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Pay to Play in El Paso GOP   July 19th, 2011
Audacious power play in El Paso County GOP (Colorado) is embarassing to all Republicans       

 
QUICK OBSERVATIONS

More observations...
 

As those that have been following the story know, there has been a fiasco transpiring in the El Paso County GOP (Colorado).

A rift has been growing between the vice-chairman, secretary, and some number of members of the Executive Committee--especially the chairman. See the first section of this article for details.

In response, The El Paso County GOP has apparently set-up a shadow organization within the party that isn't answerable to the normal organizational structure of the party, and the Executive Committee has abdicated its responsibility under its bylaws.

One critical piece of the new strategic plan is the creation of a new 'Donor Directed Fund.' This new fund will allow donors to contribute directly to projects and programs in the Republican Party with 100% accountability and transparency. It will be managed by an independent board yet work with the Party leadership to identify and fund worthy projects.

In keeping with his theme of 'Applied Conservative Leadership' Chairman Bremer commented: 'As Republicans, we believe that people who earn the money should be the ones who decide where their money goes. This new fund improves accountability and transparency while allowing individual donors to contribute to project and programs they see fit. It really holds the leadership accountable to ensure that money is spent wisely and with full accountability. It also brings our organization into compliance with the best practices of non-profit fundraising.'...

"[Chairman Eli] will appoint a group of committed donors who want to see this thing implemented ... They'll make rules about who gets to be members of this donor-directed committee. It may be that you have to meet a certain threshold, or something along those lines, to get there."


The spin is certainly first class.

However, there are some problems.

Problem #1: Bylaws

    The first problem is that the El Paso County GOP's bylaws indicate that the Executive Committee is ultimately responsible for budgetary issues, not the chairman nor some independent committee of big-dollar donors. The chairman is to submit a budget to the Executive Committee and the Executive Committee must approve it.

    Article VI Section 6.02(A)12: "The Chairman shall submit a budget for his term of office to the Executive Committee on or before May 15, following his election. This budget shall be revised and resubmitted on or before May 1 of the following year."

    Article VII Section 7.01(C)3: "The Executive Committee shall approve a budget as proposed by the county chairman as provided for in Section 6.02A-12. If the proposed budget is not approved, the Chairman shall revise and resubmit the budget for approval."


    Effectively, the bylaws demand that the Executive Committee is ultimately in control of the spending decisions.

    But apparently under the new system, big-dollar donors will form an "independent", unelected board that will work within the party with no oversight from the Executive Committee or the Central Committee. Though the big-dollar donors will supposedly work with the "party leadership," in the context of the current problems in El Paso, that probably means that they'll just work with Chairman Eli Bremer--who just so happens to be the person who will initially appoint people to the committee. Cute and convenient.

Problem #2: Executive Committee Circumvented

    The El Paso Executive Committee's seven duties are specified in Article VII Section 7.01(C). The Executive Committee in El Paso was already surprisingly weak; but the one significant matter on which the Executive Committee has (or had) authority was in regards to approving the budget.

    Given the new strategy being implemented in El Paso, the Executive Committee's only significant duty has been abdicated. I'm not sure the El Paso GOP Executive Committee has any remaining relevance or reason for existing under normal circumstances.

Problem #3: El Paso Central Committee Circumvented

    This would appear to be an overthrow of the county party and a disregard for its bylaws.

    Colorado Election Law states that those that wish to form part of the El Paso County GOP are to be elected as precinct committee people at the precinct caucuses (or otherwise appointed). Pursuant to El Paso's bylaws, these precinct committee people are voting members in the El Paso GOP Central Committee who, among other things, elect the leadership of the party in February of every odd-numbered year.

    The purpose of this structure is so that rank-and-file Republicans, elected from amongst their peers at precinct caucuses, may have a vote in the direction of the party--at the very least by electing the leadership of the county party.

    The problem is that in El Paso, the precinct committee people no longer have a voice. Neither they nor the Executive Committee are in control of the party.

    Instead, this new unelected donor-directed committee of big-money donors will establish their own rules, admit their own members, and apparently regulate themselves. Though the chairman states that this will ensure transparency, the entity that should ultimately be responsible for monitoring and approving party expenditures is the Executive Committee--and they are no longer in the loop.

    Even if the El Paso GOP Central Committee elects different leadership, this shadow "donor-directed committee" of big-money donors is who is truly in control of the party. And there's no way to get elected to that committee. It's apparently by invitation only--and there is an insinuation in the above press release that membership on that committee can essentially be bought ("you have to meet a certain threshold").

    It would appear that the El Paso GOP Executive Committee and Central Committee are mostly just for show and that the real decisions will be made by those that buy their way onto the big-money committee.

Problem #4: Lack of Responsiveness

    It would seem entirely possible that, under this configuration, the El Paso County GOP may find itself unable to quickly respond to issues and opportunities that present themselves.

    In a normal situation, if the El Paso party has money in the bank and there's an opportunity that can be seized to advance Republican principles, the Executive Committee would have the ability to commit those funds at its discretion.

    Under the new scenario, much (or all) of the party's funds will have been earmarked by donors for specific purposes. So even if the party has sufficient funds to seize an unforeseen opportunity, it may not be able to disperse funds because the funds on-hand are earmarked for specific purposes.

Problem #5: Unnecessary

    The whole exercise was unnecessary.

    As per the bylaws, the chairman should create a budget and the Executive Committee should approve it. Then, if it is the desire of the Executive Committee, it would be ok to seek out specific donors that are willing to contribute money to the specific items of the accepted budget.

    In other words, the elected chairman and Executive Committee should set the direction of the party and establish a budget that reflects that. If some donors must be prodded into donating by being assured their money will be spent on specific items, that can be done within the existing structure and within the budget approved by the Executive Committee.

    A separate, independent committee is neither necessary nor appropriate.

Problem #6: Appearance of Impropriety

    Far from ensuring transparency, transparency has been reduced and accountability (to the elected members of the Executive Committee) has been eliminated.

    Further, this just plain looks bad.

    The implication is that big-money donors that contribute some established amount of money can buy their way onto the committee that will be setting priorities of the party. Rank-and-file Republicans that attend caucus and get elected as precinct committee people need not apply--unless they attach a big check to their application.


Weak Leaders in the El Paso GOP Executive Committee

I must make the frank observation that many of the individuals that make up the El Paso GOP Executive Committee must be extremely weak leaders that don't take their own duties seriously. The members of the Executive Committee shouldn't just be pawns of the chairman, but should be leaders of the Republican Party.

I can't imagine anyone even proposing a plan like this in Douglas County, much less an officer. If the chairman of the Douglas County party were to make this proposal, he'd be the sudden recipient of much high-velocity fruits and vegetables of questionable edibility and aroma. The proposal would go down in flames. I suspect that not even a majority of those that support the chairman in Douglas County would accept this.

And well they shouldn't. The members of the Executive Committee of Douglas County would be offended by such a brazen power play. They would refuse a proposal that would neuter them and make their membership in the Executive Committee irrelevant, even if they supported the priorities of the chairman.

And what a different attitude there is in El Paso. Last year Douglas County adopted a bylaws amendment which explicitly took away unilateral spending decisions from the chairman and gave budgetary control to the Executive Committee... and all the officers, including the chairman, voted for it. That is to say, even the chairman voted in favor of reducing his own spending authority.

Good leadership is not afraid of accountability or debate.

Whether it be governments or party structure, these voluntary organizations "derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Not the consent of big money donors.

Except in El Paso County, apparently.

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