El Paso County's Republican Party has straightened out a few issues. The party secretary, Sarah Anderson, has been censured. But while she retains her office, her future with the party remains unclear.
Chairman Eli Bremer is playing the optimist, saying, "I believe that there will be a unified position, and that the party will move forward in winning elections in 2012."
At a July 7 meeting, the party's executive committee approved Bremer's vision for the party's fund-raising future. His plan consisted of two key elements: instituting a donor-directed fund and hiring a chief operations officer.
The donor-directed fund is a simple concept, says Bremer, that has been thoroughly embraced by the nonprofit world. It gives donors control over how and where their money will be spent. Donations of up to $3,100 will be given under a contract, signed by the chairman, between the donor and the party's central committee. The donor, Bremer says, essentially purchases line items in the party's budget.
"What we are doing is coming into compliance with normal business standards for nonprofit fundraising," he says.
Yet there are critics — not of the fund itself, but how it was adopted.
As former county chair Kay Rendleman points out, the motion that established the fund reads: "I move that we adopt the donor-directed fund as presented."
The executive committee voted only to set it up, not how it would be organized, overseen, and how it would comply with bylaws.
This leaves the fund open for misuse, Rendleman says, giving hypotheticals: The chairman could decide not to accept a donation because he doesn't like how the donor wants it spent. A donor might agree to fund radio ads, but on the condition a candidate's name not be included. Or a donor might attempt to circumvent campaign finance laws, donating on the condition that it be spent on a single candidate.
Bremer insists that all finance laws will be observed, and that the oversight Rendleman seeks is inherent in the fund. Rendleman believes that a structure ought to be explicitly laid out by the executive committee.
This is the same argument that she, and others, made against hiring new chief operations officer Bill Roy. Rendleman points out that she had a hired staffer but first sought committee approval, solicited and interviewed candidates, then brought the finalist to the executive committee. The motion to hire Roy didn't even include a salary.
Bremer brushes off the criticism, noting that the vast majority of the executive committee voted to hire Roy. During discussion before the vote, it was understood that he would be paid $31,000 through the end of the year. Roy, like Bremer, is an Air Force Academy graduate and Olympic athlete.
The only two "no" votes on both motions were cast by Anderson and vice-chair David Williams.
The night after the meeting, Kanda Calef, a local liberty activist, went on Denver's Grassroots Radio to discuss details of the committee's three-hour executive session. Despite Bremer's claim that the executive committee voted unanimously to keep the proceedings secret, Calef had obtained what appeared to be the play-by-play. She challenged Bremer's contention.
"Eli, once again, used his tyrannical power to dictate that everything that happened in that closed-door session was to be confidential," she said. "No vote on that."
Calef says she will no longer work to support the Republican Party itself.
"I am utilizing my time now to work toward getting principled leaders in elected positions," she says, "and I am saving my money to donate toward the candidates of my choice."
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