Republican State Leadership Committee

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Follow the money in the Koch wiki.

This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) is a 527 group which surged onto the political scene in 2010 in an effort to elect right-wing politicians to state offices under the direction of former George W. Bush advisor Ed Gillespie, who is closely tied to Karl Rove. RSLC was a leader in 2010 redistricting efforts favorable to Republicans and received a massive infusion of cash from Rove's American Crossroads group (see more below). Politico has described RSLC as "one of the most influential outside players on the right."[1]

According to journalist Jane Mayer, the RSLC served in 2010 as a "catchall bank account for corporations interested in influencing state laws" by former chairman of the Republican National Committee and millionaire lobbyist Ed Gillespie. Mayer described the RSLC's role in the conservative "shadow political machine" that emerged following the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling in her 2016 book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.[2]

Formed in 2002, RSLC includes the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association, the Future Majority Project, the Republican Secretaries of State Committee, the Judicial Fairness Initiative, and the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee. RSLC claims to have "more than 100,000 donors in all 50 states," according to its website.[3] Its website describes its mission as "electing Republicans to the offices of lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state legislator, the judiciary and other down ticket races."[3]

Until 2014, the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) had been affiliated with RSLC. But in January 2014, several members of the group announced their intention to split off into an independent group. RSLC political director Matt Walter told Politico that the attorneys general would "like a little more operational control on a day-to-day basis."[4] Big money influencing Republican Attorney Generals was the topic of a Pulitzer Prize winning series by New York Times writer Eric Lipton in 2014-2015. [5]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

RSLC "Spearheaded" Republican Efforts to Control Redistricting in 2010

An investigation by ProPublica found that the RSLC "spearheaded" a national push by Republicans to control the 2010 redistricting process and create voting districts favorable to Republicans. RSLC created the Redistricting Majority Project (REDMAP) and also conducted work through its non-profit arm.

[RSLC's] focus changed in 2010 when Ed Gillespie, former counselor to President George W. Bush, was named chairman. His main project: redistricting.
Soon after Gillespie took over, the RSLC announced an effort to influence state races throughout the country, the Redistricting Majority Project, or REDMAP. Fundraising soared. The group raised $30 million in 2010, by far its best year. (Its Democratic counterpart raised roughly $10 million.)[6]

Donors included pharmaceutical companies, tobacco companies Altria and Reynolds; Walmart, and Koch summit attendees, according to Jane Mayer.[2]

North Carolina

RSLC spent heavily in North Carolina state elections in the 2010 cycle through a non-profit, Real Jobs for NC, that attacked Democratic candidates, likely contributing to the Republican party taking control of North Carolina's Assembly for the first time in a hundred years.[6]

RSLC's influence over the redistricting process was not limited to helping elect Republicans to the Assembly. As ProPublica notes, the process of creating new district maps is complex, time-consuming, and expensive. Tax filings show that RSLC's nonprofit arm, the State Government Leadership Foundation, "paid $166,000 to hire the GOP's pre-eminent redistricting experts," including Tom Hofeller, who has previously been the redistricting director for the Republican National Committee. Hofeller traveled to Raleigh 10 times in 2011.[6][7] Communications from RSLC and its foundation to state legislators reveal the organization offering its "assistance" and claiming to have influence maps in other states:

"Our team would be happy to assist in drawing proposed maps, interpreting data, or providing advice," wrote Chris Jankowski, the head of both the RSLC and State Government Leadership Foundation, in a letter of introduction to North Carolina legislators...
"We are engaged in a number of states and believe we are playing a meaningful role in helping draw fair and legal lines that will allow us to run competitive elections in 2012 and in future cycles," Jankowski added.
The same letter emphasized that the Republican redistricting push was being funded through its dark money nonprofit: "The entirety of this effort will be paid for using non-federal dollars through our 501c(4) organization."[6]

ProPublica's investigation revealed "two parallel redistricting processes" in the state: a series of public meetings that purported to gather input on districts, and the secret process undertaken by Hofeller's team. "Hofeller did not attend or read transcripts of any of the public meetings, according to his deposition" in a North Carolina court case.[6] The mapmaking process also involved a mysterious nonprofit called Fair and Legal Redistricting for North Carolina, and consultation from influential right-wing donor Art Pope.[6]

Two of the new North Carolina districts were ruled to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders in February 2016. (See below.)

