This Monday marked the 100th day of my Chairmanship – a period of time that has been both a privilege and a whirlwind.
The 100 day mark has traditionally been used as a measuring stick for new administrations, so I thought that I would take the opportunity through this Chairman’s update to provide you with an overall progress report.
This is a lengthy report, but it will give you a full flavor for what we are doing here at the RPT to accomplish the pledges I made during my campaign, where we are now, and what still remains to be done. There is much to tell you!
First, a quick recap on my activities since the last report three weeks ago. On Tuesday, August 31, the RPT held a summit of Hispanic Republican leaders here at our HQ in Austin. The meeting was arranged by SREC member Jane Burch, who is my nominee to be coalitions and auxiliaries committee chair. Also in attendance at this meeting were fellow SREC members James Barnes, Janet Jackson, Marian Stanko, Dr. Johnny Lovejoy II, Eric Opiela and Weston Martinez. The statewide Republican Hispanic organizations represented were: the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, the Conservative Hispanic Society, the Hispanic Republicans of Texas, the Americano, and GOP Is For Me. I had an opportunity to meet with several of the leaders in advance of the meeting in order to obtain their input on how best the Republican Party can reach out to the Hispanic community. Each organization’s representative presented a report on their activities.
There is important work for the RPT to accomplish in reaching out to the Hispanic community, so this meeting also provided us a great opportunity to introduce Justin Hollis, our new outreach director. Justin and I provided a brief overview of the work the RPT is currently engaged in, relative to Hispanic outreach.
As one of his duties as our outreach director, Justin has been specifically charged with systematically cataloging the names of all Hispanic groups in the state of Texas, such as Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, professional groups, Republican groups, etc. He will make a master calendar of events of these groups, and it is our goal to get Republican representatives to as many meetings as possible to broaden our outreach with Hispanic leadership.
I view this first meeting as a very small first step in a long process of outreach. We are committed to this important outreach – so I have also authorized Justin to inform the groups represented at the meeting, that (funds permitting) we will consider small grants from the Party for the publishing of brochures promoting the Republican Party in the Hispanic community. I’ve also instructed Justin to set up similar meetings in the future with the African American Republican groups as well as Tea Party and conservative groups.
The week of September 1st saw Congressman Lamar Smith dropping by our office for an update on the Party, at which time he pledged his support in assisting the Party’s rebuilding efforts. I also had an opportunity to meet with the leadership of some conservative PAC’s to discuss the upcoming House races which provided me a chance to acquire information to help develop our final strategy relative to targeting House races.
That weekend, I had a lengthy meeting with RPT treasurer Paul Bettencourt, who has done a superb job as our treasurer and has been of great assistance to me in transitioning the office into my administration. I asked Paul for his help in planning now for 2012, specifically on ideas for a voter registration drive and ballot security initiative. I asked Paul if he would be willing to be state chairman of an RPT task force devoted to these issues, and he graciously agreed. Thus, I’ve appointed Paul to be chairman of an SREC committee pertaining to this subject, and have asked him also to serve on an SREC committee for redistricting. I feel like Paul is uniquely qualified to do this, having been the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector for a number of years. It is very rare for a non-SREC member to serve on an SREC committee – Paul is the only person that I have asked to do so thus far, but I have done so because I feel that he has unique qualifications for the positions.
Since Paul will be heading this new task force, I have asked Tom Mechler who has been serving as a special assistant on finance, to take over Paul’s position as Treasurer, subject to SREC confirmation on September 25th. And, I’ve asked SREC member Tom Washington, who has been serving as a volunteer CPA and special assistant on finance, to be our new assistant treasurer, also subject to SREC confirmation on September 25th. Tom Washington is also vice-chairman of the Denton County Republican Party.
