GOP troubles jeopardize candidates


The Clark County Republican Party is struggling to raise money, coping with a police investigation into stolen documents and reeling from the loss of at least eight officers who resigned en masse during a meeting earlier this month.

Months of turmoil in the ranks reached a full boil when police were called in to investigate the theft of a laptop computer and party documents, along with the resignations of officers who failed to implement an organizational plan to help Republican candidates in 2010.

The troubles have observers wondering whether the GOP's disarray at the local level will harm candidates come election time.

"People are not donating to our party because of these issues," said former Clark County Republican Party Treasurer Swadeep Nigam, among the officials who resigned. "We couldn't even put our Christmas party together."

POLICE CALLED IN

Nigam said he worked with former Chairman Richard Scotti, who also resigned, to put together a 2010 election plan that would have cost an estimated $600,000 to implement.

Scotti's departure moved Vice Chairman Bob Ruckman into the role of acting chairman.

The organizing plan was designed to help Republican candidates hang fliers, make phone calls and do other grass-roots work in Clark County, where Democrats already have a registration advantage of more than 100,000 voters.

"It was a good plan, but the plan is still sitting," Nigam said. "It all boiled down to the funding from the supporters, the donors. It looks like there are no donors."

The organizational problems are coming as some party members -- including veteran and Internet radio show host Steve Sanson -- are calling for an audit of the organization's books that would go back several years.

Sanson, who during an Oct. 10 webcast of his show "Veterans in Politics" criticized Scotti and other officials, says he wants answers to questions about sloppy bookkeeping that occurred years ago.

"They just want to get rid of this thing," Sanson, a former party executive board member, said during the show. "If you are listening and you are covering up for someone's misdeeds, you become a conspirator."

Several weeks ago Scotti put Ruckman in charge of an internal investigation into Sanson's allegations of mishandled funds.

The investigation led Ruckman to file a report with the Metropolitan Police Department alleging a laptop and sensitive party documents were stolen from Republican offices sometime in October or November of 2007.

"It is the same thing as theft," Ruckman says of removing records that belong to the party. "That angers me and it concerns me. I'm trying to build a groundwork for an organization right now."

The police report says party officials knew "for some time" about the suspected break-in and theft, but the "prior chairman did not want to file a report due to bad publicity."

Former Chairman Bernie Zadrowski, who held the job from January 2008 until Scotti took over earlier this year, said in retrospect the suspected theft should have been reported earlier.

"In hindsight, as I sit here today, I think to myself we should have reported those stolen immediately," he said.

At the time, he was mainly concerned with how the missing materials were a setback to organizing.

Party officials were preparing for presidential caucuses and trying to organize the annual Lincoln Day fundraising dinner.

Both efforts were hindered by missing information, Zadrowski said.

Several party officials say Uli Miyashiro was acting chairwoman when the materials went missing. Miyashiro says she wasn't acting chairwoman but wouldn't discuss the subject in detail.

"I'm not going to make any comments until it is all taken care of," Miyashiro said.

UNMASKING INFILTRATORS

Despite acknowledging mistakes and lax oversight, many party officials are upset with Sanson's outspokenness.

Ruckman and Scotti also say Sanson is overzealous to the point of being destructive and suspect he is being misled by Democratic infiltrators who are purposely sowing seeds of unrest.

"We found some Democrats that have infiltrated the party," Scotti said. "I put Mr. Sanson in the category of someone who has been led to believe by others who don't have the best intention of the party in mind."

University of Nevada, Reno political science professor Eric Herzik says party officials should forget about unmasking Democrats and work on organizing on behalf of Republicans.

"I don't think the Democrats have to be that devious. The Republicans are doing this to themselves," Herzik said. "If they just start targeting anybody who once was a Democrat, this becomes almost like a truth commission."

If the county party doesn't regain focus, Herzik says it could spell trouble for candidates in upcoming elections.

"If the Clark County Republican Party isn't working to get people elected because they have to fix all these administrative and fiscal problems, they are essentially sitting out this race," Herzik says. "The party is the offensive line. And if they don't block, the star candidate gets tackled for a loss."

GOP consultant Ryan Erwin says disorganization at the county level will hurt candidates for midlevel offices the most. Erwin is a consultant to Senate candidate John Chachas, congressional candidate Joe Heck and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki.

He says candidates for high-profile offices such as U.S. Senate and governor will raise enough money and attention to do their own organizing. And candidates for low-profile jobs such as Assembly can cover enough ground on their own to get elected, he said.

But candidates for offices that require statewide reach but don't generate much fundraising, such as treasurer or controller, need all the help they can get from the party apparatus.

Erwin says candidates for controller and treasurer "can't hit enough doors to matter and ... don't have enough money to get on TV. A party operation allows those candidates to sink or swim."

Still, Erwin says it is possible for a county-level organization to turn its fortunes around fast, meaning 2010 isn't necessarily a lost cause for the Clark County Republicans.

"If it is not operational in four months, then I'll be worried," he said.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

 

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