Report: Wisconsin Republicans too reliant on consultants
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An internal review of the Wisconsin Republican Party after the 2018 election found that it had been “recklessly reliant” on high-paid consultants at the detriment of engaging with grassroots supporters.
The state party released the report Monday ahead of its annual convention that begins Friday and after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the conservative MacIver Institute obtained portions of a draft.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who along with other top Republicans led the review following the defeat of former Gov. Scott Walker and every other Republican who ran for statewide office, plans to discuss the report and its findings at the convention Saturday.
The review concluded that the party relied too heavily on consultants at the detriment of grassroots supporters. The party must do more turn out voters through grassroots mobilization and must work with county Republican Party offices to recruit and train volunteers and candidates, the report said.
The report also faulted Republicans for losing independent swing voters in the governor’s race won by Democrat Tony Evers. The report said the state party would do more with data, organizing and building relationships with voters to win over independents. That includes partnering with the campaign of President Donald Trump, who is expected to make Wisconsin a focus of his re-election effort.
Johnson, in a cover letter with the 15-page report, called it a “brutally honest” assessment but one that was necessary to move forward.
The report faulted the state party for becoming a “top-down bureaucracy, disconnected from local activists, recklessly reliant on outside consultants.”
The report concluded that the state party was “essentially outsourced” to Walker’s campaign and was “a top-down bureaucracy, disconnected from local activists (and) recklessly reliant on outside consultants.”
That approach prevented the party from developing its young staff and future leaders, the report said.
Consultants during the 2018 campaign “had few, if any, discernible job responsibilities or expectations of deliverables,” the report said.
The report did not name the consultants and party officials declined to identify them. The report said consultants who are not providing needed services have been fired.
“The most immediate concerns facing the RPW are the cash flow problems and the debt we face,” the report said.
The party’s most recent campaign finance report showed a debt of about $142,000 at the end of March. Party spokesman Charles Nichols said it had reached more than $350,000 after last year’s election.
In April, Wisconsin billionaire and GOP mega-donor Diane Hendricks gave the Republican Party $500,000, according to campaign finance records.
While the party is getting on top of its financial issues, it “rather startlingly, continues to learn of additional and ongoing obligations,” the report said.
The party pumped more than $4 million toward Walker’s unsuccessful re-election bid last year and that was too much for the party to bear, the report found.
A draft of the report obtained by the Journal Sentinel said that when cash flow problems began, a credit card was used to supplement spending which resulted in a balance that was over the limit and interest charges nearing $600 a month that went unpaid for months.
That detail was removed from the final report.
Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sbauerAP