Senior aide leaves with blast at Steele
The Republican National Committee's political director quit today with a blistering indictment of Michael Steele's record as national chairman.
Gentry Collins, a highly regarded strategist and one of few top officials hired by Steele to remain on the staff through thick and thin, made it clear that he thinks Republicans will put their recent political gains at risk if Steele remains in power. The former Maryland lieutenant governor has told party officials privately that he's running for a second two-year term in January, though he has not formally announced his candidacy.
"Sadly, if left on its current path, the RNC will not be a productive force in the 2012 campaign to deny President Obama a second term, retain our House majority, and elect a Senate majority," Collins wrote in a five-page "Dear Chairman Steele" resignation letter dated today and sent to members of the party's Executive Committee.
Among the charges in Collins' bill of particulars:
Steele failed to lead as a fundraiser. The RNC allowed its base of big donors "to wither," according to Collins. The smaller contributions that did come in did "not result from personal solicitation by the Chairman" but instead were a product of anti-Democratic sentiment that helped propel Republicans back to power.
Money was wasted on fundraising. Estimates of fundraising costs were closer to 70 cents on the dollar, compared with less than 50 cents on the dollar, historically.
The rest was not spent wisely. "Regrettably, too much of the nearly 30-cents-on-the-dollar not spent on fundraising was spent on things other than winning elections," according to Collins. He did not elaborate but a $2,000 payment for a night at a Hollywood strip club was among the more embarrassing uses of RNC money over the past year and a half.
In a comparison that could undermine Steele's campaign to convince RNC members that he had the interests of state parties at heart, Collins said that the RNC transferred just $13.1 million in cash to state parties for political purposes in 2010, less than a quarter of the amount transferred in 2006, the last midterm election year.
The party will enter the 2012 campaign with higher debt than usual. In 2008, the party carried over $3.1 million from the midterm into the presidential cycle. "In stark contrast," the RNC figures to enter 2012 with its $15 million line of credit tapped out and unpaid bills "likely to add millions to that debt."
Money shortages produced many "significant" shortcomings. Collins concludes that "21 additional U.S. House seats could have been competitive if not for lack of funds." He provided a list of specific districts in 15 states.
And the party made "only a fraction (about 13%) of the direct-to-candidate contributions" it made in the last midterm election campaign.
Fortunately, according to Collins, other Republican entities, including the Republican Governors Association and funds organized by Karl Rove and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, filled the gap created by the RNC's shortcomings.
"I'm hopeful that the members of the RNC and its leadership will meet the challenges of this next cycle and hope the data, facts, and insights above are helpful toward that end," he
concludes in a not very veiled appeal on behalf of the anti-Steele faction inside the RNC.
In response, the RNC issued the following statement, which made no mention of Collins but did highlight the $175 million raised during Steele's tenure, which the party said was more than the RNC raised in 1994 (indexed for inflation), the last time Republicans took back the House, or that the Democratic National Committee raised in 2006, when that party regained the House:
“For the first time in 16 years the Republican Party held neither the White House or either chamber of Congress. Despite lacking that fundraising advantage, the RNC was able to raise more than $175 million, over $24 million more than the RNC raised during the entire 1994 cycle and over $36 million more than the DNC raised during the entire 2006 cycle, indexed for inflation. Our resources enabled us to expand the playing field to all 50 states and break records with 45 million voter contacts, over 200,000 volunteers, 360 Victory field offices and 358 Victory field staffers. These accomplishments are shared by our entire team at the RNC as well as volunteers, donors and state parties. Their efforts enabled us to contribute to the most successful elections for the Republican Party in modern times.”
To read the entire letter, click on the link after the jump.