State parties cash in on 2012 GOP race

March 24, 2011


It turns out there’s a Republican constituency that isn’t at all bothered by the large and uncertain field of prospective 2012 candidates: the state parties themselves.

For them, the frontrunner-free race is proving to be a cash cow, thanks to windfall fundraisers headlined by potential challengers to President Barack Obama.

It’s the easiest kind of political transaction, one that can deliver as much as a six-figure return and almost no political downside risk. Candidates are happy to increase their visibility and introduce themselves to the rank-and-file. Cash-strapped state parties are eager to replenish their coffers with ticket revenues from high-demand events featuring top national politicians in the flesh.

“It’s a huge asset to any state that participates in that process and can take advantage of it,” said Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan GOP chairman. “Having these candidates come through your states helps you drive attendance, and being able to drive attendance helps you drive ticket sales.”

The pre-primary rubber chicken circuit isn’t a boon to every state party. GOP candidates aren’t anxious to spend their time in states that have little value in the nominating process—they’d prefer to spend their time in Iowa, rather than Idaho, or in South Carolina, instead of South Dakota.

But in the states where it makes good political sense—the various presidential prospects have raised money for parties in nearly half the states since the start of the 2010 election cycle—the fundraising events have proven to be lucrative endeavors.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s June 10 Statesman’s Dinner fundraiser for the Tennessee GOP last year poured more than $650,000 into the party’s treasury—about a third of the party’s overall 2010 fundraising, according to figures provided by the state Ethics Commission.
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