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Ray Haynes

We Have Met The Enemy, and He is Us, Part VI – The Donor Dilemma

A couple of months ago, I wrote a series of articles about the California Republican Party, and its challenges. I analyzed the Party, the activists, the electoral tactics, the office holders and the message. We have big challenges at all levels, on that we all agree. Solutions are the source of disagreement. The one area I have yet to analyze, and offer a solution for is the problem I will call the donor dilemma.

There are two types of money in politics: ideological money and partisan money. Ideological money is money given to a candidate because the donor is passionate about the opinions and beliefs of the candidate to which they are giving. Partisan money is given because of party loyalty. For Democrats, ideological money tends to come from government based unions. They are socialist ideologues, and therefore give only to Democrats who are committed, openly or privately, to implementing a socialist agenda. Partisan money tends to come from trial lawyers and business interests who are committed to their crony capitalist agenda.

For Republicans, ideological money comes from wealthy donors who are motivated by their beliefs in free enterprise, family or freedom. Partisan money comes from business interests (not all, but many) who are committed to their crony capitalist agenda.

As you can see, when you cannot help a business implement its crony capitalist agenda, partisan money dries up.

That is the California Republican Party donor dilemma. A party as far in the minority as Republicans in California has no source of partisan money. They cannot help anyone implement their crony capitalist agenda, and, for that reason, that money dries up.

That is a problem, because it shrinks the available pool of business money to almost nothing. That is about $3 million of money to the party or its officeholders that is gone. It, however, is an opportunity, because now Republicans can occupy a market niche, that is, the market for strongly conservative donors, who give for ideological reasons.

When I began in politics in the 1990s, such a group was formed. It’s original iteration was named the “Allied Business PAC.” These donors identified conservative candidates in districts around the state, and advanced the conservative cause in California. These four donors contributed $3 – $4 million a year for CONSERVATIVE candidates, and they had a huge impact on elections. In 1994, mostly due to their efforts, Republicans had their first majority in a house of the Legislature since 1968. The group ultimately fell apart, because, as they achieved their goals, they lost their direction. They were of one mind, and focused when they began. They soon lost their way, as each one hired their own “political” person. Those “political” people led the individual donors astray, and the organization lost focus. A good idea lost in competing political agendas. It’s not that the central organizing principles of the group changed, but the political agendas of those “consultants” to the group got in the way of its central organizing principles.

The idea was a good one, though, and today, a similar group is necessary. It doesn’t need a lot of donors to start, and a budget of $4 million will change the entire flavor of California politics. Laws have changed since Allied Business PAC’s days, but it is a viable solution to the California Republicans’ donor dilemma. Partisan money is gone for the time being, but there has to be enough ideological money to revive the position of the party in this state, and redirect the party back to its conservative mission.

How would such a group be organized? First, one person would be the advisor to the group, one who doesn’t have an agenda to make money off the project (no consultants, no “slate mail” companies, no party hacks, no officeholders). Second, it needs a clear agenda for the types of candidates it wishes to recruit and promote. Finally, as with Allied Business PAC, it must find and promote candidates that unite the conservative activists, that is, the pro-life, pro-gun, anti-tax, small government activists around the state. Then the group has to have a clear strategy to recapture seats we have lost, limiting candidates in those districts, and coordinating the groups, so that, in the days of the top two primary, our resources are not dispersed. Finally, it has to be organized outside the party. It cannot get caught up in the internal conflicts that are inherent in any party organization.

This is a doable thing, and, in my opinion, it is the only thing that will revive the party. It will be a controversial thing, and the donors will be the subject of intense scrutiny all the time, but it will lead to a revival of the California Republican Party, a conservative and committed alternative to the leftists and crony capitalists who currently run our state