Second to respond to our GOP Chairman candidate questionnaire was Matt Arnold. As promised we'll continue posting the candidates' responses in full as we receive them.
The Peak: Tell us about your background in fundraising — what are your greatest accomplishments, failures and how do you plan to apply those lessons learned in your role as GOP Chairman?
The most important aspect of any fundraising effort – as I have learned from my experiences in business, academia, AND politics – is that the prospective contributor, approached either individually or as part of a mass appeal, “buys in” to the purpose (candidate, cause or organization) for which funds are being sought. No “buy in”, no “sale” – and the Republican Party organization(s) in Colorado and nationally have seen a sharp decline in contributions as we have lost the trust and confidence of many voters. Beyond general confidence in the organization, major contributors – “investors” – also require more specific confidence that their investment will be put to effective use. As with any investor in other fields, they’ll want to know that there is a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and targeted (“SMART”) plan in place, and will often demand accountability on expenditures (including an effective and visible budget) as well as results.
Although I have been involved with fundraising efforts on many levels and in many fields, I won’t falsely claim great influence or responsibility for all but my most recent efforts. As founder and director of the Clear The Bench Colorado judicial accountability campaign in the 2010 election cycle, I raised over $50,000 for a previously little-known and little-observed area of electoral politics – and did it the hard way, via scores of individual contributors who gave in amounts ranging from a few dollars to $1,000, without benefit of an established party organization or structure (or even an established habit of contributing in this area).
Lessons learned from this and previous activities are clear: establishing a strategic vision, setting clear objectives, providing feedback and maintaining trust are integral to fundraising (particularly for nonprofits such as party organizations or campaigns). People WILL give to a cause in which they believe, and substantial amounts can be raised via small donors. However, large contributor support is essential to buying infrastructure and major media.
The Peak: How do you view the role of the State Party in today's campaign finance world of 527s and 501(c)4s?
The constraints on fundraising and expenditures by political party organizations under current state and national campaign finance law has radically transformed the role (along with the nature of the power and authority) of the State Party and party leadership. Party leaders no longer have the power to act like old-school “party bosses” in complete control of raising and distributing funds to campaigns, or picking & choosing favored candidates. Indeed, current laws so restrict the power and fundraising ability of the State Party and its leaders that they are largely bystanders in actual campaigning – not entirely irrelevant, but most definitely no longer in control.
Instead of attempting to fund and control campaigns, State Party needs to focus on providing more resources of broad and general application – implementing an effective communications infrastructure, gathering and disseminating data on electoral districts (including voting patterns, demographics, issues, and candidate/official history/background) along with providing candidate/campaign training, volunteer mobilization, and GOTV help. State Party can (and should) also play a role in overall messaging that promotes principles and highlights key issues of advantage to ALL Republican campaigns. Importantly, the role of the party (and party leadership) in communicating our principles, policies, and ideals (both to party members and to the public at large) begins FAR before election campaigns, and continues far beyond the election date – as the permanent institutional element, the party (and particularly leadership) must be active 24/7/365, EVERY year.
In short, State Party should provide a variety of resources, facilitate effective use of shared infrastructure and assets, and provide overarching and thematic messaging in order to set the conditions for success leading to candidate and campaign victories at the ballot box.
The Peak: What do you think the role of State Party is in a Presidential election year? How can you best serve Republicans running for Colorado seats as well the top of the ticket?
The role of the State Party in a presidential election year expands with additional duties (along with additional resources) to build up the organization and infrastructure in support of national GOP candidates. During the primaries, the State Party plays host to multiple presidential candidate campaigns, and must facilitate campaign involvement in the caucus, assembly, and primary election processes in a fair and even-handed manner. Once the primaries are over, the State Party has a role in enlisting supporters of individual campaigns to general support of the nominee and/or state-level candidates. Extensive coordination with national campaigns and party infrastructure (RNC, RNSC, RNCC) is required over an extended period. In all phases, but particularly during the general election, State Party must work to integrate national campaigns with pre-existing as well as expanded local and regional party infrastructure – ensuring coordinated, not competitive, allocation of resources (including physical assets, funding, and volunteers).
