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Report: Wisconsin Republicans too reliant on consultants (UPDATE)

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An internal review of the Wisconsin Republican Party after the 2018 election found that it had been “recklessly reliant” on high-paid consultants to the detriment of grassroots supporters.

The state party released the report Monday ahead of its annual convention, which begins Friday, and after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the conservative MacIver Institute obtained parts of a draft.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who along with other top Republicans led the review following the defeat of former Gov. Scott Walker and every other Republican who ran for statewide office, plans to discuss the report and its findings at the convention on Saturday.

The review concluded that the party relied too heavily on consultants to the detriment of grassroots supporters. The party must do more turn out voters through grassroots efforts and must work with county Republican Party offices to recruit and train volunteers and candidates, the report said.

The report also faulted Republicans for losing independent swing voters in the latest governor’s race, which was won by the Democrat Tony Evers. The report said the state party would do more with data, organizing and building relationships with voters to win over independents. That includes working with the campaign of President Donald Trump, who is expected to make Wisconsin a priority in his re-election campaign.

Johnson, in a cover letter with the 15-page report, called it a “brutally honest” assessment but one that was necessary to move forward.

The report faulted the state party for becoming a “top-down bureaucracy, disconnected from local activists, recklessly reliant on outside consultants.”

The report concluded that the state party was “essentially outsourced” to Walker’s campaign and was “a top-down bureaucracy, disconnected from local activists (and) recklessly reliant on outside consultants.”

That approach prevented the party from developing its young staff and future leaders, the report said.

Consultants during the 2018 campaign “had few, if any, discernible job responsibilities or expectations of deliverables,” the report said.

The report did not name the consultants and party officials declined to identify them. The report said consultants who are not providing needed services have been fired.

“The most immediate concerns facing the RPW are the cash flow problems and the debt we face,” the report said.

The party’s most recent campaign-finance report showed a debt of about $142,000 at the end of March. The party spokesman Charles Nichols said it had reached more than $350,000 after last year’s election.

In April, the Wisconsin billionaire and GOP mega-donor Diane Hendricks gave the Republican Party $500,000, according to campaign-finance records.

Although the party is getting on top of its financial troubles, it “rather startlingly, continues to learn of additional and ongoing obligations,” the report said.

The party pumped more than $4 million into Walker’s unsuccessful re-election bid last year, an amount that was too much for the party to bear, the report found.

A draft of the report obtained by the Journal Sentinel said that when trouble with cash flow began, a credit card was used to supplement spending. That decision resulted in a balance that was over the limit and interest charges nearing $600 a month, which went unpaid for months.

That detail was removed from the final report.

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