One of the things that I never got around to blogging about in the runup to the election was a little fundraising scandal that's percolating in the ranks of the national College Republicans. Here's an update to that story.
Officials with the national group, based in Washington, D.C., did not return phone calls seeking a response. But in a memo last month to state officers across the country, [College Republican National Committee chairman Eric] Hoplin urged them to stay quiet about newspaper articles detailing the group's fund-raising tactics.
Hoplin wrote that media accounts of the fund raising are "full of lies and distortions" orchestrated by the "liberal media" and aimed at hurting President Bush's campaign just before Election Day.
"We need the story to go away, which it will ... but only if we all withhold our comments," Hoplin wrote in the memo, which was confirmed by several state officers.
In Texas, a former vice chairman of that state's College Republicans called the fund raising "morally repugnant" and called for Hoplin and the group's treasurer, Paul Gourley, to resign.
"Preying on the elderly to make money is unconscionable and should not be tolerated by any member of the College Republicans or the Republican Party," said Mark McCaig, a Texas A&M University student who stepped down about six weeks ago as vice chairman of the Texas Federation of College Republicans but remains a Republican. "Like many others, I am embarrassed to have been associated with these individuals."
Reached Monday, McCaig said he believes the CRNC could raise money successfully without misleading people.
"I think the programs of the College Republicans should stand on their own. I think there's a product there that people would be willing to invest in," he said. "I don't think it's necessary to have to funnel it through a bunch of front organizations and make a bunch of unfounded claims."
McCaig said the group's spending also should be reviewed.
"When you see tens of millions of dollars spent on fund raising ... that's insane," he said.
But Sarah Floerke, the current Texas College Republicans chairwoman, said McCaig was in a dispute with the organization's leadership when he stepped down and might be biased. She had not heard about the questions surrounding the group's fund raising, other than in Hoplin's memo, she added.
"I'm sure I'm going to find out a lot more at the meeting," she said. "I think the College Republican National Committee did an excellent job fund raising, and they were able to send out College Republicans across the nation."
About $9 million of the College Republicans' reported spending this year appeared to go into fund-raising expenses, according to a Times analysis of reports filed with the IRS.
About $313,000, roughly 3 percent, went for travel, convention expenses and "hospitality." About $210,000 went to payroll expenses, helping pay for campus organizers who have been drumming up support for the GOP ticket among young people.
The large amount of money devoted to fund raising, and the small amount for political activities, is unusual among the top ranks of the burgeoning field of so-called 527 independent political groups.
Of the $20 million the anti-Bush group MoveOn.org spent, according to its filings, 93 percent went to media, advertising, marketing and polling.
Of the $13.7 million spent by the anti-John Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, 90 percent went to media, advertising and media consulting.