Additionally, I am submitting the name of Patrick O’Daniel as our new RPT legal counsel, subject to SREC ratification. Patrick was #1 in his class at the University of Texas School of Law, was a chapter president of the Young Conservatives of Texas in college, a member of the Federalist Society, a member of the Leadership Council of Texas Alliance For Life, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, as well as a former clerk for Texas Supreme Court Justice Will Garwood. He currently serves as a partner in the prestigious firm of Fulbright & Jaworski (he will be serving as legal counsel in his individual capacity and not as a partner of that firm.)
In light of Patrick’s long dedication to the conservative movement, and his stellar legal credentials, I do not believe there is a more qualified person for the position in the State of Texas. On a related topic, I’ve asked Eric Opiela, an SREC member and former Executive Director of the RPT, to serve as assistant legal counsel. Eric has already been very helpful in answering questions pertaining to FEC and TEC filings, and I consider him an expert in this area.
I await a final decision from a prominent Texan that I have asked to serve as finance chair. I will be keeping you informed on this topic when I can pass along any announcement.
The Labor Day weekend passed by, and ushered in another busy week. On Tuesday, Sept. 7th, we had a general staff meeting where we made plans for our three statewide blockwalks, and received updates on our Trailblazers, Grassroots Club, Young Guns and strike force projects. That evening, the staff and I teleconferenced with over 100 County Chairmen to disseminate information relative to these programs.
In order not to reinvent the wheel, or engage in duplicitous efforts, we are contacting local county leadership to determine if they or local campaigns are planning blockwalks on the weekends that we’ve set aside. If they are, we are then directing our volunteers to the local effort. If they are not, then we are providing lists, literature, and will coordinate those efforts through Jenny Sykes, our organizational director. The dates of our blockwalks are October 16-17, October 23-24, and October 30-31. If you would like to participate in any of our blockwalks, please contact Jenny Sykes. If you would like to participate in our strike force or Young Guns program, please contact Josh Perry.
The next day, I traveled to Dallas to speak at a fundraiser at which Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was our featured guest. This event was described in a previous article in detail. It was a great success, with the lunch raising $55,000 and Senator Hutchison surprising me with a personal $10,000 contribution to the Party. After the luncheon, SREC member Jean McIver set up a meeting with Donald and Phillip Huffines, which resulted in their generous pledge of $10,000 to the Republican Party of Texas.
That night, I traveled to Houston and was the keynote speaker at the Daughters of Liberty dinner. This was set up by SREC member Bonnie Lugo, and also there were SREC members Valoree Swanson and Tina Gibson – it was a well-attended event.
The following morning, I flew to Washington D.C., to attend a conference of conservative leadership celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Sharon statement. I attended at the invitation of Wayne Thornburn, the former Executive Director of the Republican Party of Texas who has written a book (A Generation Awakes) on the development of the youth conservative movement in America, including the influence of the Sharon conference in 1960. The ’60 Sharon conference was held at the home of William F. Buckley, Jr., and resulted in a statement of principles written by M. Stanton Evans. I pledged my support of the Sharon statement approximately 35 years ago, and still support each and every one of the principles today.
What struck me about the conference and the review of the Sharon statement, was the fact that the fight for conservative principles that began 50 years ago continues to this day. There were several hundred leaders in attendance, and I got to visit with old conservative friends I haven’t seen in decades, including Frank Donatelli, former deputy chair of the RNC, Gary Hoitsma, former communications director for Sen. Imhofe and Reagan staffer, and Texans James Meadows and Terry Quist, who have been longtime conservative activists. The highlight of the evening was a keynote address by former Senator James Buckley, who was the New York Conservative Party United States Senator back in the 1970’s. He is one of my personal heroes, and I view this as unfortunately, perhaps a final opportunity to hear him speak live. All in all, this conference fired me up to work even harder back home in Texas.
