Foreign Nationals Hired For 2 Calif. GOP Posts

By Sonya Geis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

LOS ANGELES, June 25 -- The California Republican Party is having a tough time with immigrants -- but not because of the usual debates over Mexican border crossers. For the nation's largest state GOP, the troubles hit closer to home.

First the party was forced to admit it had hired a Canadian citizen with no political experience to be its new political director, under the H-1B visa program -- a program that grants temporary visas. Now revelations have surfaced that the party's chief operating officer, an Australian citizen, was ordered deported in 2001, spent one month in jail and then filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging wrongful arrest. The officer resigned on Sunday.

The California GOP platform supports federal action to end illegal immigration and calls for an end to non-emergency assistance to illegal immigrants.

"It seems curious and weird," said Arnold Steinberg, a Republican political consultant in California. "There's just so many people who have a long history of working in this state, who are qualified for these positions that would like to have them."

The revelations come at a time of turmoil for the California party, which tends to be further to the right than its best-known leader, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Divisions between those pleased by Schwarzenegger's ascendancy and those dismayed by his talk of "post-partisanship" have marginalized the party within the largely Democratic state.

Internal fighting over the structure of the party may have led to poor oversight in hiring decisions, some observers said. Jim Brulte, the California Senate's Republican leader until 2004, questioned the process that brought the now-disgraced operations officer, Michael Kamburowski, to California.

"They either failed to do due diligence and therefore did not know, not only about his citizenship status but the pending lawsuit, or they did know and didn't care," Brulte said. "Either their process is broken or their judgment is off."

Party officials said that the hiring decision was made by the board as a whole and that Kamburowski's job performance was very good. But board members were not aware of the litigation and are upset they were not informed.

California GOP Chairman Ron Nehring took the reins of the state party in February and hired Kamburowski in March. The two had worked together at Grover Norquist's organization Americans for Tax Reform in the 1990s.

Kamburowski was put in charge of a budget that encounters millions of dollars raised in campaign seasons. As of December 2006, before Kamburowski took the job, the California Republican Party had $219,000 and debts of $4.4 million.

His résumé also includes a spell as executive director of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, a Norquist-associated project to name monuments after the former president.

Shortly after he was hired, Kamburowski, in turn, hired Canadian national Christopher Matthews to be the party's political director, leaving the top two paid jobs in the state party in the hands of noncitizens.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Sunday that Kamburowski arrived in the United States in 1995 and later married and then divorced a citizen. The Immigration and Naturalization Service began trying to deport him in 2001, but Kamburowski's lawsuit claims he did not receive the notices. He was jailed after an immigration hearing in 2004 and released on bond one month later.

In 2005, Kamburowski filed a $5 million lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for wrongful arrest. That suit is pending, his attorney said.

The Chronicle also reported that Kamburowski spent part of the past five years as an aspiring actor, and sold real estate in the Dominican Republic in 2006.

Kamburowski could not be located for comment, but his attorney, Michael DiRaimondo, said Kamburowski now has a green card.

"He has all the benefits of citizenship except voting," DiRaimondo said. "He's a good person. A law-abiding person. This is a stigma that's following him around."

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