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, [Hofeller's] team provided technical assistance to an aide to Rep. Paul Ryan as he worked on new Congressional districts that favored Republicans. [6] Wisconsin state legislators engaged in redistricting at a Republican law firm near the capitol, Michael Best and Friedrich under the leadership of attorney Jim Troupis, who was later given a judgeship by Governor Scott Walker. As the Center for Media and Democracy reported, legislators swore pledges of secrecy and otherwise attempted to avoid the state's open records law. The map resulted in multiple lawsuits, a number of districts were redrawn under court order and lawsuits continued into 2016.

The Center for Media and Democracy wrote about these events in Wisconsin in a series of articles:

"Shameful" Wisconsin Redistricting Awaits Final Ruling, Federal Court Criticizes Wisconsin Republicans, Federal Judge Slams WI GOPs "Needlessly Secret" and Partisan Redistricting.

Missouri

In Missouri, Hofeller was the sole witness called by attorneys representing the Republican legislators who drew the maps there.[6][8]

2015-2016 Election Cycle

As of March 2016, RSLC had received about $6 million in contributions and spent nearly $3 million during the 2016 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics.[9]

The top 20 contributors to RSLC by March 2016 included:[10]

RSLC Attack Ads Echo Dark Money Group in Wisconsin Supreme Court Election

JoAnne Kloppenburg - JFI Radio Ad

In Wisconsin's spring 2016 elections, the RSLC's Judicial Fairness Initiative reported spending spending $111,911 on brochures and radio ads attacking Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, who was challenging incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley for a state Supreme Court seat. Bradley had been appointed to the court in fall 2015 by Republican Governor Scott Walker.[11]

In content and style, the ads echoed a set of misleading ads by a dark money group called Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, which tried to paint Kloppenburg as soft on crime.[11][12] This was the first judicial race in Wisconsin RSLC had been involved in.[13]

Rebecca Bradley won the race, boosted by high Republican turnout for the presidential primary, as well as the RSLC and WAR ads; WAR spent about $3 million.[14]

RSLC Launched Six-Figure Ad Spot in New York State Senate Special Election

Reformer

In March of 2016, the Republican State Leadership Committee aired a TV ad that attacked Democratic candidate Todd Kaminsky, who was competing for a New York State Senate seat left vacant by the conviction of Republican majority leader Dean Skelos.[15] The RSLC supported Republican candidate Chris McGrath in a special election slated for April 19, 2016 through a six-figure ad buy attacking Kaminsky's record as a "reformer."[15] The ad criticized Kaminsky for voting for Rep. Sheldon Silver as Speaker of the New York Assembly;[16] Silver was later convicted on corruption charges.[17] The ad also stated, "Kaminsky learned quickly how to play the insider game" and claimed that he is working towards raising legislators salaries by 40 percent.[16]

According to the New York political blog State of Politics, the ad was "a clear play at undermining what is a strength for Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor who has won convictions of politicians for corruption."[18] Responding to the ad, Kaminsky's campaign said it failed "to include a very important fact: when the news broke that Silver had abused the public’s trust, Todd Kaminsky sprang into action and led his colleagues to oust Silver from the speakership."[18]

RSLC Pours Money into Two Arkansas Supreme Court Races

The Republican State Leadership played a prominent role in the 2016 Arkansas State Supreme Court Justice elections, supporting circuit judge Jim Kemp against State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.[19] According to The News Tribune, the RSLC distributed mailers throughout the state that attacked Goodson in what became the "most costly Arkansas court race ever."[19] The ads attacked Justice Goodson for her role in striking down Arkansas' voter ID law and part of Arkansas's tort reform law.[20] Goodson accused Kemp of communicating with the groups and responded to the sizable outside contributions from conservative interest groups, saying in a TV ad, "It's dark money, a shady interest group from Washington trying to bully your vote".[19]

