After a bitter defeat in which the GOP presidential candidate won only 7 percent of African-American votes and just over a quarter of Hispanic and Asian votes, it’s natural for Republicans to cast about for new leadership. Enter J. C. Watts, the former GOP congressman from Oklahoma, who has told Politico he is being “encouraged” to run for chairman of the Republican National Committee to help the party’s efforts with minorities. If he ran, he would challenge RNC chairman Reince Priebus’s bid for a second term at the RNC’s winter meeting in Charlotte next month.
“In this business, if you’re not growing, you’re dying,” Watts told Politico. He is critical of the “old, tired” habit of setting up a “window dressing” committee to attract minority voters close to an election instead of having a “permanent infrastructure” to reach out to minority voters.
Watts is ultimately unlikely to run because his candidacy would draw attention to his post-congressional career as a lobbyist and pitchman. Watts has done invaluable political work, including a stint as a successful chairman of GOPAC, a Republican training school for new political talent. But in his business career his clients have ranged from a payday-loan trade association to a Cherokee Indian tribe to a now-bankrupt group pitching “free money” government grants on late-night TV.
His role with the latter group is troubling. The former professional football hero became a pitchman in 2004 for National Grants Conferences, a firm whose TV commercials recruited viewers to spend at least $1,000 for “seminars” on how to apply for federal grants they wouldn’t have to pay back.
Everybody is allowed to make a living, but at a minimum Watts’s pitches touting high-pressure sales seminars teaching people to apply for “free” government money undermine his claims to be a true-blue conservative.
Indeed, another former congressman who was encouraged by Watts to also make infomercials for NGC saw it blow up his attempt to revive his political career. Former congressman J. D. Hayworth of Arizona was attacked during his primary challenge to Senator John McCain in 2010 for his role touting the NGC scheme. The controversy contributed to his landslide loss to McCain that year.