Having made significant state-level gains in the 2010 elections, the GOP appeared to be in a prime position to influence the decennial process of congressional redistricting. But, as the process gets underway in a series of first-round states, including New Jersey, Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana, some party insiders are concerned that Republicans have failed to amass the funding necessary to capitalize on their advantages.
In particular, the insiders point to the lackluster performance of Making America’s Promise Secure (MAPS), a Republican 501(c)(4) founded in 2009 in part by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to assist in the GOP’s redistricting efforts. (Costs related to redistricting have in the past been covered by the RNC through “soft money” donations, though these were banned by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms early last decade.)
On January 12, Nathan Gonzalez reported in Roll Call that MAPS has gone quiet in recent months. He quotes Brad Todd, a National Republican Congressional Committee consultant and founder of On Message, Inc., to the effect that Republican priorities shifted in 2010 to immediate electoral gains, leaving planning for redistricting in the lurch. “There was a conscious decision to win elections,” he told Gonzalez. “People got tired of paying lawyers.” With the RNC extremely short on cash, Republicans face a significant funding problem just as the redistricting efforts in first-round states are ramping up.
Wes Anderson, a partner with On Message, Inc., believes that MAPS overpromised and under-produced. “No one took ownership of fund-raising,” he told C&E. “It’s a net negative for Republicans. The real problem is it will hurt us where we have the stiffest challenges.” Anderson says that in states where the Republican Party is strong, the absence of MAPS won’t be as damaging as it will in states such as Maryland or Massachusetts, where the party is weak. “Who is going to pay for the legal battles?” he asks. “There will be a lot of leftovers that will not get taken care of.”
Michael Sargeant, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, stresses that data, not fund-raising, is the key to redistricting success. “The DLCC has been working with the Foundation for the Future and NCEC [The National Committee for an Effective Congress] for almost five years to make sure Democratic state legislators have as much and as high-quality data as possible when they draw district lines and evaluate Republican gerrymanders,” Sargeant told C&E. However, he agrees that the failure of the MAPS project is a negative for Republicans. “By letting the MAPS project languish, the GOP isn't in as good of a position for redistricting as most think,” Sargeant said.
David Avella, president of the Republican fundraising group GOPAC, disagrees. “The lawsuits do not start tomorrow,” he told C&E. “Oftentimes the lawsuit is filed by citizens against the state. The state attorney general defends the state in those suits, and we picked up attorneys general.” At the end of the day, according to Avella, the GOP’s success in the 2010 elections trumps any fund-raising deficit. “We picked up 691 legislatives seats and twenty-one majorities,” he said. “The Republicans control line drawing for 193 congressional districts, the Democrats control it in 44. Eighty-eight congressional seats will be decided by commission—fifty-two of those in California alone.”
Roll Call’sGonzalez reports that donors to MAPS lost faith in the group when they discovered that its “vision was too broad.” Underscoring the importance of MAPS to the Republican redistricting strategy, former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie told Hotline last week that, while there was still time to recover from the loss, the failure of MAPS has left Republicans at a distinct disadvantage in the first states to redistrict.
Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org