The travel schedule continued unabated. The following morning, I flew from D.C. to Wichita Falls and then drove to Fort Belknap at the invitation of SREC member Golden Elkins to keynote the Young County Republican Roundup. The next day, I was the speaker at a Jack O’Connor for State Representative rally in Houston. I started the next week on the road, and attended a Lamar Smith function in Austin, before traveling to San Antonio for a meeting with potential contributors, a private meeting with the Bexar County Chairman Curt Nelson, and then a keynote address to the Bexar County Executive Committee meeting.
At the end of the week, we had an exciting announcement of the pledges of our Debt Busters committee. This is a project that I have been working on for many weeks, along with Rep. Jim Keffer who came up with the idea. On his own initiative, Rep. Keffer has spearheaded a drive to sign up House members to commit to paying off the remainder of the Party’s debt by year’s end. They have accumulated approximately $217,000 in pledges and presented me with a ceremonial check for $200,000 last Friday. This was indeed an exciting day for the Republican Party as it makes it increasingly likely that we will pay off all of the Party debt by year’s end. I will provide a more detailed description in the status report of the Party below.
Also that week, we launched a website – TheRoseRecord.com – which is a website to expose the liberal record of Democrat Representative Patrick Rose. We also have previously launched two other websites, DoneWithDunnam.com and KristiWorksForACORN.com – I would encourage all of you to check out these websites, so that you can see the research and hard work your Party has put into exposing the liberals and assisting our Republican candidates. We continue to look for more opportunities to target House races as data comes in. Currently, we are engaged in some exciting plans to support additional candidates by exposing their opponents’ records, and will have more announcements coming up soon.
Of course, we continue to coordinate with the Victory committee and their Executive Director Jarod Love, as Victory is a project of the RPT. We have five call centers set up through Victory and are providing phones to seven other campaigns. Additionally, our Executive Director Jesse Lewis was in contact with numerous campaigns over the last three weeks to determine if there is any specific assistance that the RPT can provide.
The 100th day of my Chairmanship was typical of my current life, as I appeared at another event for Jack O’Connor at lunch, met with a potential contributor in the afternoon, and was the keynote speaker for a Sarah Davis for State Representative event that evening. I was back at it the next day with a speech to the Greater Houston Republican Women in the morning in Houston, and a meeting with one of our elected officials in Austin in the afternoon.
In this update, I would also like to take the opportunity to clear up a few misconceptions that have been reported:
1) There is a misconception that since RPT has had such great success of late in obtaining a significant amount of pledges, that I and the staff must be spending all of our time fundraising and very little time on the elections.
As you can tell from the above report, the vast majority of my time is actually spent traveling around the state, either assisting candidates, meeting with party and elected officials, or trying to fire up the troops. Because I’ve been averaging 18-20 hour work days, I’ve had ample time to assist candidates, oversee election day activities, and raise funds all at once. Moreover, virtually no staff time is spent on fundraising. We use outside firms to set up our fundraisers so that RPT staff is not diverted from election activity. I do virtually all of the fundraising legwork myself, and except for occasional staff support from Jesse Lewis, our Executive Director – no staff time is spent on fundraising.
2) I also would like to clear up the misconception that our obtaining contributions and/or pledges which total in excess of a million dollars, is diverting funds away from election activities.
The truth is the opposite for several reasons. Firstly, RPT can accept corporate donations – candidates cant. A significant amount of the money we’ve raised has come from corporations, money that by law, could not have gone to candidates but money that allows the RPT to function and provide the basic services and support of candidates and our county parties. Additionally, a significant amount of the large contributors are personal contacts or friends of mine who would not have contributed or pledged the funds they have committed to the Party, to our candidates. Again, their doing so actually allows us to help candidates in ways that we would otherwise not be able to.
3) Finally, the misconception that we are hurting elected officials by taking their contributions.
We have told elected officials who are in hotly contested races that we understand if they cannot contribute, or if their contributions must be of a token amount. We want them to keep their focus and resources on their races. The elected officials that have an abundance of funds, still have plenty in reserve to assist other candidates if they should wish to. The bottom line is, because the financial situation has so quickly stabilized and we know that the debt will be paid off – we are allowed to free up money to help candidates and elected officials on the ballot, with funds that otherwise would have gone toward debt reduction.
