Top GOP Official Quits, Pens Scathing Critique Of RNC Under Michael Steele

Nov 16, 2010 3:41pm

ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:

The political director of the Republican National Committee resigned on Tuesday, but not before offering what amounted to a scathing assessment of current chairman Michael Steele’s job performance.

The official, Gentry Collins, implicitly laid the blame for the RNC’s current troubles squarely at Steele’s feet, writing that the committee has “allowed its major donor base to wither,” spent far too much money on fundraising rather than winning elections and squandered opportunities to help Republican candidates in key races during the 2010 election cycle.

“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 warned in a five-page memo addressed to Steele and circulated to members of the RNC executive committee.

“In the previous two non-presidential cycles, the RNC carried over $4.8 million and $3.1 million respectively in cash reserve balances into the presidential cycles,” Collins wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News. “In stark contrast, we enter the 2012 presidential cycle with 100% of the RNC’s $15 million in lines of credit tapped out, and unpaid bills likely to add millions to that debt.”

In a statement responding to the letter, RNC spokesman Doug Heye touted the party's victories in 2010, calling them "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. These accomplishments are shared by our entire team at the RNC as well as volunteers, donors and state parties."

But the letter comes at a moment of particular vulnerability for Steele, who has yet to announce he is running for re-election as RNC Chairman even though one candidate has already launched a challenge and several others are expressing interest. And the voices of Steele’s critics are becoming even louder now that the midterm season is over.

Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy, whose name has been mentioned as a possible challenger to Steele, told Roll Call newspaper last week that Steele’s “nutty and careless statements” endangered the RNC political efforts. “There were a lot of commitments that were not kept,” Healy said in the interview. “That left a lot of states short, and that prevented greater gains.”

Collins largely echoed that assessment, noting that the party’s fund-raising problems ran so deep that the RNC’s “vaunted 72-hour” voter turnout program “was left largely unfunded.” He pointed to independent assessments indicating that at least two more U.S. Senate races – in Washington state and Colorado – might have fallen into Republican hands if the party had been able to pay for a more robust ground game effort.

Collins also highlighted 21 additional U.S. House seats that could have been in play for Republicans if additional funding had been available.

“For the first time in the McCain-Feingold era, the RNC failed to fund an independent expenditure effort,” he wrote. “The RNC made only a fraction (about 13 percent) of the direct-to-candidate contributions that it made in the last mid-term cycle.”

He offered a prescription for getting the party back on track: “We must dig out of huge debts, be focused and disciplined about spending wisely, only spend to win elections, and adopt a laser-like focus on the hard work of reviving our major donor fundraising network."

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