RNC Political Director’s Harsh Critique Contradicts His Own Past Assessments Of GOP Election Efforts

Nov 16, 2010 7:05pm

ABC News' Michael Falcone and Jonathan Karl report:

In his resignation letter from the top political job at the Republican National Committee on Tuesday, Gentry Collins painted a grim picture of party mismanagement that bears little resemblance to the far more upbeat tone he maintained ahead of the Nov. 2 elections.

“The RNC is heading into the final 100 days of the campaign with the necessary resources to compete from Delaware to Hawaii,” Collins wrote in a memo dated July 20. “By the end of July, the RNC will have transferred over $2 million this year and have invested more than $20 million this cycle in state parties and party committees across the country.”

The memo, which was co-signed by RNC Finance Director Mary Heitman, assures committee members that “the RNC is prepared for the historic opportunity that exists for Republicans this fall.”

But on Tuesday, Collins abruptly quit his job at the RNC and warned party chairman Michael Steele and RNC officials in a five-page letter that the committee has “allowed its major donor base to wither,” tapped out its lines of credit and left its “vaunted 72-hour” voter turnout program “largely unfunded.”

With just under two weeks to go before Election Day, however, Collins offered an entirely different assessment with a memo titled: “31,161,123: An Unprecedented Grassroots Achievement."

“A truly significant landmark was passed just before 9:00pm last night,” Collins wrote on Oct. 21. “At that time, a phone bank volunteer made the 31,161,123rd voter contact of the year — and Republican grassroots volunteers officially surpassed the total number of volunteer voter contacts made in 2008.

He added, “As far back as the RNC has records, there is not another example of mid-term volunteer efforts outpacing presidential year efforts.”

A portion of that message was posted on the RNC’s official blog, which also includes an Oct. 13 video in which Collins boasts about the party’s voter contact effort in key states like Colorado, Illinois, Florida and Pennsylvania.

But in his farewell letter on Tuesday, Collins complained that when it came to the party’s final 72-hour voter turnout push, “states were not given enough time to plan for” a lack of funding.

The critique stands in sharp contrast to one of dozens of tweets Collins sent out in the closing weeks of the campaign. “BIG news out of the field: RNC Victory made over 1 MILLION calls yesterday alone. Things look great going into final 72 hrs,” he wrote on Oct. 28.

In these statements and memos, Collins’ tone was typical of a GOP political director trying to massage the party’s donor base and tout his own election-related work, but the contrast to his scathing letter on Tuesday is particularly striking.

Collins did not respond to a request for comment.

In his missive this week he also complained that the RNC’s fundraising haul in 2010 represented a mere “fraction” of the amount raised in previous cycles.

He sounded much more optimistic this summer: “Our fundraising this cycle is on pace to outstrip what we raised in the 1994 cycle,” he and Heitman wrote. “In the 1994 cycle, through June of the election year, the RNC had raised $78,851,742.96 and had $9,163,876 cash on hand (adjusted for inflation).”

And as far back as June, Collins publicly expressed nothing but confidence in the RNC’s strong “daily messaging and political ground game” that would “ensure that each state has what it needs to compete aggressively and be successful in November.”

According to RNC spokesman Doug Heye, Collins’ earlier predictions came closest to reality. In a statement on Tuesday, Heye said that 2010 represented "the most successful elections for the Republican Party in modern times.”

“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,” Heye said. “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.”

Collins’ resignation comes as the battle for RNC chairman is heating up. Although Steele has not officially announced he is running for another term, he has already drawn one official challenger and other party insiders are contemplating getting into the race.

Late Tuesday the Washington Post reported that three unnamed sources close to Collins said that he has also been weighing a run against Steele.

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