Alarmed by the hobbled financial status of the Republican National Committee, state party leaders now are turning to outside groups — or creating their own — to ensure they have a robust voter turnout operation in November that can swamp the competition.
In Ohio, a group of Republican activists in July created a new, tax-exempt entity called Freedom Vote with the express purpose of raising money to help pay for the type of turnout operations traditionally underwritten by the RNC.
“I understood that the lack of resources from the RNC was going to have a severe impact on what the parties were going to be able to do,” said Tom Whatman, a former Ohio state party executive director and an adviser to the new organization.
The anxiety among state leaders has only heightened as the party’s prospects in the fall improved, including a decent shot at retaking control of the House. Party insiders want to make sure no opportunity is lost because of a lack of resources.
Their challenge is compounded by time. The RNC’s financial weakness was apparent in the spring, but the dire nature of it only became evident last month when the committee’s July financial disclosure report showed the longstanding fundraising giant had just $5 million in cash and $2 million in debt.
In the 2008 election cycle, Ohio alone received $5 million from the RNC for its voter turnout operation, according to the Federal Election Commission. In the 2006 midterm elections, it received $4 million. As of early September, the Buckeye State has received less than $500,000 from the RNC, according to FEC and RNC records and officials.
Similar steep reductions in aid are on track for other major swing states, including Pennsylvania, where the party is hoping to capture the governorship, multiple House seats, and control of the state legislature.
“We have so many candidates running in competitive races. We need more funds than even in a normal year. We are hoping that having the wind at our back will help overcome the financial shortfall we will have,” said Mike Barley, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. “There are so many people with their hands out.”
Doug Heye, an RNC spokesman, said that despite the tighter financing, the committee is opening volunteer “Victory” offices earlier — and in more states — and that the party’s energized volunteers are making up for in work what the party lacks in money.
That’s been the experience of Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady. After years of being largely ignored as a ‘blue state,’ his committee is seeing its first major infusion of RNC cash.