RPV in Crisis: Deep financial woes under Moulton’s ‘Conservative Fellowship’

Republican elephantBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Russ Moulton’s Conservative Fellowship clique is encountering serious financial difficulties since taking over the majority of leadership of the Republican Party of Virginia. Their purging of longtime volunteers, grassroots leaders, and alienating big-time donors has resulted in dried-up donations, leaving RPV with little more than $200 in the treasury. The new chairman John Whitbeck has dismissed so many employees at RPV’s Richmond headquarters that there are only three left (see Crisis at RPV: Whitbeck puts staff on chopping block).

The Washington Post has reported about an email that was sent by Moulton to his “Conservative Fellowship auxiliary” that began with an urgent request for money but also an outline of upcoming plans for 2016 (see Deep feud splitting Virginia’s GOP evident in fundraising foes). The Post wrote:

A Virginia Republican activist who helped unseat former House majority leader Eric Cantor is urging the party’s most conservative organizers to dig deep to keep the party’s lights on through the end of the month. Russ Moulton sent an e-mail Sunday to members of the Conservative Fellowship, the tea party-influenced wing of the party that dominates its governing board, sounding the alarm about the party’s financial hole.

“We must urgently raise $30k by end of March to keep our new, leaner RPV running,” Moulton wrote of the party, which recently shed four staffers. “If we want a truly financially-independent, grass roots, principled RPV — free from the usual consultant-style bullying, threats, manipulation and control by elected officials — we MUST step up and raise this bare minimum cash flow.”

A copy of the email shows fundraising tensions as perhaps now the realization that the “fellowship” killed the golden goose when prolific fundraiser Eric Cantor, former Congressman and Majority Leader, was sent packing by tea party and libertarian factions of the party:

From: Russ Moulton
Date: Sun, Mar 22, 2015 at 6:08 PM
Subject: Conservative Fellowship Auxiliary Call To Action — Please respond

CONFIDENTIAL. FOR CONSERVATIVE FELLOWSHIP AUXILIARY ONLY. DO NOT SHARE OR FORWARD.

All: We must urgently raise $30K by end of March to keep our new, leaner RPV running.

Internally for 2016, we’ve been working on a “Virginia Caucuses” approach (eg. January 2016 timeframe mass meetings, early March 2016 timeframe District and State Conventions, delegate pre-file forms with Presidential preferences, mandatory Presidential campaign pre-file fees, and mandatory $35 dollar delegate fees) that could very well bring in ~$800K for RPV by 1 Feb 2016. (a lot more to follow in the in the weeks ahead as we refine this exciting plan).

BUT … that’s almost a year out. In the meantime, we have to survive financially. We must raise $30K by March 30th.

Our Finance Chair, Pete Snyder, has offered to match up to $50,000 in grassroots donations we raise by June 1.

To meet our $30K goal by March 30, let’s leverage Pete’s generous challenge right away. That means, if our Fellowship can raise just $15K, Pete will match the other $15K, and we hit our $30K requirement!

Or, better, if we can meet our stretch-goal of $30K, then Pete would match that and we hit $60K, giving us some more breathing room!

If we want a truly financially-independent, grass-roots, principled RPV – free from the usual consultant-style bullying, threats, manipulation and control by elected officials – we MUST step up and raise this bare-minimum cash flow.

If we can do this in the short term – through the anticipated January 2016 “Virginia Caucuses” wind-fall – we will have the funds we need to survive for the longer haul, and by then a new donor base will be in place (and many old donors will return).

ACTION: we are asking every member of the Fellowship to host a low-overhead/low-effort grassroots fundraiser for RPV by March 30th. We are making it VERY easy. Here’s all we are asking you to do — broken down into VERY simple steps:

1. Find a Venue and Date/Time: Either your home, or friend’s home, or a friendly donated-business space, or restaurant or meeting hall nearby. If a restaurant, find one that has a meeting room or area that will be suitable to assemble local Republicans, Tea Party, Liberty, Evangelical and other activists to attend, preferably without a room charge. The event will be either dutch-treat (restaurant/commercial) or pot-luck (home/donated business space) for attendees, and John/Pete/someone from the Fellowship will give the pitch for money for RPV. See me if you need further guidance lining up a venue, or tips for how to do it.

