Both Ross Douthat and I have concluded that the Republican Party is set to learn the wrong lessons from the rise of Donald Trump. The party, as we know it, is going to die because the party leadership is incapable of changing. We should examine part of this from one side that rarely gets mentioned — consultants.
The consultant class within the GOP has arranged their deck chairs on the Titanic of the RNC so that they win whether the party wins or loses. But if the party were to reform and reconnect with its grassroots, the opportunities for much of the consultant class currently in power would shrivel up and die.
While there are a lot of consultants who started out as ideological warriors, for the most part they were always establishment figures who got addicted to keeping up with the Joneses, the beach houses, and the money. Even many of those who went in as ideological warriors realized the system was designed to reward the sell outs.
The consultants tied to the leadership of the party have created a rigged game. If you are their friends, you get contracts. If you are not their friends, you get shut out. It has created perverse incentives for even the race for RNC Chairman, where consultants line up with candidates knowing they will either get or lose contracts depending on the outcome. There is little merit.
The consultants embed at the RNC, NRCC, and NRSC and give no bid contracts to friends. Many of their friends in the RNC, NRCC, NRSC and leadership offices then go out to K Street as lobbyists and return the favor of giving grassroots and astroturf contracts to their consultant friends.
It is very incestuous and provides an incentive for no change in leadership, no change in thinking, and no change in culture. It is killing candidate like [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] and Jeb Bush and also killing the GOP itself. The people who are most likely to call for change are the people now surrounded with the very consultants who benefit from a system that does not change.
Take, for example, FLS Connect. It is the phone vendor for the Republicans. In fact, on more than one occasion people within the RNC have told me the RNC has refused to even entertain giving phone contracts to anyone other than FLS Connect. It is no wonder, because the RNC Political Director is typically an FLS Connect partner who takes a leave of absence to go to the RNC.
Rich Beeson was one such FLS Connect Partner. He went to the RNC as Political Director and gave the RNC contract to FLS. When Rich Beeson left to work for Mitt Romney, he was replaced by Jeff Larson, who is the “L” in FLS Connect.
In 2013, Larson left the RNC, but stayed on as a “Senior Advisor.” He was replaced by Mike Shields.
Larson, in 2014, went to the NRSC as its independent expenditure guy and spent $93,000.00 to do robocalls attacking Republicans, among other things — you know, Republicans who were opposed to [mc_name name=’Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C000567′ ].
Mike Shields, Larson’s replacement, surprisingly did not come from FLS Connect but rather the National Republican Congressional Committee, though FLS Connect has continued getting business. When Shields left the RNC, he went out to run the American Action Network, which is the outside group [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ] has used to attack conservatives in the House of Representatives. Any conservative opposed to raising the debt ceiling or amnesty or Obamacare has seen a barrage of attacks from Mike Shield’s group.
Shields, I should mention, was replaced at the RNC by Katie Walsh, who is highly regarded, but also worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the time it opposed [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ], [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ], [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ], and [mc_name name=’Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’L000577′ ] among others.
This all goes full circle to Rich Beeson, who left the RNC to work for Romney and, along with Zac Moffat at Targeted Victory, made a lot of money delivering a Romney defeat and Project ORCA. Beeson was the guy who came up with the idea and Moffat was the digital director, who’d never, to my knowledge, written a line of code in his life.
Moffatt is a political guy who worked as an Associate Chief of Staff for gun grabber Mike Bloomberg after Bloomberg’s first election as New York Mayor in 2001. For more on that disaster, go read John Ekdahl.
Rich Beeson is now with [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]. Zac Moffatt’s Targeted Victory is used by Rick Perry, Donald Trump, and more.
Targeted Victory was one of the companies that shared a floor of 66 Canal Plaza in Alexandria, VA with other consulting groups that made millions off Mitt Romney’s loss.
Again and again, the same consulting groups get millions even if they lose. The consultants who the party relies on would lose money if the outsiders won because they’ve worked very hard, along side party leaders like [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ], to blackball the groups they are now opposed. They know payback would happen.
Likewise, they get rewarded by outside groups to run attack ads against conservative. These consultants have a very vested interest in making sure those outsiders never take power.
In other words, the Republican Party as we know it may die because the powers that be and their consultants have a vested interest in making sure all the wrong lessons are learned.
The right lesson would be to do as Barack Obama did. Pay the consultants as employees, deny them the ability to work for other clients, and for those who are not employees, make sure there are no conflicts of interest in handing out contracts, none of which should be no-bid contracts.
But the GOP will never do that. The people they rely on make too much money to ensure it never happens and the elected officials like Boehner and McConnell are also mindful that it’d be the end of their power. They’d rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.