The first three weeks have been a whirlwind, but I’m very pleased to report that with the help of numerous individuals and staff we have made substantial progress on multiple fronts. As a result of the efforts of SREC members Jane Burch and her husband Bill, SREC member Jason Moore, elected officials state Sen. Dan Patrick, Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo, Comptroller Susan Combs, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Rep. Ron Paul, state Sen. Joan Huffman, Speaker Joe Straus, County Judge Ed Emmett, former state Rep. Brad Wright, former party chairman Tom Pauken, and state Rep. Beverly Woolley, we have received commitments for approximately $280,000 to alleviate the party’s financial situation. Of this, $122,000 has already been collected and another $25,000 we’re told is already in the mail. We also received a very substantial contribution from the Altria Corporation, and special thanks go to their representative, Jack Dillard.
We also have established a Chairman’s Circle of individuals who have committed to raising or giving $25,000 in a 12-month period of time. We currently have four charter members, all of whom have committed to giving $25,000 or more: Rep. Ron Paul, Comptroller Susan Combs, Clayton Williams and Dick Salisbury. Comptroller Combs, in addition to being very generous financially, has gotten very personally involved in assisting us in renegotiating existing contracts. Moreover, our plans for fundraising events are beginning to crystallize. Our first major fundraiser will be scheduled for August 24 in Houston at the home of Ned Holmes. This event will be chaired by County Judge Ed Emmett, co-chaired by Robert Mosbacher, Jr., and key hosts will include John Nau, Paul Bettencourt (special thanks to Paul for contributing $5,000 as well), and state Sens. Dan Patrick, Joan Huffman and Mike Jackson. We also hope to announce other co-hosts shortly. We have also been working with Senator Hutchison’s office, who will be hosting two fundraisers for us, and Senator Cornyn’s office, who will be hosting one fundraiser for us. We also have tentative plans for an Austin fundraiser with Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. We anticipate adding additional exciting names in the near future.
To address the party’s financial situation, we have also had to make painful budget cuts. Unfortunately, we’ve had to eliminate two positions and we let an outside consultant contract expire. The good news is that this will reduce the annual budget by $200,000 per year. We have also been able to renegotiate payments on long term debt, which will reduce interest payments, saving the party thousands of dollars per year, and have restructured debt repayments that combined with the interest reductions will save the party another $200,000 per year. The combination of the $400,000 per year in reduced expenses, along with the money currently pledged and hopefully raised at our fundraisers, will allow us to operate in the near term. However, these are neither long term solutions nor do they eliminate the outstanding debt. Rather, they buy us time to find a permanent solution, which I believe is to reduce the cost of fundraising. To this end, we continue to move forward with our grassroots club $8.25 per month/$99 per year program. Bryan Preston, our Communications Director, and Jesse Lewis, our Executive Director, made an excellent presentation on alternative ways to set up the program. We have four separate companies which have bid different services and different prices. We have made a tentative decision on a vendor but want to do some more investigation before finalizing a contract. It is our hope to pick a vendor within the next two to three weeks, after which, we will move as rapidly as possible toward launching the program. We believe it may be possible to reduce the overall cost of fundraising to below 10 percent under this program. We are also excited about implementing a concurrent program with county chairs under which they can piggyback our monthly contribution program by helping to sign people up to the program and receive a rebate from a portion of the proceeds. Special thanks to Vice Chairman Melinda Fredricks, SREC member and Denton County Vice Chair Tom Washington, and Denton County Chairman Dianne Edmondson for working on this part of the project.
Simply raising money does not make for a successful party or chairmanship. It was gratifying over the last couple of weeks to finally have a chance to work on organizational issues so that our party can help our candidates. I have restructured the office so that three of our existing personnel have responsibilities to recruit and organize grassroots workers to be deployed to assist our candidates in targeted races. Prior to doing so, I had very productive meetings with Comptroller Comps and Jarod Love, Executive Director of the Victory Committee, as well as the campaign staffs of Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. We are all working together to coordinate joint efforts to assist the Republican ticket. Specifically, Jarod Love will be announcing some Victory offices in the near future and we will be coordinating with him, recruiting people to assist Victory in calling voters from home as well as call centers, and deploying teams of volunteers during early voting to canvass and turn out our base vote in key districts. Comptroller Combs and Jarod have been particularly supportive and helpful in assisting the RPT during these challenging times. We will be sending out some communication to our email lists and activists in the upcoming weeks regarding the specifics of our program. I can tell you now that Jenny Sykes, who serves as Organizational Director, will be interfacing with county chairs and statewide leadership about the specifics of this program in the future. We’ve added Director of Field Operations to the responsibilities of Josh Perry, and he will be assisting in locating and coordinating the identification of volunteers. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s staff has indicated that they will be providing some assistance in this regard, for which we thank them. Austen Bailey has been given additional responsibilities to acquire information concerning youth and minority voters, and we’re beginning to formulate an outreach program to both groups. Austen has also come up with the idea of a student newspaper sponsored by the Republican Party to be distributed at college campuses. I’ve asked Austen to prepare a budget and explore feasibility.
Because time has been very limited dealing with the issues discussed above, I have not had as much time to accept speaking engagements and talking to party leaders as I normally would like to have. I appreciate everyone’s understanding. I deeply appreciate all those who have requested for me to speak to their group.
I will tell you that none of this would have been possible had it not been for the people mentioned above as well as additional leaders, such as Dr. Robin Armstrong, who graciously decided to forego thousands of dollars in reimbursements for expenses incurred during his time serving as our party’s vice chairman; Tom Mechler, who has come into the office to assist on budget analysis; Tom Washington, who has been providing free CPA work; Russ Duerstine, who has spent time following up on special projects for me; the Burches who have driven around the state for free; Melinda Fredricks, who has traveled to Austin to assist in setting up the county chairs and SREC training seminar next week; Paul Bettencourt, who assisted me in the early stages in going over the books; Sen. Patrick, who has made calls for us; Chris Elam, who has provided free consulting services; SREC member Eric Opiela, who has provided a great deal of institutional knowledge; and former RPT chairmen Ray Barnhart, George Strake, Tom Pauken and Tina Benkiser, who have provided invaluable advice.
Steve Munisteri, Chairman, Republican Party of Texas