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GOP cuts staff, salary to balance lean budget

- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Republican Party trimmed its staff last month as part of efforts to reduce spending during tight budget times.

The group eliminated the job of events coordinator and reduced Executive Director John Flynn's salary by almost one-third, from $85,000 to $60,000, said multiple sources with access to a closed-door board meeting.

"The correct way to view all of this is the executive board has made some good fiduciary business decisions in order to make sure the state party is on the correct path," said Chris Cavey, the group's vice chairman.

Budget problems have plagued the party since Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. lost his re-election bid in November. His win in 2002 marked the first Republican gubernatorial victory since Spiro T. Agnew was elected the post 36 years earlier.

The party opened a $100,000 line of credit in April to cover daily operating costs and last month fared poorly with its largest annual fundraiser: the Red, White and Blue Dinner.

The staff cuts mark the first public sign that the party is slimming down after its defeat in November.

"As with a lot of organizations, cost cutting is necessary," said group Chairman James Pelura III. "You have to adjust to the current situation."

Mr. Pelura said the group will be hosting conservative commentator Fred Barnes for a fundraiser later this month.

Mr. Flynn did not return calls for comment.

The group largely relies on money raised at the Red, White and Blue Dinner. This year, the dinner raised $41,000, significantly less than the party had hoped, said multiple sources with access to the fundraising numbers.

The dinner generated at least $1 million for the party last year.

Party leaders said that without Mr. Ehrlich in the governor's office and a national focus on presidential fundraising, members need to brace for tough budget times.

"Given the tight fundraising that we're going through and that most states are going through, in order to be strong and competitive we made some financial adjustments," said Chuck Gast, the Maryland group's second vice chairman.

Sources said the events-coordinator job was eliminated to create a position for a professional fundraiser whose salary will be based largely on commission, the sources said.

The group's political director, Corey Stottlemyer, left the job last month.