The baseline responsibility of State Party – providing information, training, infrastructure, and other assets and resources to state campaigns – continues. If anything, the need for such resources is even higher during a presidential election year, as campaigns compete for time, people, and money. Effective State Party leadership – planning and developing state infrastructure and resources sufficiently far in advance to have an effective organization in place prior to arrival of national campaigns, then acting to ensure that national campaigns integrate with instead of taking over state assets – is absolutely critical to success on both levels.
The Peak: Many people complained that Dick Wadhams didn't publicly vet Dan Maes. What do you think the role of Chairman is vis-a-vis vetting of candidates?
Although it is certainly worthwhile for the State Party leadership (esp. Chairman) to meet with candidates and stay informed as a matter of maintaining situational awareness, the actual “vetting” function is performed via the campaign, caucus, and assembly process. Voters are the “vetters” – not party bosses. Party leaders at all levels – state, county, and local – along with activists, pundits, and grassroots groups and leaders – can and should provide constructive feedback by a variety of means (some private, some public) but the State Chair is not, and must not be, in the business of picking and choosing candidates. Conversely, the best thing that the State Chair can do is facilitate open, fair, competitive but respectful candidate participation in candidate forums, caucuses, assemblies, and other opportunities to present their respective candidacies before the voters.
The Peak: Where do you see the GOP having the greatest opportunity for gains in 2012?
The GOP has tremendous potential for gains across the board in 2012 if we are able to restore voter trust and confidence in the “brand” of our party, and in the integrity and competence of our candidates – and leaders. Our principles (individual rights and responsibilities; constitutionally limited, small and fiscally responsible government; free- enterprise economic system with minimal government involvement; and upholding the Constitution and the Rule of Law) resonate with an overwhelming majority of Americans, but many believe that the GOP no longer stands foursquare behind them. National election results in 2010 (and to a lesser extent in Colorado) demonstrate that voters overwhelmingly rejected the expansive, overreaching big-government agenda championed by Obama and the Democrat party, and Republicans reaped the benefit of that national wave. However, unless Republicans are seen to follow through on a principled basis – and unless we are successful in communicating and effectively advocating our principles – many of the voters who swept GOP candidates into office could desert the Republican Party en masse. Although the state party (and party leadership) can have little influence on national messaging, much can be done on the state level with the right leadership, effective communications, and a strategic and coordinated approach.
The Peak: What makes you better than the other guys (go ahead, just tell us)?
As the only candidate who has consistently advocated for changing the way the party (and party leadership) has traditionally functioned in order to adapt to changing conditions, the only candidate who has consistently advocated for (and developed) a strategic approach to planning, training, resourcing, operating, and building up party infrastructure, and the only candidate who has advocated for a role in developing a consistent, thematic approach to communicating our message, I bring a different vision of the role of the state party chair – a vision I believe is a better and more effective one than the traditional model which has achieved underwhelming results in recent election cycles.
Other candidates may have spent more time working within the party hierarchy and in the details of day-to-day operations, but we are not running for the position of executive director or operations manager. The position of state party chair demands strategic vision and planning, strong communications skills, understanding of technology, techniques, and tools for streamlining operations, and an adaptive and forward-thinking mindset. The Chair must be able and willing to delegate and share responsibility, while maintaining ultimate accountability; he must be willing to share knowledge and power, acting as a facilitator and enabler of others, giving and accepting both advice and feedback to improve performance.
Most importantly, the role of state party chair requires leadership – someone who inspires trust and confidence based on standing for and effectively articulating our core principles; someone who recognizes the need and opportunity for taking action, and steps up to do so; someone who inspires and motivates others, through word and deed; someone who can be counted upon to stand on principle, even if it’s not the popular or expedient thing to do.
The next Colorado state party chair must be able to restore integrity and trust to the office, and in leading by example, help to restore trust and confidence in the Republican party.