better ways to target and spend that money for some time here. The aforementioned Concord Project is just one.

We know the people who are willing to show them alternative ways to spend their money.

Only recently, Jan 4, Erick Erickson boldly asserted that Coldwarrior’s Precinct Project to be the most effective way to take back the Republican Party from the grassroots. I’m betting most of the delegates have never even heard of it. Some months ago I announced, to a few chortles, that ColdWarrior may be the most important Republican in America. It’s true, but only to  a point, because that project scares the bejeezus out of a lot of Republicans, since the success of that project will likely decide who the next band of delegates will be that vote on the RNC chairman in 2013. And 2015.

And the whole world of political consultancy is changing. The people want, and the candidates are delivering, a manner and style that is “in the voice of the people” (h/t Lady Penguin) and not in the voice of the Beltway. Goodbye slick-talker express, Hello plain-spoken citizen. So those incestuous relationships between RNC and Beltway consultants is apt to meet a quiet demise, as well.

And finally, we have declared a relentless war on the Left, tit for tat, against all the things they have been doing to us; conservatism, American exceptionalism, the Constitution, and American culture, the past 60 years. We have to meet the Colorado Project, the Secretary of State Project, the public unions, head on, but not just in the halls of Congress, but in the state houses, the internet, and on their own turf. The money that has been going to useless RNC process and promotions as if this were just one more ordinary election cycle, simply can’t be justified any longer. We have to have a better way to spend our money, and quite frankly, donors cannot find the necessary creativity and resourcefulness inside the RNC, as currently constituted, to get that done. Those monies, too, will be going away. (More on this in the lead-up to CPAC).

The Republican National Committee is just one vote away from being marginalized, and quite frankly, the delegates with it. The grassroots, the People, have by and large simply gone around the RNC with barely a backward glance, and a mild oath. I believe many of them could care less how the RNC spends its money, for it will continue to diminish, and will fade away into the irrelevancy of the sinecure.

In truth, we (they) can build a pretty formidable army out here without the RNC. But obviously, you (the Party) have assets it will take the grassroots years to build on its own. And you have the brand…which, lest you forget, is the brand of Lincoln and the Doctrine of Liberty, and one conservatives admire very much.

(At this point, imagine we are jointly opening an old oak drawer, and pulling an old parchment document out. Then together we blow the dust of a century off of it.  We shake hands, and share a glass of sherry.)

I am not making suggestions here, or even pleading a case. I am simply here to say what will happen if the RNC continues on its course. That ball is already rolling. It would be helpful for us, and the RNC, and this just war we are now engaged in with the Left, if we took this last leap of faith together rather than apart.

If not, well, your next chairman, Sir Harry or Prince Reince, no matter, will always be on call to do a morning talk show, to cut a ribbon or hand over the silver Loving Cup for the Best Royal Coachman at the Orvis competition up on the Battenkill. And he will be overpaid. If that is to be the case, may I only suggest it may be best to sell the manse on 1st Street and let his lordship drive himself to the airport from his home in….

Have Tux, Will Travel