Time for tough love at the RNC

Ann Wagner Contributor
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How can an organization that has lost credibility, is $20 million in debt and is plagued by distractions and drama help change America’s direction in 2012? It is time for tough love at the Republican National Committee. Bringing conservative Republican leadership to the presidency, Congress, and the states will require a new direction, new leadership and a new team at the RNC.

The new RNC needs to be fully funded to its maximum obligations and fully functional to meet the challenges of 2012. We must be efficient, relevant, professional and credible.

We must start immediately to erase the debt and restore the confidence of our donor base. Republican donors support our causes. But they lost confidence or weren’t reached out to by the RNC last cycle. Many moved their resources to other party organizations or third-party groups. This hurt our candidates more than it hurt the RNC. In many states, like my home state of Missouri, the full RNC resources our state parties rely on simply were not there.

In 2012, the fundraising stakes will be even higher. In addition to fully funding the programs to help us grow our majority in the House and take control of the Senate, the RNC will be responsible for funding the Presidential Trust and the convention in Tampa, Florida — a critical platform for our presidential nominee.

Job number one is to recreate a strong fundraising operation with a growing base of donors. This means immediately reestablishing a successful major donor finance operation. It should include the development of a professional fundraising “prospectus” for donor presentations so they know how and where their resources are being spent and our plan for winning.

My plan will include immediately convening past and present RNC finance chairs. Together, we will create a new “Team One-Twenty” program for maxed-out donors; create new donor programs at the $10,000, $5,000 and 1,000 annual levels; and develop a regionally-based finance committee that reports to the RNC finance chair and the RNC chair.

Most importantly, I believe the new RNC chair must live out of a suitcase, visiting with donors in one-on-one and small group settings across the country. Everyone at the RNC, from the janitor to the chairman, ought to be helping raise the resources necessary to get the committee out of debt and begin building a war chest for the 2012 election.

We must restore confidence in the management and business operations of the committee by increasing the transparency and accountability of the RNC’s budget and expenditures. The new chair should begin with a full-scale audit of the RNC’s financial operations and contracts. We should reinstate the position of comptroller and establish a modernized accounts payable/receivable system to allow for real-time monitoring of the budget. Overhead costs must be overhauled. Contracts should be merit-based. And good management begins at the top. The chair should be full time, refusing outside income, speaking fees or consulting fees that enrich them personally.

We must renew and retool the committee’s political operation, focusing on efforts that will make the RNC relevant and provide true support to state parties. This will require a qualified, professional staff to run the political department, integrating field operations, coalitions, outreach, education, data management and effective get-out-the-vote programs.

Thirty-two states currently have early voting. The RNC needs a “Win Early Program” aimed at engaging aggressively in the state with early voting or no-excuse absentee laws. In many states, we can be well on the way to victory long before the polls open on Election Day. The traditional “72-Hour Program” is no longer a relevant start-time for our get-out-the-vote activities.

All aspects of list development and micro-targeting should be reevaluated and retooled with more emphasis on integrating social media technologies and real-time volunteer list enhancements. Regional training seminars should be reestablished. With redistricting in play, the RNC should be a clearinghouse of legal and technical assistance to states for the redistricting process.

The RNC’s political operations must also show respect for the true independent and authentic nature of the grassroots Tea Party and Patriot groups. Their energy is exciting, vibrant, and a big part of why we won in 2010. Let’s listen to them and engage them — not try to co-opt them into the RNC.

We must improve communications, both internally and externally, with the RNC members, Congressional leaders, national party committees, presidential campaigns and state parties in areas such as messaging, fundraising, candidate recruitment and redistricting.

Never have we had so many ways to communicate with voters. The RNC must be on the cutting edge — utilizing new media in all communications so we can connect with voters and be an influential voice in the conversation.

The 2012 election should be about our candidates — not the RNC chair — but we do need a strong spokesperson who can go head-to-head with Tim Kaine and the national Democrats when necessary.

Why is all of this important? It is important because elections have consequences. Right now our freedoms and values are under assault in Washington. The 2008 election has resulted in soaring spending, massive debt and an expansive and intrusive federal government. If we are to complete the job we started in 2010 to bring conservative leadership to Washington in 2012, we need new leadership, a new direction and a new team at the RNC.

Ann Wagner is a candidate for RNC chair. She was the first woman chair of the Missouri Republican Party (1998-2005), Co-Chair of the RNC (2001-2005), Ambassador to Luxembourg (2005-2009) and chair of Roy Blunt’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010.