Clark "Ka-Ching" Mason Ad

The RSLC was even more involved in the race for a vacant Arkansas Supreme Court Seat, advocating for Circuit Judge Shawn Womack.[20] According to the Associated Press, the RSLC outspent Womack's opponent Clark Mason 4-1 and dispensed $250,000 on ad spots that attacked Clark.[20] In the RSLC ad titled "Clark "Ka-Ching" Mason", the candidate is accused of profiting from people's pain by charging high fees to clients as a personal injury attorney.[21]. The RSLC also passed out flyers that criticized Clark, stating that he "admits his support for Obama’s executive actions that kill Arkansas jobs while making trial lawyers rich," according to the Arkansas Times Record.[22] The Rapid Response Team of the Arkansas Judicial Campaign Conduct & Education Committee accused these flyers of being "false and misleading" and the Response Team said "as factual support for the statement, the flyer gives the web address of a page on the website of Mason’s law office that bears no relation to the statement in the flyer."[22] The Rapid Response team followed up on their denunciation of the flyer by writing a public cease-and-desist letter, but a spokesperson for RSLC maintained that the flyers had a factual basis.[22]

North Carolina Voting Districts RSLC Helped Create Ruled Unconstitutional

On February 5, 2016, a three-judge federal panel ordered that two of North Carolina's 13 congressional districts be redrawn by February 16, 2016, after finding them to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.[23] Due to the ruling, it is uncertain whether North Carolina's primaries will go forward as scheduled after new lines are drawn, or the redistricting will be stayed until after the March 15 primary, The Charlotte Observer reported.[23] According to the Institute for Southern Studies, the Republican State Leadership Committee "played a uniquely influential role in both creating the state's contested districts and helping to elect state lawmakers and a N.C. Supreme Court Justice who would pass and approve them."[24]

Ahead of the 2011 redistricting in North Carolina, former RSLC president sent a letter to lawmakers expressing RSLC's intentions:

"Our team would be happy to assist in drawing proposed maps, interpreting data, or providing advice... We are engaged in a number of states and believe we are playing a meaningful role in helping draw fair and legal lines that will allow us to run competitive elections in 2012 and in future cycles."[24]

The Republican State Leadership Committee gave $1.2 million in 2012 and $1.3 million in 2014 to Justice for All N.C., a group that used the money to fund races in the N.C. Supreme Court that later upheld the new congressional districts.[24] Two of RSLC's biggest donors out of North Carolina are Reynolds American, who donated about $3.1 million from 2011 to 2015, and Duke Energy, who gave $305,000 over the same period.[24]

RSLC Funds Republican Campaigns in Kentucky House Race

The Republican State Leadership Committee launched an ad campaign in Kentucky they described as "a six-figure, multi-platform ad campaign leading up to the four special elections for the open seats in the Kentucky House of Representatives."[25] The RSLC campaign funds were supporting Republican candidates in four special elections in the state House, which were slated to take place on March 8, 2016.[25] Matt Walter, the president of RSLC, said that the Democratic candidates in the special elections are "strong allies to the president and his extreme positions."[25] Democratic Party consultant Dale Emmons commented on the RSLC's role in the campaigns, calling it an "out-of-state fabricated attack.[25]

2014 Election Cycle

RSLC spent upwards of $38 million during the 2014 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org.[26]

The top 20 contributors to RSLC in 2012 included:[27]

Former RSLC President Creates New State Level Super PAC

Chris Jankowski, RSLC president from 2010 to January of 2014, formed a new super PAC in July 2014 called "State Conservative Reform Action PAC" that primarily complements RSLCs operations, according to Politico.[28] As described by Jankowski, the Virginia-based super PAC's plan is to "focus mostly on legislative races, but [it] also will get involved in attorney general and gubernatorial match-ups."[28] In 2014, the PAC spent about $79,000 during the election cycle. By March of 2016 it had spent $26,000 on 2016 races.[29]

