California Republicans in trouble, former California Republican says
Buried in the avalanche of documents released in the state probe of secretive political groups was a fairly succinct description of the problems facing California Republicans.
It was striking not because of the content made public by the Fair Political Practices Commission -- it mimicked what California Democrats have been saying for years -- but because of the author, Republican consultant and fundraiser Jeff Miller.
True, his memo was written the day after November’s dual losses, when Miller and his team failed to defeat Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure and also failed to supersede it with one of their own. And Miller has in the past criticized the party, so insiders might not find his comments startling.
But they remain a bleak, and now public, assessment for the state party.
“Over the last two decades, California’s working class has slowly migrated out of the state and Latino and women voters are completely disenfranchised with the Republican Party. There are only a few pockets of conservative voters left in the state and they are only able to help carry the day for Republicans in ultra-low turnout elections on issues where campaign spending is at parity or to the Republican advantage, and where the Democratic and union grass-roots apparatus is not activated,” Miller’s memo said.
“There is no good way to sugarcoat this. ... The Republican label is anathema to younger voters, women and Latinos -- growing voter blocs with real significance to future elections.”
“We are going to be on permanent defense in California for the foreseeable future,” the memo went on, “and even then, we will need to pick our battles wisely and not spread ourselves too thin. While playing defense, we’re going to have to try and force the Democrats into making mistakes that we can use to score small victories and build momentum.”
Miller, who could not be reached for comment Friday, noted that as Republicans have weakened in the state, labor unions have remained a potent pro-Democratic force. And the GOP traditional funding base, the corporate world, “has been little help in the overall fight” due to its desire to work with the dominant Democrats, he wrote.
Miller intended the memo to be seen by clients -- at the bottom is a notation indicating it is to be considered confidential -- but the document was included in paperwork for the FPPC investigation that resulted in state officials levying a record $16 million in penalties on conservative groups that funneled money into the 2012 state elections.
Part of the payment is a combined $1 million in fines agreed to in a settlement with two Arizona nonprofits, one linked to billionaire Republican donors Charles and David Koch. The rest of the money is equivalent of the donations they received, which regulators said had been improperly reported.
As far as the future for California Republicans goes, the party continues to try to grapple with the dilemma that has confounded it for two decades: how to appeal to new blocs of voters without alienating its mostly white, mostly conservative base.
Miller, for his part, voted with his feet. He moved to Austin, Texas, where he has been working with Gov. Rick Perry to recruit California businesses to his new home state.
Along with Perry, he attended the state Republican party convention earlier this month in Anaheim. Perry, a once-and-future presidential prospect, has focused on economic development as a playable card for the GOP nationally, a strategy that avoids some of the cultural issue disputes that have driven Californians from the party.
Perry declined when asked to dissect the California party’s troubles, but alluded to opposition to comprehensive immigration reform.
“The California Republican Party needs to take a look at their policies, the words that they use,” he said. “I would suggest that that matters.”
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