State Republican Party floating in a tide of budgetary red ink

Times Staff Writer

The GOP lawmakers whose complaints of fiscal mismanagement at the Capitol are moving them to block passage of a state budget may not want to look to their own party for inspiration in balancing the books.

The California Republican Party is swimming in red ink.

State campaign finance reports that were due by midnight Tuesday will show that the party has millions of dollars more in debt than money in the bank, according to party officials.

The party's dire financial situation has alarmed Republican activists, who worry that it will not have the resources needed to run an effective get-out-the-vote campaign in key congressional and legislative districts during the upcoming election.

The state party has only $1.1 million cash on hand, money it needs to hold onto to pay day-to-day expenses such as salaries.

Meanwhile, it is struggling to come up with a plan to pay off $4.2 million in debt.

That is in stark contrast to the Democrats, who have wiped out all but a few thousand dollars of debt and have $5.2 million in the bank.

"There is a sweet irony in it," said Roger Salazar, spokesman for the California Democratic Party.

"The Republicans can't even manage their own party's finances," he said. "They have no business telling the state what to do with its budget."

The Republicans say their financial troubles are the result of donor fatigue after a stretch of five years with a major campaign each year, including the recall in 2003 and the special election called by the governor in 2005.

They expressed confidence that their finances would soon be in order.

"We believe as we move into the summer or fall, fundraising will pick up and we will have financial means to be competitive," said state party communications director Hector Barajas.

As GOP officials scramble to find cash, the campaign reports filed this week show that others are suddenly flush.

State Supt. of Schools Jack O'Connell's gubernatorial ambitions got a big boost from Santa Cruz billionaire Reed Hastings, who donated $1 million to a committee formed to support his candidacy in 2010.

The money could help O'Connell step out from the shadow of better-known Democrats who are believed to be considering a run for the governor's office, such as Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi.

Another big spender in recent months was the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, which has spent nearly $3.5 million on lobbying activity so far this year, more than any other group in the state.

The money was spent to help persuade lawmakers, the governor and -- through a major media campaign -- voters, to support an expansion of Indian gaming that was ultimately approved.

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