- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2001

LOS ANGELES A group of Republican heavyweights with White House backing succeeded in taking control of the troubled California Republican Party (CRP) over the weekend.
By a voice vote, delegates to the state party convention here stripped the elected conservative chairman of his traditional authority.
The vote, creating a new Operations Committee with power to hire a full-time party executive, was a major blow to veteran conservatives who long dominated the leadership of a state party that has drifted into near bankruptcy.
The move also weakened the hold on the party of the California Republican Assembly (CRA), a statewide organization of conservative activists with enough clout to elect the last three state party chairmen.
California Republican Chairman Shawn Steel and his CRA allies could regard this weekend's move "as a major defeat if they look at it narrowly," said Timothy J. Morgan, a member of the state party's governing board.
"They need to look at it broadly and 'broadly' means advancing the Republican agenda in the state and not merely winning intraparty squabbles," said Mr. Morgan.
Mr. Steel insisted the move "was not major defeat but a major update of how the party functions."
California Secretary of State Bill Jones agreed that the unprecedented rules changes adopted on Saturday brought "desperately needed diversification" to the party.
Mr. Morgan had joined many other conservatives earlier this year in supporting Mr. Steel's election over liberal Republican Brooks Firestone.
But these conservatives had concluded that the party also needed paid, full-time "professional" leadership and a diversification of viewpoints to broaden its appeal.
Negotiations with Mr. Steel over the changes were spearheaded by Los Angeles businessman Gerald L. Parsky and other members of the state party's board of directors who work closely with Mr. Bush and Karl Rove, the White House chief political strategist.
Mr. Parsky said the reforms were won by participation of the two ideological wings of the party.
"Actually, it was the West Wing," Mr. Morgan said with a laugh, referring to the White House.
Mr. Parsky and Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte were elected to a newly formed five-member Operations Committee, thus assuring that Mr. Bush's interests are represented in the California party, which now will be run by a full-time, paid chief operating officer chosen by the new committee.
"The Operations Committee is what makes the difference under the new party structure," Mr. Brulte said.
Mr. Brulte said that major donors, often more liberal than the party rank and file, have been ill-inclined to write checks to a party that seemed unable to recruit and train candidates, or identify and turn out voters.
Republicans have steadily lost power in this nation's most populous state. Democrats occupy all statewide elected offices except secretary of state, and have majorities in the state senate and assembly. The state also has not been carried by a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
"If the party were a corporation, we would probably be in receivership," Mr. Morgan said.
"That is expected to improve dramatically under the new rules," he said. "It was very clear for months that passage and implementation of these reforms was a quid pro quo for major donors to open their pocketbooks to the party. They wanted continuity, 'professionalization' and a broad appeal."
Mr. Morgan said "we have assurances that the major donors will now, smartly and promptly, begin contributing again to the party."
"We're going from raising $2 million every election cycle to $30 million," Mr. Steel said.
Mr. Morgan said the problem with the party until now has been that the constant warfare between those who wanted to win elections at any cost and others who would rather lose elections than sacrifice any principles.

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