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FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2009 file photo, then-Counselor to the President Ed Gillespie briefs reporters at the White House in Washington. This year FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2009 file photo, then-Counselor to the President Ed Gillespie briefs reporters at the White House in Washington. This year's volatile election is bursting at the seams with money, setting fundraising and spending records in a high-stakes struggle for control of Congress amid looser but still fuzzy campaign finance rules. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)  

Ed Gillespie hatches plan to replace lousy campaign websites

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

Veteran Republican strategist Ed Gillespie’s latest plan to help GOP candidates win state-level elections involves making sure they aren’t stuck with crappy campaign websites.

Gillespie’s organization, the Republican State Leadership Committee, has made a six-figure investment in an initiative that promises to replace poorly designed candidate websites with sophisticated, yet inexpensive sites.

The average budget for a state senate campaign is only $190,000, said RSLC press secretary Adam Temple. But a complete website created by the group’s GOPro program only costs Republican candidates $550.

“They can’t afford to use a major DC firm, and a lot of times they end up using local yokels who end up charging them two or three times that,” said Michael Luethe, a political consultant in North Carolina who has run four campaigns using the program.

“Candidates really are stuck in a difficult position between having to choose a crappy website or something that looks professional,” he told The Daily Caller. “And usually professional ones are cost-prohibitive.”

The Daily Caller got a sneak peak at how the program works: Republican state legislative candidates who want to design a campaign website pay the $550 fee, fill out some information and choose from among five website templates.

Some sites have been launched in as little as 15 minutes, Temple said. The project, he said, is quick and easy to set up, is relatively inexpensive, and simplifies raising money online.

Temple said Democrat-leaning groups have done similar things, but not “to the degree” of GOPro.

It’s available for Republican state-legislature candidates only, he said. The RSLC makes sure candidates are Republicans before approving their participation.

Fifteen candidates have used the program in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Rob Bryan, who is running for the state house in Charlotte, N.C., used the program to create FriendsofRob.com.

“I’ve seen a lot more expensive [websites] that I’ve liked less,” he told TheDC.

“I’ve gotten loads of compliments,” Bryan said. “People love the site, think it looks great. … It’s easy for people to give [money], it’s easy for us to track.”

Temple said the RSLC hopes several hundred candidates will use it in 2012. The group plans an nationwide rollout of the program in early February.

The RSLC’s mission is to elect more Republicans to the down-the-ballot offices of attorney general, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and legislator — and to build “the farm team” of future Republican candidates for higher office.

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