Frankly, I have been amazed, and humbled, by the reaction to my last post. Much of what I wrote has been known and discussed openly among Harris County Republican Party activists for years, but I guess sometimes it takes a catalytic event, like the horrible idea of a speakers’ tax for our candidates and elected officials to speak at a public meeting, to open the window shades and let the light into the room.
If those of you who read my last post were as upset as your comments (on this site, and on Facebook) reflect, it’s time to make a promise to each other—let’s never allow this to happen again. Let’s agree to take responsibility for our local party by becoming involved—and staying involved.
And to do that, we must address first things first: we must pay for the cost of the upcoming countywide SD conventions to be held at Grace Community Church on April 21st, without taxing our candidates and elected officials to speak. I said toward the end of my last post that I would “post soon” and offer “some mechanism for contributing to the cost of the upcoming SD convention in Harris County.” Well, this post is to address that issue. But, first, some background.
As you gathered from my last post, the HCRP did not get into this mess overnight, and unfortunately, our current leadership has refused over the years to be candid about this situation. Now I will be the first to admit that our current Chair is a nice, perpetually cheerful man, who always tries to show the public, including our activists, the rosiest picture of our party and its policy positions. Under most circumstances, this would be a good trait to have in our leader, but this rosy cheerfulness has led to a lack of candor that has perpetuated and deepened the mess we are in to the point that we don’t have the money to pay the costs for the event on April 21st.
I am sure that many of you are scratching your heads at how our local party could be broke, when we are the home to a former GOP President (who once served as HCRP Chair), a former GOP Secretary of State and his institute, other former GOP cabinet members and administration officials, and so many of the largest donors to our national party and its candidates. But the way in which we grew between 1988 and 1994 to take over the countywide elected offices, led to a rift between the faction that sought (and eventually obtained) control of the party, and the donor base—the former didn’t want the involvement of the latter any more, and the latter obliged by closing their wallets. In the meantime, the new faction stopped seeking the type of small donations that typically form the sustaining base of any non-profit entity, and continually sought big checks from an ever smaller group of willing donors. To supplement the shortfall, they increasingly turned to the candidates and elected officials to fund the party’s operation, and they simply prayed that these contributions would hold the party over until it received the funding from the state every two years to conduct the local primary.
So, we eventually ended up where we are today, with the totally upside down situation in which the party relies on the candidates and elected officials to prop it up and pay for the party operations, while the party can provide no independent financial support to the general election effort for the ticket. The vacuum created by this mess was filled by the private pay-for-play system, and led the current leadership to think they could go one step further and implement the speakers’ tax.
Anyone who has served on the HCRP’s Finance Committee over the last few years knows how frustrating this situation has become. And now the chickens have come home to roost—we have to hold our SD Conventions before the primary, and the party has no money to pay for the event. Rather than wring our hands, or tax our candidates and elected officials to speak, we need to seize this moment to take control of this situation.
Remember that in my last post I said some very harsh things about our own contributions to this mess—and I meant them:
… I also am ashamed that you and I have let our local party deteriorate to the extent that this plan could even be considered. …
… And, those of us who
- voted in GOP primaries,
- used the three men’s endorsements to choose our candidates, rather than do our own homework, and
- ignored and didn’t contribute time or money to the local party, so it could develop an organization to support our candidates and fall tickets independent of these three men,
were the ultimate enablers.
Regardless of whether our current leadership ever sees (or admits to seeing) the light, we have; and we need to stop enabling this system. We need to break our party free from the hostage situation in which it has found itself between those who seek to maintain control of the party without a donor base, and the donor base who refuse to fund the party. We need to start this breakout by paying for the convention ourselves.
I have been told that the cost for holding the convention on April 21st is anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000, though the costs reflected in recent TEC reports filed by the party seem to suggest that the actual costs are closer to the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Regardless of which estimate is correct, I believe we can cover this cost ourselves, especially given the few thousand delegates who routinely attend this event. Here is what I am proposing:
- Bring $25 dollars to the April 21st event. We were told on Thursday night by Chairman Woodfill that lunch will cost $15 if purchased the day of the convention ($10 if purchased online before the convention). So, I am asking you each to contribute the remaining $10 to cover the cost of the convention. Contributions of that size may be made in cash;
- I will approach the party this week to offer volunteers (from our clubs and from the Tea Parties) to man tables throughout the facility to accept the donations and process the forms required to accept them, on behalf of the HCRP. These volunteers will work under my direction, as a current member of the HCRP Finance Committee, and will turn over the funds and paperwork to the party leadership at the end of the day; and
- Any shortfall will be underwritten by a group of people who are working with me.
Although this mechanism should provide the party with all the money it needs to pay for the convention, others are free to give more if they wish. I have asked David Jennings to help by creating a Pledge button on this website, which anyone can use to make a pledge to cover the cost of the convention. Moreover, candidates and elected officials are still welcome to contribute as they can afford, but I make one request to the candidates and elected officials—don’t agree to the speakers’ tax, even if you think it gives you an advantage in your race, but demand, instead, that all candidates and elected officials of our party be given a free opportunity to address the delegates.
Then, before we commit the volunteers for the delegate contributions, before the underwriters will commit to release payment for any shortfall, and before we ask anyone who has pledged to then donate, we will demand the following from the party:
- Proof of the actual projected costs for the event;
- A promise to share with us the documentation for the actual final costs incurred for the event; and
- A public statement from the HCRP that the speakers’ tax has been canceled, and that any candidate or elected official of our party may speak to the delegates.
I believe this approach will work to cover the costs of the convention. In fact, last night, Melissa Rowell, a wonderful local activist, posted this comment to my earlier post on this website:
… The HCRP could come out and ask all the precinct chairs and volunteers and candidates to pitch in a little and help raise a little, so that everyone pitches in and the primary candidates don’t get hit hard in the pocket book if they want to speak. If the building and function costs so much, then I don’t mind helping out some.
Melissa, we are thinking the same way, and it is doable.
Now, I am asking the rest of you to please join us in covering the costs in this way.
Then, after the convention, let’s agree that we won’t let this situation continue. Our candidates this fall deserve a functioning party organized and funded to identify our voters and get them to the polls. And we need that type of party to defeat the Obama machine that is gearing back up. Let’s commit to giving them that party.