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California Republican Party carries big debt as November election nears

July 31, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A fiscal meltdown, for California's Republican Party: As the November election nears, the party's debt is growing. The party is struggling just to maintain a presence in the state Capitol. The GOP is expected to file its latest financial report just before a midnight deadline Tuesday night.

The California Republican Party is downplaying its financial woes, saying it's strong in infrastructure and volunteers to win in November.

After criticizing Democrats for years about overspending, the California Republican Party finds itself in terrible financial shape just three months before the November election.

Layoffs at party headquarters and the inability to fund candidates illustrate what federal and state campaign finance records are expected to show: that the state GOP is in debt of about a half-million dollars.

"We've managed our finances as well as we could, given the situation," said Mark Standriff, a spokesperson for the California Republican Party.

Critics within the party are outraged over what some call a "financial meltdown." That's on top of dwindling voter registration and poor outreach efforts to lure Latinos. The GOP also spent $2.3 million challenging the new political district lines drawn for Senate races.

Party leaders point out they've made progress in erasing a $4.5-million debt from five years ago and political-action committees known as "Super-PACs" can help candidates financially.

"Because of the fiscal responsibility that we've been showing all along the way, we're going to end up the year in a position where we going to reduce all of our debt down to zero and to move forward into 2013 with a surprising number of successes," said Standriff.

"I think it's troublesome that we don't have a Republican Party that's viable in California," said Aaron McLear, who worked for Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger tried to get his party to move toward the center, but was pushed out by party members with a more conservative agenda.

"Governor Schwarzenegger talked about how they're losing at the box office, that's what they would call it in Hollywood," said McLear. "That was about five years ago, and they didn't take his advice. They said 'We'd rather be right than win.' Well, that's what happened."

McLear also says with the stronger leadership, the GOP can turn things around, especially with Democrats in the middle of their own scandal involving the Parks Department hoarding millions of dollars.

"I think the pieces are there to make it a viable party," said McLear. "They just need to focus on fiscal issue and not those social issues that divide people."

The federal filing appeared online showing about $400,000 in debt; add that to the state filing that's expected to be about $150,000, and that goes up to about a half-million dollars in debt. The GOP admits it's been tough fund-raising because it's a presidential election year.


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