Ag­gres­sive new strat­egy ex­pected to fill GOP war chests

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

DAL­LAS | Repub­li­can of­fi­cials are get­ting a first peek at what’s be­ing called a “sky’s the limit” ap­proach to fund­ing the party’s 2012 cam­paigns across the coun­try, from the pres­i­den­tial race down to may­oral con­tests.

The tim­ing couldn’t be bet­ter, given that the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee is still nearly $20 mil­lion in the red 19 months be­fore the 2012 elec­tions and Repub­li­cans have no idea who will head their na­tional ticket or whether the can­di­date will be any great shakes at rais­ing funds.

“It could let us blow away the Democrats on money rais­ing next year, in­stead of the other way around as it was last time,” Louisiana Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee mem­ber Roger Villere told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

In 2008, Barack Obama de­clined pub­lic fi­nanc­ing for his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and in­stead raised $800 mil­lion on his own, suc­cess­fully earn­ing a ti­tle change from “sen­a­tor” to “pres­i­dent,” while Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona, whose cam­paign was fi­nan­cially broke, was forced to limit his gen­eral elec­tion spend­ing to the $80 mil­lion that pub­lic fi­nanc­ing al­lowed.

With that in mind, the Repub­li­cans de­signed their new fundrais­ing weapon, dubbed Repub­li­can Su­per PAC (RSPAC), to skirt the lim­its and reg­u­la­tions that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and, in some cases, states im­pose on cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions.

The RSPAC, re­vealed to the RNC’s other 165 mem­bers via email on May 15, is an in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­ture group struc­tured to, in ef­fect, give can­di­dates the power to do their own fundrais­ing while legally avoid­ing fed­eral or state lim­its.

In­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­ture groups in gen­eral are not sub­ject to the same re­stric­tions placed on the ac­tual cam­paign.

“This is a legal way for them to max­i­mize their fundrais­ing ef­forts by di­rect­ing ear­marked con­tri­bu­tions to the RSPAC,” said In­di­ana RNC mem­ber James Bopp Jr., a con­sti­tu­tional lawyer who mas­ter­minded the RSPAC with Mr. Villere of Louisiana and Ore­gon RNC mem­ber Solomon Yue.

The RSPAC’s cre­ators know they don’t have a patent on their ap­proach.

“Other peo­ple could do this, and we are happy to com­pete with them,” Mr. Yue said.

The RSPAC’s goal is not sim­ply to edge out Demo­cratic fundrais­ing, but to dwarf all past fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions to po­lit­i­cal par­ties and can­di­dates, in­clud­ing pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns.

About the only sim­i­lar­ity be­tween other in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­ture or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the suc­cess­ful Amer­i­can Cross­roads, and the new RSPAC is that it also is legally des­ig­nated as a “527,” which refers to a sec­tion in the fed­eral tax code.

The RSPAC goes be­yond other in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­ture groups in both par­ties by em­pow­er­ing may­oral, state leg­isla­tive, con­gres­sional nom­i­nees and the GOP’s pres­i­den­tial choice to seek un­lim­ited con­tri­bu­tions from donors who might gladly give $100,000 or more but have “maxed out,” hav­ing given the fed­eral limit of $2,500 to the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, $30,800 to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee and $10,000 to a state GOP.

Those maxed-out donors could give to Amer­i­can Cross­roads (which has pledged to raise $120 mil­lion for 2012) or other in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­ture groups but the in­cen­tive is dif­fer­ent.

Cross­roads spent more than $70 mil­lion, mostly in un­co­or­di­nated TV ad­ver­tis­ing on be­half of the GOP’s nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent as well as for other of­fices.

But while Cross­roads and sim­i­lar groups em­ploy their own fundrais­ers, RSPAC will use lo­cal, state and fed­eral of­fice hold­ers and seek­ers who may know per­son­ally five or 10 po­ten­tial $100,000 donors who want to ear­mark their con­tri­bu­tions.

RSPAC also will use state par­ties as fundrais­ers. State par­ties are ex­pected to be ea­ger par tic­i­pants be­cause their donors are lim­ited to $10,000 each.

For ex­am­ple, a maxed-out Mis­souri or Ohio donor who wants to give his state party $100,000 on top of the $10,000 al­ready given may wr ite a check out to RSPAC, which can then spend the money on phone banks and di­rect mail to get out the vote ef­forts, an ef­fort that the state party would other­wise have to find the money to fi­nance.

Us­ing the RSPAC will re­lieve state par­ties of hav­ing to hire their own legal coun­sels for this unique ap­proach.

The fundrais­ing ap­proach’s ar­chi­tects say the pur­pose of RSPAC is not to beat Amer­i­can Cross­roads or any other in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­ture group.

“Cre­at­ing this in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­ture PAC is not to com­pete with Amer­i­can Cross­roads, which spe­cial­izes in TV com­mer­cial ads, which are very ex­pen­sive,” Mr. Yue said. “We want to fo­cus on get­ting out the vote, boots on the ground in the form of paid phone bank and di­rect mail. It’s not very ex­pen­sive, but it is very ef­fec­tive and nec­es­sary in po­lit­i­cal war­fare.”

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