Carla Marinucci,Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Political Writers
San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, July 15, 2010
(07-14) 22:21 PDT SAN FRANCISCO —
California Republicans are buzzing about the possibility that billionaire gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman – who has spent nearly $100 million of her own money on her campaign – could be preparing another unprecedented personal investment in her political future: a $30 million-plus infusion into the state party.
The Chronicle has obtained a draft of a detailed 44-page state GOP “2010 Victory Plan” that outlines the party’s $85.5 million financial blueprint for a campaign effort that includes $30 million directed to the gubernatorial race.
The former eBay CEO is “putting a significant amount of money in … it could be $30 to $40 million,” said a GOP insider familiar with the plan. The source said Whitman is also expected to tap her fundraising sources and contacts for the party’s benefit.
Whitman’s potential $30 million in contributions was confirmed by prominent state Republicans, who spoke on condition that they would not be named for publication.
But Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds strongly denied the notion.
“No secret document or anonymous source you have is credible in this because Meg is not writing the $30 million check,” he said. “It’s simple. Meg is planning to help solicit outside contributions to the party and working tirelessly to defeat the status quo in Sacramento. That’s the plan and it isn’t a secret.”
Moreover, Whitman campaign officials insisted the candidate is planning no sizeable contributions to the state GOP.
With four months to go before the November election and the latest polls showing the gubernatorial race in a dead heat between Whitman and Democratic state Attorney General Jerry Brown, the buzz about Whitman’s seemingly bottomless checkbook underscores how the GOP candidate – who has already broken all spending records – continues to reshape California politics dramatically.
The victory plan specifically states that the mission of the party in 2010 is “to put a Republican governor in Sacramento by strategically communicating, promoting and supporting the (state party) message to its members, elected officials and candidates.”
Gubernatorial candidates frequently donate and fundraise heavily for state party causes – as has Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But with a net worth exceeding $1 billion, Whitman is by far the wealthiest candidate ever to seek state office.
Struggle to expand
Party insiders say that a move by Whitman could have wide-reaching effects in a party that has struggled to expand its shrinking base in the nation’s most populous state.
Currently, 45 percent of California voters are registered Democrats, giving the party a 2 million vote advantage over the GOP, which has 31 percent of the registered electorate. Twenty percent of voters are classified “decline to state.”
This sort of cash infusion for the GOP – it has $1.8 million in the bank, according to the secretary of state’s most recent reports, filed in June – would help with the plan’s stated aim of registering 500,000 new GOP voters.
“I can confirm her campaign is very engaged with the state GOP and her commitment to carry us across the finish line is very sincere and very substantial,” said state GOP vice chair Jon Fleischman, publisher of the popular Flashreport.org website.
Though Fleischman would not confirm any specifics of the plan, other Republicans did.
Still, Fleischman said state Republicans welcomed Whitman’s support in beating Brown, whose campaign has been bolstered by at least four independent expenditure efforts funded by major union groups.
“Meg Whitman’s organization has been a partner in the creation and development of a statewide political plan, and we’re excited to have her at the top of the ticket,” said Fleischman.
And while appreciative of receiving an influx of dollars, other conservative activists were wary.
“The question is, would there be strings attached to the money?” said Mike Spence, a GOP strategist and former president of the California Republican Assembly, a conservative activist organization.
The draft of the plan calls for the hiring of an army of new GOP political operatives, including technology coordinators, media trainers, voter-outreach coordinators and “a team of ethnically, linguistically and geographically based group of surrogates” to speak on the candidate’s behalf in 13 media markets.
Already, sources said, some of Whitman’s top insiders are involved in hiring the team that will oversee the effort – including some of the same veteran operatives now at work in Whitman’s campaign.
The revelation about Whitman’s role in GOP finances comes in a week when she has been in the national spotlight on money issues.
A New York Times story earlier this week outlined how Whitman invested $1 million in political consultant Mike Murphy’s independent film company just days after he told rival political GOP candidate Steve Poizner he would no longer be involved in politics. Murphy later went to work for Whitman as her senior campaign adviser.
Whitman is estimated to be spending $2 million a week on her campaign since winning the GOP primary.
Chronicle staff writer Drew Joseph contributed to this report.
GOP victory plan
The 2010 Victory Plan is a draft of the state GOP’s effort to register voters, a day-by-day action plan leading up to the election, a fundraising strategy and media blueprint.
The plan, dated in May, includes an $85.5 million budget.
Of that, $30 million is earmarked for the gubernatorial race, $10 million for other races. The most recent reports show the party had $1.8 million as of June 5.
Highlights of the plan
War room: “Even with a media-friendly communications team, no attack will go unchallenged and no opportunity for going on offense will be missed. The media campaign will be waged in the pages of the largest daily newspapers and in those of the smallest weekly and monthly papers; in every television and radio media market; on every blog, network group, and social forum.”
Ethnic outreach: “A team of ethnically, linguistically, and geographically-based group of surrogates will be vetted by the (party) and the (gubernatorial) campaign, deployed to speak to groups, go on talk radio, and author op-eds when necessary.”
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