2. RPV Will Mass-Email out invitations to local Republicans !! All you need to do is modify an RPV template invitation we’ll provide you, add in the Venue/Time/Date into the template, along with your name and others on the Host Committee, and RPV will mass email out the invitations to RPV lists. The invitation will include new RPV Chairman John Whitbeck and others as guest speakers. You can bill the event as a “Meet the Chairman Event”, where the grassroots can ask John questions about the future of VA and RPV, to drum up interest.

3. Email to your own local Committee/Activists lists. Of course, email out the same invitation to all your local friends and committee members and activists.

4. Follow-up Phone call your own Committee/Activists lists a few days before the event to ensure we get a good turn-out.

5. If possible, get volunteers to help with free food/drinks and donations. Ask some of your friends to help. For example, if not a restaurant or commercial establishment, find volunteers to make or donate refreshments. We also need volunteers to hand out envelops at the meetings for the RPV pitch for financial help.

6. ONLY IF YOU WANT, ask those you know to agree to co-host with you, or sponsor the event for a donation of $50 or $100 or more.

At each event, John and/or Pete and others will attend and give the pitch for money for our grassroots Party. YOU WON”T HAVE TO ASK FOR MONEY YOURSELF, unless if you want to. John/Pete/myself and others will make the sales pitch.

Folks, this isn’t hard.

We, the conservative grassroots of Virginia, now control SCC and RPV. We must reach out to our base and engage them. These events will not only educate them that grassroots leaders are now running the Party, but that we need their help to keep it that way.

Not only can this be a lot of FUN and help the RPV we now control get in the BLACK, it will help us in re-election our grassroots Party leaders in 2016.

Please respond back to me today with your commitment that you’ll take on one of these easy, low-effort/low-overhead grassroots fundraisers – and let’s get started.

Waiting to hear from each of you!

Russ

The financial alarm is due to the fact that RPV is over $200,000 in debt and its last filing showed just a little more than $200 in the bank, partially because RPV is now perceived by many to be anti-business and anti-anyone who does not walk lockstep with current leadership. Donors with deep pockets — and even those with not-as-deep pockets — have chosen to give directly to candidates or to PACs that are more along their line of thinking.

The Post noted the deep crack began when state central reversed an already-decided primary decision for 2013 to a closed convention that pushed out Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, long considered to be the next GOP candidate for governor, and instead nominated three far right-of-center candidates who all lost in the general election:

The governing board chose a 2013 party-run convention open to only the most committed activists, instead of a state-run primary open to all voters. Participants at the convention nominated a slate of candidates for statewide office that Democrats successfully painted as too conservative for the state’s changing demographic.

“The state party has moved well to the right of where most Republicans are,” said Linwood Cobb, a former chairman of the GOP’s 7th Congressional District Committee, whose loss foreshadowed Cantor’s. “A lot of Republicans still donate to individual candidates, but they’re certainly not going to support a party that’s going in a direction they don’t agree with.”

There is far more in that email than just fundraising woes. Moulton’s idea to raise money by essentially charging a mandatory fee, or what would be considered a poll tax, for a 2016 convention would be illegal under federal law that prohibits charging for votes in federal elections, and could potentially bankrupt the party with fines. All such fees for conventions must be voluntary. (See Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections.)

Also alarming is Moulton’s plan to hold an early March State Convention when most families’ minds are more on spring break and March Madness, not mass meetings and conventions. Local units and congressional districts would need to start their mass meetings and caucuses in January and February. The usual time frame is March through May for localities and congressional districts, with the state convention in June.

So following the Moulton time frame, planning for upcoming local meetings to prepare for the state convention would have to be going on through the Christmas-New Year holidays. Why the push to meet so early?

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