2014 State Judicial Elections Spending

The Republican State Leadership Committee led spending by all outside groups in state judicial elections, according to USA Today.[30] RSLC reportedly planned to spend between $4 million and $5 million to influence elections of judges in Illinois, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee.[30] In Missouri, RSLC ran a six-figure ad buy in favor of Republican candidate Brain Stumpe, who was running for judge in the county that contains the state capital, where many cases are heard that involve statewide elections and legislation.[30]

Colorado Candidate Rejects RSLC Cash

In August 2014 Wayne Williams, a candidate for Colorado Secretary of State, announced that he would reject a $550 contribution from RSLC "because it wasn't an appropriate donation under the state's campaign finance rules," according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. The group had registered as a 527 in Colorado, meaning that it could receive unlimited contributions but was not allowed to make direct contributions to political candidates. According to its spokesperson, Jill Bader, RSLC continued to believe that it was allowed to give direct contributions, and Bader noted that "Colorado is a top priority state for us."[31]

2012 Election Cycle

RSLC reportedly spent $39 million in state elections in 2012, according to Politico.[4]

According to OpenSecrets.org, the top 20 contributors to RSLC for the 2012 cycle included:[32]

Involvement in 2011 Wisconsin Recall Elections and "John Doe" Criminal Investigation of Potentially Illegal Campaign Coordination

RSLC spent at least $233,234 in outside spending during the 2011 Wisconsin recall elections.[33]

After the 2012 recalls, a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate possible illegal coordination between purportedly "independent" groups and candidates. Prosecutors in the John Doe investigation have said that R.J. Johnson, aide to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, was coordinating campaign activities with a number of groups including RSLC, according to the Washington Post.[34] Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz wrote, "Beginning in March 2011, there were open and express discussions of the need to coordinate the activities of entities like Americans for Prosperity (AFP), Club for Growth (CFG), Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW), Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), and the Republican Governors Association (RGS). Conference calls were held involving entities such as FOSW, RGA and WMC."[35]

A July 2015, Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling by a conservative majority of the court, elected with many of the same big money groups under investigation, put a halt to the John Doe and subsequently the GOP-dominated Wisconsin legislature passed a law allowing this type of coordination. Learn more on Sourcewatch.org, Second John Doe Investigation.

2010 Election Cycle

RSLC spent nearly $30 million during the 2010 election cycle according to OpenSecrets.org.[36]

According to OpenSecrets.org, the top 20 contributors to RSLC for the 2010 cycle included:[37]

2010 Alabama Republican Party Scandal

During the 2010 election cycle, RSLC was linked to a questionable campaign finance plot with "possible criminal penalties," according to Politico.[1] The alleged campaign finance scheme was described in a September 2011 investigation by the major corporate law firm BakerHostetler, which claimed that "national RSLC leaders conspired improperly with the leader of the Alabama Republican Party to use the RSLC as a pass-through for controversial Indian tribe donations, essentially laundering 'toxic' money from the gaming industry by routing it out of state and then back into Alabama."[1] The RSLC faced no legal repercussions as a result of the Alabama allegations, but the report fueled some internal conflicts, leading to the departure of two of RSLC's senior advisors. According to Politico, the BakerHostetler report "offers a rare window into the Wild West of unrestricted campaign spending."[1]

Contact

Republican State Leadership Committee
1201 F Street, NW, Suite 675
Washington, DC 20004
Phone: 202-448-5271
Fax: 202-448-5169
Website: http://www.rslc.gop/

Communications Director:
Jill Bader
RSLC Communications Director
JBader@rslc.com
Phone: 202-448-5160

