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GOP chairman: Party is financially stronger

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | JULY 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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Once a group of cash-strapped conservatives, Iowa GOP leaders say the group is on the path to stronger financial footings, and it could be equal to its Democratic rival in a matter of weeks.

With just over a month under new leadership, the Republican Party of Iowa has every intention on hitting a goal of $300,000 in fundraising by Aug. 31, the new chairman told The Daily Iowan on Monday.

GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said he believes that with a pair of new finance committee co-heads and a bevy of new print and online strategies, the goal is more attainable.

Former U.S. Senate nominee and Texas energy conglomerate executive Mark Jacobs and Cam Sutton, a large contributor to the GOP donor pool, will lead the new four-member Finance Committee.

“In the end, this might even be a blessing,” Kaufmann, 51, said about the once-dry financing outlook for the party, whose helm he took one month and a day ago.

Party leaders loyal to five-term Gov. Terry Branstad worked to assemble a new round of leadership during the past several months after recognizing a lack of confidence in control, including under Danny Carroll, who served as interim chairman.

With previous leadership aligned with former presidential prospect Ron Paul’s notion of a smaller government, the party witnessed plummeting donations.

But by honing in on direct-mail submissions, social-media campaigns, small-group meetings, and state fundraisers over a multiyear period beyond 2014, Kauffman and party co-head Cody Hoefert said the party will be in a better position to reach out to individual in-state donors.

Jeff Patch, the communications director for the state party, said he was unaware of the total amount invested in new fundraising efforts, but he maintained that leaders are actively targeting independents, Democrats, and union members across all demographics to promote the full-ticket of state Republican candidates.

The party had approximately $1.18 million in bills in the first half of the year, but its net operating costs were greater than that of its net contributions, according to Federal Election Commission records.

How Iowa Republican delegates will respond to a renewed sense of financial stability remains to be seen.

Christopher Budzisz, an associate professor of politics at Loras College, said average state voters don’t tend to follow political party’s inner workings, because they are more tuned into who is behind party leadership and its economic health.

“I can’t imagine a congressional candidate publicly discussing [inside party funding] as a campaign maneuver,” said Budzisz, who also serves as spokesman for the Loras College Poll.

Although tracking party money trails here is trickier than in other parts of the nation, he said, the issue of recruiting quality party challengers is a more prominent stance that voters often side with.

In a statement provided to the DI, Christina Freundlich, the communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, was combative about the GOP’s financial promises.

“To be clear, the [GOP] has not met its projected fundraising goals yet — it still has a long way to go,” Freundlich said in the statement. “While they continue to play catchup in both fundraising and their grass-roots organization, Democrats will continue to lay out the clear choice between our vision for building the ladders for the middle class and the Republicans’ out-of-touch agenda that prioritizes opportunity for the very few, while working to privatize Social Security, oppose a federal minimum wage, and ban some common forms of birth control.”

Asked if he was worried about clearing the reputation of being a cash-strapped group just a few months ago to one with new revenue streams, Kaufmann shied away from the party’s recent troubled history.

“People aren’t going to judge a whole party on the bad decisions of a few,” he said. “Republicans by nature are fiscally conservative, and they are definitely paying attention to how it is being used. But we are being responsible with the donations.”


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