Did Schwarzenegger outfox the CA Republican Party?

Did Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have his way with the California Republican Party? An article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle included comments from CA GOP leaders who are now saying that the debt their party is in was encouraged by Schwarzenegger. And now that the money is due to be repaid, the donor they owe the money to is trying to force changes at the CA GOP that will bring the party into alignment with Schwarzenegger’s vision.

If all of this is true, then Schwarzenegger deserves a lot of credit for outfoxing the conservative Republicans who run his party.

Here are a few excerpts from the S.F. Chronicle:

“The understanding of the California Republican Party was that the loan would be repaid today – and if it isn’t, that’s concerning,” Jon Fleischman, vice chair of the Southern California GOP, told The Chronicle on Friday.

“The governor made a commitment to resolve the debt. It was incurred re-electing him – and he stood before our convention and said he would take care of resolving it,” Fleischman said. “If we’re still dealing with the debt from Gov. Schwarzenegger’s last campaign, it makes it difficult for us to move forward on the McCain campaign.”

The controversy over the private debt broke after Dodge expressed increasingly sharp criticism about the management of the state party, led by chairman Ron Nehring. Dodge, in a Jan. 31 letter obtained by The Chronicle, warned Nehring and Republican Party officials that they must immediately address key challenges – including establishing a state finance chair and instituting more professional management and ethics standards.

“The registration gap (with Democrats) is widening, contributions are drying up, key posts have been left open for a year, staff is being laid off and there is a never-ending string of reports which is causing long-term damage to the image of the party,” Dodge wrote in the letter. “Immediate comprehensive action is required. The stakes are too high, the problems too deep, to do otherwise.”

Mike Spence, a member of the state GOP’s executive committee and chair of the Initiatives Committee, argued Friday that, although Nehring voted in favor of the $3 million loan, it was largely at the urging of Schwarzenegger and past state party chair Duf Sundheim.

“The party shouldn’t have voted for it … (but) the governor and Duf told people it would be taken care of,” Spence said. “The debt is something left over from the governor’s campaign. … It got a 20-point victory for him and not a lot for anybody else. It all went to him, there were promises made (and not kept), and that’s not a new thing with our government.”

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