Michael Steele may hold the title, but it’s Ed Gillespie, the former RNC chairman, who’s stirring Beltway buzz for receipts to the GOP. Gillespie “has been on a money-harvesting tear in recent months,” National Journal reports, “raising millions of dollars for new and established groups supporting Republican candidates.”
Gillespie, the current chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee and co-founder of Resurgent Republic, has been hailed as a leader of “a new conservative infrastructure” in Washington.
I spoke with Gillespie yesterday about all the chatter and his hopes for the GOP apparatus.
First, Gillespie says, don’t think of his efforts as some sort of “shadow” RNC movement. “I have a great relationship with Michael Steele,” he says. “As chairman of the RNC, he’s restricted from raising money for anything other than the RNC. That’s one of the points here. On the left, they have gone above and beyond the party structures. That’s what we need to do on the right. My first plea is for people to give to the RNC, the senatorial committee and the congressional committee. That’s where they should give, but there is a limit to what you can give there.”
“Resurgent Republic is an answer to Democracy Corps on the left, which has been up for ten years without a conservative counterbalance,” Gillespie explains. “Center for American Progress has been up and running for almost that long. The American Action Network and the American Action Forum are designed to mimic that on the right. The AFL-CIO, the SEIU, and the Sierra Club and other left-leaning groups, well, American Crossroads is going to help offset that.”
“All that people on the right are doing is trying to match what people on the left have been doing for years,” Gillespie says. “For years, conservatives and Republicans have objected to McCain-Feingold and been critical of it, but it’s the law of the land. While we’ve been objecting to it and criticizing it, the Left has been organizing around it. In the last cycle, those who supported President Obama spent $1.1 billion to help get him elected. Those who supported John McCain spent $634 million. Since McCain-Feingold passed, the Left has opened up a $500 million advantage over the Right in the political, policy, and public debate arenas. It’s really time to stop fighting the law — we fought the law and the law won — and it’s time to adapt and have similar structures on the right . . . 527s and other things are going to play an important role in politics and it’s time for conservatives to embrace that.”
While he supports many of these new groups, Gillespie brushes off the notion that he’s the Republican maestro of the moment. “My role is a little overblown here,” he says. “I’m fully supportive of these other enterprises, but I have no role with American Crossroads, other than to be supportive of them and to toss ideas their way from time to time. I’m not a consultant. I have no fiduciary interest in American Crossroads. I have no relationship of any formal kind with the American Action Network or American Action Forum but I think they’re both good things.”
“I think the American Red Cross is a good thing and I have no formal relationship with them,” he adds. “I think we should give to them. People are free to write what they want, but those are the facts.”