RNC Raised Record $8.2 Million in August

Tuesday, 13 Sep 2011 08:29 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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The Republican National Committee raised $8.2 million last month, the greatest amount for August during an off-election year in the RNC’s 155-year history.

The fundraising beat by $2.7 million the $5.5 million the Democratic National Committee raised in August, its worst fundraising month of the year.

“We had the biggest August fundraising month in an off year in the history of the RNC, and I think it’s proof that we’re doing what we said we’re going to do, which is focus on our financial ship at the RNC,” Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, tells Newsmax.

The RNC numbers are scheduled to be released on Wednesday. The DNC numbers were reported by Reuters.

Reince Priebus, RNC, fundraising, record
Reince Priebus: “We camped out for 10 hours a day and went through cold calling as many of our old donors as I could find in a three-ring binder.”(Getty Images Photo)
Priebus notes that most of the money comes in in the last quarter of the year.
“Half of the money for the year comes in during October, November, and December,” Priebus says. “So while we’re tracking ahead of 2003-2004 right now, we also have to finish very strong.”

The new figures spotlight a major turnaround for the RNC. After being elected chairman of the RNC in January, Priebus sat down with his financial people and got the grim news: The once-mighty RNC had no money to meet its payroll and other financial obligations the following week.

When Michael Steele took over as chairman of the RNC in January 2009, it had $25 million cash on hand. Now it owed $25 million — $10 million to vendors and $15 million to a bank for a loan. And as Priebus learned on Jan. 15, a day after being elected chairman, there was no money in the bank to pay employees the following Friday.

To raise money to meet the payroll, Priebus says, “We camped out for 10 hours a day and went through cold calling as many of our old donors as I could find in a three-ring binder.”

Priebus had won election after five former RNC finance chairmen wrote letters to the 168 members of the RNC warning that re-electing Steele as chairman would be a disaster. Steele rarely got on the phone to raise money, according to RNC officials. Instead, he emphasized the small donor program, which nets only 40 cents for every dollar raised because of the cost of fundraising. He increased costs by putting aides on the payroll in Tampa long before the 2012 convention.

Steele was prone to making bizarre statements on TV, such as that the GOP could not win back a majority in the House in 2010. Small wonder that Brad Woodhouse, the Democratic National Committee’s communications director, called Steele “the gift that keeps on giving.”

Within a few months, Priebus turned that around. He immediately fired the workers in Tampa and cut back on other RNC employees.

“The major donors who had been in the thousands from the previous cycles had pretty much disappeared,” says former Ambassador Ron Weiser, the RNC finance chairman Priebus recruited. “Priebus is bringing them back by re-establishing trust and credibility.”

According to the figures to be released for August, the RNC paid down an additional $1 million in debt, leaving a remaining balance of $15.9 million. It added another $1.73 million to cash on hand, which now stands at $9.33 million in trust to support the presidential nominee. It has reduced its bank debt by $1 million and has pared debts to vendors to $2 million.

“Reince just went nuts raising money” is the way one RNC official explains the record amount.

“In a matter of months, Reince Priebus has raised more major donor contributions than Michael Steele did in the two years that he was there,” says Mel Sembler, a prominent GOP fundraiser and former ambassador who is a co-chair of the RNC’s Finance Committee and has served as RNC finance chairman.

“Reince has done that by working very hard at it,” Sembler says. “He has been all around the country. He knows how to get on the phone. He knows how to go to events. He knows how to call people.”

While acknowledging some administrative lapses, Steele has defended his record as RNC chairman, pointing to major Republican electoral gains during his two-year tenure.

Priebus’ pitch is not a pitch at all. It’s a direct, honest statement that wins confidence.

“We are desperately doing everything we can to rebuild this party, to be people of our word, and to defeat this president,” Priebus says. “I need to lead in humility, to be a little less about myself and a little bit more about everybody else.”

Priebus has impressed both Republicans and Democrats.

“Priebus has righted a ship that was sinking,” says Brad Blakeman, a Republican strategist and Fox News contributor who is a former Bush White House aide. “With Priebus, it’s not about him and getting on TV. It’s about the party.”

And Donna Brazile, who was interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee earlier this year, says: “He has done two things: restore faith in the RNC as a political institution and tried to rebuild the party’s infrastructure. He is credited with running a professional operation.”


Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, applauds what he calls the “turnaround” that Priebus engineered.

Priebus has a self-deprecating manner, works long hours, and has advertised an open-door policy. He views Republicans as being a part of the conservative movement, rather than the other way around.

A lawyer from Wisconsin who ran the state Republican party, Priebus, 39, served as general counsel of the RNC under Steele. Priebus’ first name Reince rhymes with pints, as in pints of his favorite beer, Miller High Life from Wisconsin. In his office at just 6 p.m., Priebus offers me a cold Miller but does not seem offended when I go for a Heineken instead.

“I’ve got a bizarre name, but I’m about as normal as they come,” Priebus says. “I always tell people it’s what happens when you have a Greek and a German who get married. It’s a bit of a disaster.”

Priebus graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1994 and from the University of Miami School of Law in 1998. He met his wife, Sally, at a high school youth group; their first date was a Lincoln Day conservative dinner.

“We did go to a movie afterward,” Priebus says, “so it was a legitimate date.”

They married in 1998 and have two children, Grace, 1, and Jack, 6.

Priebus likes to fish and golf. He owns three shotguns, a rifle, and a handgun. He has enjoyed an occasional moose steak.

“As a little guy, the one thing that I remember is that my grandfather in Athens loved America,” Priebus says. “It didn't matter what it was about America, but he loved it.”

Now, he says, “The mission is to save our country from a president who just doesn’t get it. My view is that we are absolutely involved in a battle for freedom in this country. This president is driving our financial train off a cliff.”

President Obama is absolutely beatable, he says.

“Now there’s truth for us to evaluate,” Priebus says. “It’s not just his speeches; it’s not just hope and change. The fact is Obama’s policies are a disaster, and the American people know it.”

Priebus says he aims to do his part. The key will be “keeping our integrity, building credibility, holding true to our conservative principles, and raising a ton of money.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is a New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. His latest, "The Secrets of the FBI," has just been published. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via email. Go Here Now.

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