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July 29, 2014

Did The Republican Governors Association Funnel Cash In Order To Pick Sides In A GOP Primary?

By Matt Corley

Rolling moneyOn May 14, former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who was then seeking the Republican nomination for governor in Colorado, appeared on a radio show to discuss his campaign and criticism he was drawing from other Republicans.

At one point, Mr. Tancredo described the opposition his candidacy faced from the Republican Governors Association (RGA). “I heard that they’re actually looking for money, trying to raise money for a 527 to attack me during the primary,” said Mr. Tancredo.

It seems that Mr. Tancredo was right: The RGA, a political committee chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie whose “primary mission is to help elect Republicans to governorships throughout the nation,” appears to have quietly taken sides in Colorado’s gubernatorial primary by funneling money to third-party groups through the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA).

On June 17, the RAGA contributed $155,000 to the Campaign for Jobs and Opportunity (CJO), a super PAC based in Massachusetts. The RAGA contribution accounted for more than half of CJO’s fundraising haul during its first quarter of existence, with the rest coming from big name Republican donors such as Paul Singer and Ken Griffin, both of whom are also top donors to the RGA. Between June 20 and June 27, the RGA made three contributions to the RAGA totaling $175,000, an amount that looks suspiciously as if it is paying the RAGA back for its big CJO contribution. The contributions were the first the RGA has made to the RAGA since the group began operating independently at the beginning of the year, though the RGA contributed $440,000 to the RAGA’s old parent group, the Republican State Leadership Committee, between 2011 and 2013.

Almost immediately after the RAGA contribution to CJO, Colorado radio listeners began hearing ads accusing Mr. Tancredo of being a flip-flopper. According to the ad, Mr. Tancredo was “once a fiscal hawk,” but had become a “big-spending Republican” after serving in Washington. The ads ran under the banner of the Colorado Campaign for Jobs and Opportunity (CCJO).

Colorado campaign finance records show that CCJO never directly raised money. Instead, it took in almost $175,000 in “non-monetary contributions,” most of which came from the national CJO. On its July campaign finance report, CJO reports “non-federal in-kind” expenditures to the vendors listed on CCJO’s campaign finance records. CJO also contributed $75,000 to Republicans Who Want To Win (RWWTW), another independent expenditure committee active in the Colorado gubernatorial primary. According to RWWTW’s campaign finance records, the contribution was for ads to support former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO), Mr. Tancredo’s opponent, “and oppose Tom Tancredo.”

It is unclear why, other than shielding the RGA’s involvement, the RAGA would want to contribute so heavily to a political committee that spent all of its money in a gubernatorial primary. The two groups have worked together in the past and they share a general counsel, but the RAGA’s mission “is electing Republicans to the Office of Attorney General.” Neither Mr. Tancredo nor Mr. Beauprez are former attorneys general. The one connection the RAGA appears to have to the primary is that Colorado’s Attorney General, John Suthers, is on the organization’s executive committee and endorsed Mr. Beauprez in March.

Why would the RGA use a pass through to fund an independent expenditure campaign? It may be that the group wants to avoid the appearance of taking sides in a primary. When Fox 31 in Denver reported on Mr. Suthers’ endorsement of Mr. Beauprez, the news outlet noted Mr. Beauprez “would have strong support from the Republican Governors Association should he advance to the general election, although the group won’t pick sides in a primary.”

After he lost the election to Mr. Beauprez by less than four percentage points on June 24, Mr. Tancredo wrote a column for WorldNetDaily.com in which he discussed the role he thinks the Republican establishment played in his loss. Raising the issue of CJO’s ad blitz, which he called “perhaps the most bizarre twist of all,” Mr. Tancredo asserted that “there is evidence that the motivation for this package of attack ads originated with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others at the Republican Governors Association,” though he did not lay the evidence out. “Although,” he added, “the RGA likely did not put any of its own money into the project.” On this point, Mr. Tancredo appears to have been wrong.

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