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GOP group with link to governor wants winning candidates
Category: Link Popularity
A splinter group of Republicans with ties to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and financed by six-figure donations will recruit candidates with hopes of reversing the party's disappointing record in recent statewide elections.
Disclosure of the group Tuesday — California Republicans Aligned for Tomorrow — comes at a time when the California Republican Party has been struggling with financial and management problems and factional strife between moderates and conservatives.
A list of supporters comes from across the party's political spectrum, but the organization appears geared to promoting Republicans who can compete statewide in a state that leans Democratic. A statement noted that Republicans have won only four of 24 statewide elections in California since 1994.
"This is a centrist state," said GOP analyst Allan Hoffenblum. "I think they are going to look for electability and diversity. That means the type of Republican who can get Latino votes and independent votes — crossover voters."
Schwarzenegger has been urging the GOP to shift to the political middle ground and embrace issues usually associated with the Democratic agenda, like global warming and health-care reform. "We are dying at the box office," he told party activists last year, lamenting declining GOP voter rolls in the state.
According to government records, the group was established a year ago by a Schwarzenegger ally, former state GOP Chairman Duf Sundheim. It wasn't immediately clear why its formation was being announced Wednesday in a conference call that was to include legislative leaders, party donors and former Gov. Pete Wilson.
According to government records, financiers behind the group include several prominent Schwarzenegger benefactors — American Sterling Co. CEO Larry Dodge donated $100,000 in October; Paul Folino, chairman of computer-components maker Emulex Corp., chipped in $100,000 in April.
The New Majority political committee, which has raised millions of dollars for the governor, gave $100,000 in June. The San Diego Chargers, owned by major Schwarzenegger donor Alex Spanos, also kicked in $100,000.
Other $100,000 donations came from development and real-estate interests, including Arnel Development Co. and William E. Bloomfield Jr. of Baron Real Estate, records showed.
The group was formed as a so-called 527 committee, a tax-exempt organization that can raise unlimited amounts of money to advocate issues to voters. The groups have no limits on donations, unlike federal political action committees or state candidate committees.
"They operate essentially without any restriction in terms of the amount of money raised and the nature of money raised, whether corporate or labor money," said attorney Ken Gross, an election-law expert and former associate general counsel with the Federal Election Commission.
The direction of the GOP has been widely debated as party members take stock of President Bush's ebbing popularity, a rapidly diversifying population and election losses last year that put the House and Senate in Democratic control.
Schwarzenegger's near-landslide re-election in 2006 was attributed largely to his ability to attract independent and Democratic votes in a state with 33 percent Republican registration.
Mike Spence, president of the conservative California Republican Assembly, said the group appeared to overlap with others already in place, including the New Majority, in which Folino is a prominent member.
"I think there are a lot of question marks," said Spence, who blames the governor for GOP failures in recent statewide races.
"The governor is ruining the Republican brand, especially if he raises taxes," Spence added. "His vision has been a failure."