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Alexander Burns, "Exclusive: Powerhouse GOP group snared in money scheme," Politico, August 4, 2014. Accessed August 5, 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Penguin Random House, January 19, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Republican State Leadership Committee, About, organizational website, accessed March 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Alexander Burns, "Republican State Leadership Committee splits apart," Politico, January 21, 2014. Accessed August 21, 2014.
  5. Eric Lipton, "Courting Favor", New York Times, October 28, 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Olga Pierce, Justin Elliott and Theodoric Meyer, "How Dark Money Helped Republicans Hold the House and Hurt Voters," ProPublica, December 21, 2012.
  7. Robert Draper, "The League of Dangerous Mapmakers," The Atlantic, October 2012.
  8. Chris Blank, "GOP redistricting expert says Mo. map is compact," Real Clear Politics, February 1, 2012.
  9. Center for Responsive Politics, "Republican State Leadership Cmte", spending profile, Open Secrets database. Accessed March 28, 2016.
  10. Center for Responsive Politics, "Republican State Leadership Cmte", contributions profile, Open Secrets database. Accessed March 28, 2016.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Jessica Mason and Mary Bottari, "WAR on Voters: Big Money Streams into WI Supreme Court Race with No Disclosure," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, April 1, 2016.
  12. "Group's TV ad criticizing JoAnne Kloppenburg leaves misleading impression," Politifact Wisconsin, March 23, 2016.
  13. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, "Hijacking Campaign 2016: Republican State Leadership Committee - Judicial Fairness Initiative," campaign spending blog, April 4, 2016.
  14. Patrick Marley, "Rebecca Bradley beats JoAnne Kloppenburg in high court race," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 6, 2015.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Robert Brodsky, "National GOP group buys ad to help Chris McGrath for Senate", Newsday, March 14, 2016.
  16. 16.0 16.1 RSLC, "Reformer", YouTube, March 13, 2016.
  17. Benjamin Weiser and Susanne Craig, "Sheldon Silver, Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Is Found Guilty on All Counts," The New York Times, November 30, 2015.
  18. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Andrew Demillo, "Most costly Arkansas court race ever to choose chief justice", The News Tribune, February 29, 2016.
  19. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Andrew Demillo, "Outside conservative groups overwhelm Arkansas judge races",Boston Herald, February 26, 2016.
  20. Republican State Leadership Committee, "Clark "Ka-Ching" Mason", Youtube, accessed March 1, 2016.
  21. 22.0 22.1 22.2 John Lyon, "Panel Brands Outside Group’s Flyer In Arkansas Supreme Court Race False", Times Record, February 25, 2016.
  22. 23.0 23.1 Anne Blythe, "Questions abound after judges invalidate 2 NC congressional districts", The Charlotte Observer, February 6, 2016.
  23. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 Alex Kotch and Chris Kromm, "Big Money's map mischief in North Carolina", Institute for Southern Studies, February 12, 2016.
  24. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Jack Brammer "National GOP group pours money into special House races," Lexington Herald Leader, January 31, 2016. Accessed February 1, 2016.
  25. Center for Responsive Politics, "Republican State Leadership Cmte", spending profile, Open Secrets database. Accessed February 2, 2016.
  26. Center for Responsive Politics, "Republican State Leadership Cmte", contributors profile, Open Secrets database. Accessed March 28, 2016.
  27. 28.0 28.1 Tarini Parti, "New super PAC for states starts", Politico, July 18, 2014.
  28. Center for Responsive Politics, "State Conservative Reform Action Committee", spending profile, Open Secrets database. Accessed March 7, 2016.
  29. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Richard Wolf "Outside groups seeking to influence judicial elections," USA Today, October 29, 2014. Accessed February 2, 2015.
  30. Megan Schrader, "Wayne Williams says 'no' to conservative group's campaign contribution," Colorado Springs Gazette, August 12, 2014. Accessed August 21, 2014.
  31. Center for Responsive Politics, "Republican State Leadership Cmte", contributors profile, Open Secrets database. Accessed March 28, 2016.
  32. Sara Jerving, "Front Groups Dive Into Wisconsin Recall Elections," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, August 4, 2011. Accessed August 21, 2014.
  33. Niraj Chokshi, "Prosecutors allege Gov. Scott Walker schemed to bypass campaign laws," Washington Post, June 29, 2014. Accessed August 21, 2014.
  34. Lisa Kaiser, "What We’re Learning About Scott Walker in the New John Doe Documents: UPDATED," Express Milwaukee, June 19, 2014. Accessed August 21, 2014.
  35. Center for Responsive Politics, "Republican State Leadership Cmte", spending profile, Open Secrets database. Accessed March 28, 2016.
  36. Center for Responsive Politics, "Republican State Leadership Cmte", contributors profile, Open Secrets database. Accessed March 28, 2016.