Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri told a few hundred Hays County Republicans Sunday night at the San Marcos Activity Center that the state party is on the verge of a funding crisis. Munisteri also addressed various other state party issues.
One of the hottest issues raised that night involved state House of Representatives Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio). Most in attendance Sunday night appeared to oppose Straus’ bid for re-election as speaker. Some expressed anger at Straus for not backing a voter ID initiative in the 2009 legislative session and for appearing at a fundraiser for former State Representative Patrick Rose (D-San Marcos).
Munisteri told attendees that most Republican legislators would probably support Straus’ bid for speaker — and he was right. Straus won re-election on Tuesday, with 132 votes for him and 15 against him. The two legislators who were present but did not vote included Representative Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), who defeated Rose in November and now represents Hays, Caldwell and Blanco Counties in the state legislature.
Munisteri declined to take a side in the speaker’s race, saying the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) had pledged to be neutral in the affair. In response to an audience member’s question of why any Republican would dream of supporting Straus, Munisteri explained voters in the speaker’s race are less motivated by ideology and more about regional issues, personal relationships, retribution, leadership style preferences, and expectations of benefiting from being on the winning side.
After applauding his party for recently achieving sweeping Republican victories statewide, Munisteri spoke of serious challenges ahead for conservatives. Munisteri said “we will have a civil war in our party” if Republicans do not pass legislation on key issues, “number one” being voter ID. The voter ID law would require voters to show valid photo ID to poll workers before casting ballots.
Munisteri said Republican legislators also need to address the illegal immigration issue.
“When I campaigned for state chair, the two issues I heard the most was immigration and voter ID,” Munisteri said.
Munisteri said it is also important for Republican lawmakers to avoid raising taxes, balance the state budget, and pass a sonogram bill. The sonogram bill would require abortion centers to offer sonograms to clients who plan to terminate their pregnancies.
Munisteri said the average age of a contributor to the RPT is 70, which, he said, means that old ways of bringing in contributions, like direct mail and telemarketing, aren’t working with younger people.
“I don’t want to get morbid here, but I have to worry about our party’s future over the next 10 years — our contributors are literally going to die out if (this continues),” Munisteri said.
Munisteri said the RPT faces considerable competition from the fundraising efforts of the Republican National Committee (RNC), which, he said “floods” Texas with telemarketing calls and is “robbing our state.”
Munisteri said the RNC mailed flyers to party members in the Houston area under the pretext of helping local candidates, when, in fact, most of the contributions went out-of-state.
“(The contributions are) not going here,” Munisteri said. “They’re going to pay for a condo in Tampa Bay for the personal assistant of the chairman — 3,500 square-foot, waterfront condo, $4,500 a month, $25,000 signing bonus, $180,000 to kids. I’m not making this up … $50,000 goes to pay for the limousines, the private jets and all that. So we’re having to compete with them sucking up the money.”
Munisteri said the RNC, since 2006, “sucked out” $40 million from Texas, and only gave the RPT $300,000 over the same period.
“They gave us no money in 2008,” Munisteri said of the RNC. “So what’s wrong with that picture — you give $40 million and you get $300,000 back? Sounds like the federal government, huh? That’s why, by the way, I’m voting against (RNC Chairman) Mike Steele.”
Munisteri said the RNC gave $8 million to the state Republicans in Missouri and $9 million to Wisconsin Republicans. Munisteri said those states received more than Texas because their party organizations supported the incumbency of Steele, while Munisteri publicly opposed him.
Munisteri said if RPT does not find an effective way of getting grassroots donations, the organization will be completely dependent on large contributors and Republican elected officials’ campaign dollars.
“Grassroots (contributions) do give us enough to run our party,” Munisteri said. “They do give us about $1.5 million or more, sometimes, through telemarketing and direct mail. It’s just that the cost of raising it is too high.”
Munisteri said Republicans must do more to reach out to black and Hispanic voters. Munisteri said the Republican Party is already very inclusive of ethnic minorities, and he criticized news media organizations in general for portraying it otherwise.
To meet the aforementioned funding challenges, Munisteri said the RPT recently implemented the Grassroots Club program, which allows contributors to give monthly automatic payments of $8.25 per month. Under this program, it costs the RPT $0.05 out of every dollar to raise the money, versus more than $0.50 out of every dollar via methods such as telemarketing and direct mail. Munisteri said the RPT will take members of the Grassroots Club off the organization’s mailing and call list.
Munisteri said Republican lawmakers must prove they can deliver on key party initiatives this legislative session, lest they face an estranged constituency.
“We have to get ready for 2012 (elections),” Munisteri. “Because this (November) was just the appetizer for the main fight. Because the main fight is, we have to have a change in Washington.”