Its coffers nearly empty, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has laid off its entire political division, including a half-dozen regional political directors and head of the division, Rick Shelby. The ax fell on Thursday night, ordered by Sen. Phil Gramm (Tex.), who is beginning a stint as chairman of the committee that works to elect GOP senators.

Gramm is said to be dubious of Washington-based political operatives and wants to use what money the committee amasses for direct cash to the candidates in the next cycle and to functions that directly help candidates, such as polling and research.

According to Wendy Burnley, NRSC spokeswoman, "When you are starting a cycle and beginning to recruit candidates, there is not a great need for a field operation."

The committee hopes to raise "a great deal more" in the next year than the $18 million it is allowed by law to give the 35 Republican Senate candidates, including two in California. The law lets the committee contribute $17,500 to each state plus a formula amount based on the voting-age population in each state.

The layoffs and reports of empty coffers at all the Republican campaign committees is yet another sign that the glory days of GOP fund-raising, when Ronald Reagan or his ideological causes could bring waves of cash pouring into Republican bank accounts, are over.