The following is a 100-day status report on my key campaign pledges:
On June 18th, 2010 – the Republican Party of Texas had $605,000 in payables, and an estimated $75,000 in already incurred outstanding convention bills that had not been paid. The total debt was approximately $680,000. As of last Friday, we had been able to pay this debt down to $390,000. I am also finalizing an agreement for a reduction in interest charges on old balances which total a reduction of $40,000 if the total balance is paid off by Dec. 31, 2010. This will make the net debt approximately $350,000. It is my intention to pay approximately $100,000 in debt this week, which will bring us down to approximately the quarter million dollar level. The Debt Busters committee has pledged enough that has not been collected to bring this debt down to $120,000, and they have pledged to raise the remainder. Even if they come up a little short, I am confident that our current fundraising program has the momentum to afford us a very high probablility of paying off all of our debt by the end of the year.
My original campaign pledge was to stop the party’s deficit spending, eliminate the debt completely in two years, and to not deficit spend ever again. I am confident this pledge will be met.
BLOCK BY BLOCK PROGRAM:
My second pledge was to engage the grassroots and organize them into an active volunteer force. During my campaign, I said that it would “probably” be impossible to organize a perfect effort for 2010, given the time and financial constraints, but that I hoped to put together some sort of organization this year, and be fully prepared for the 2012 Presidential election. But I am very happy to report that we have recruited over 2,100 volunteers for our Trailblazers program and that these volunteers are independent of the RPT’s Victory program. Field director Josh Perry has already matched each of these volunteers to their respective legislative and Congressional districts. As noted above, we are coordinating three statewide blockwalks in October. My appointment of Paul Bettencourt gives me great confidence that his leadership will help us be fully prepared for these programs in 2012.
The third plank of my platform was that we would have outreach to conservative minority groups. I have hired an outreach director to accomplish this goal. We have developed a plan to systematically contact minority groups and I have met with Asian leadership, Hispanic leadership, Pakistani leadership, and Indian leadership in my short time as chairman. I hope to be able to spend greater time reaching out to these communities once the elections are behind us so that we can work together even more strongly in future elections.
I also pledged during the campaign to expand our efforts on college campuses. To accomplish this, I reassigned Austen Bailey to coordinate youth outreach. I’ve already had a meeting with the State Chairman of the College Republicans, and have another meeting planned with youth leadership on Friday, Sept. 24th. Austen has also been given the assignment of starting an online and printed newspaper. He is accumulating articles now, and his target date for launch is October 1st.
I also pledged to stand firm on our conservative principles and to this end, I have been traveling the state speaking to groups, giving media interviews, and publishing news releases defending our values. As Republicans, we already win on the ideas, and we are working hard to ensure we win in the voting booth as well.
A final note – at the time of this writing, we have 41 days left to the election, and far fewer days until early voting. I believe there has never been a more critical time in the history of our country during my lifetime, than right now. I call upon every Republican in the State of Texas to donate every hour of time they possibly can to blockwalking, telephoning, etc., to support our Republican candidates this election.
We have a rare opportunity to make a historic change and send a dramatic signal that the disastrous Democratic policies must be put to an end. It is imperative that we begin to turn our country around. Rest assured that I am working almost around the clock with you, and that together, I believe we can pull off a dramatic and history-changing victory.
Steve Munisteri, Chairman, Republican Party of Texas
P.S. I apologize for the length of this report. It was my intention to write a report every week or so, but as you can see – there has been barely a spare moment, and so this report covers a three week timespan. I didn’t want to edit it down because this is YOUR PARTY, and I promised transparency. I believe you have the absolute right to a complete accounting of what I and the Party are doing. Let’s move forward together to victory this November!