RICHMOND — The Republican Party of Virginia has fallen short of cash in the wake of fall elections that went into overtime and left the GOP without any statewide officeholder to help it drum up donations.
Finances for both parties always swing wildly in a state that has an election every year, with both Democrats and Republicans starting each cycle in fundraising mode and blowing through the bulk of that cash by Election Day.
But the GOP has less than $70,000 on hand between its state and federal accounts, compared with more than $230,000 available to the Democratic Party of Virginia, public records show.
The party’s financial woes, first reported by the Virginian-Pilot, emerge at a time when the party has no sitting governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general to headline events. The previous governor, Robert F. McDonnell, left office in January and is in no position to help, since he is facing federal corruption charges.
The party is also in the midst of an internal struggle between its conservative grass roots and its more pragmatic establishment wing.
Some business leaders who have traditionally given to the GOP kept their checkbooks shut last year, turned off by the conservative ticket led by Ken Cuccinelli II, the-then attorney general, who lost the governor’s race to Terry McAuliffe (D).
The party is concerned enough about finances that it recently assembled a team of at least six fundraisers to help bring in more money.
Republicans said the root of the financial crunch was the length of the 2013 elections, which included a recount in the attorney general’s race and the need for several special elections to fill seats that opened up when their occupants were elected to new positions. One of the special elections also required a recount.
“2013 was just the cycle that wouldn’t die,” GOP spokesman Garren Shipley said.
The last of the special elections wasn’t over until late last month. That put the party behind in its usual raise-spend-raise-again schedule.
“We have a special committee out there beating the bushes, not because we’re out of money, but because the calendar has gotten away from us and we know we’ve got to bring our A-game for 2014,” Shipley said.
Of course, the election cycle was no shorter for Democrats. But Shipley noted that the Democratic Party rented its e-mail lists to McAuliffe’s inaugural committee so it could send out mass e-mails, taking in hefty sums that boosted its post-election coffers.
McAuliffe’s inaugural committee sent $55,000 to the party and $78,000 to his own campaign committee as payment for the rental of e-mail lists, the Washington Times reported last month.
Democratic officials said they paid fair market value for the list rentals, despite criticism from opponents.
If the price seemed high, that was only because they sent 10 separate mass e-mails based on the list and had to pay for each address every time, they said
“We look to be in a fiscally sound position at the end of every election so we have the ability to ramp just right back up,” said Ashley Bauman, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Virginia.
The state Democratic Party had just shy of $150,000 in its state account at the end of 2013, according to records available through the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics. Federal Election Commission reports show the party with $83,000 in its federal account.
Virginia Republican officials said the fact that they have spent most of what they’ve raised shows that the organization is eager to find and fund winning candidates.
“We’re here to help get Republicans elected,” said state party Chairman Pat Mullins. “Lots of money left in the bank at the end of a cycle means we haven’t done everything possible to help our candidates win, and that’s not acceptable.”
Pete Snyder, a Northern Virginia entrepreneur who lost in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor in 2013 and has joined the fundraising team, said the party is “in the unfortunate but appropriate cash position right for a party that’s hunting wins.”
“Now’s the time to wave the banner and refuel the coffers and have a laserlike focus on winning in November 2014,” Snyder said.