New National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) has significantly broadened Member involvement in the organization in hopes of transforming the way it conducts business in a post-campaign finance reform world.
“This is the ‘new’ NRCC,” Reynolds said in an interview Tuesday. “We want Members to take ownership of this committee. It’s theirs.”
Banned from raising and spending soft, nonfederal dollars in unlimited chunks, Reynolds believes that the only way to grow the committee and expand its activities is to reach much further into the GOP Conference than past chairmen have done.
“We have to change the whole environment of how we function,” Reynolds said.
In that vein, he has tapped 12 Members to head a variety of subgroups within the NRCC infrastructure and expects to expand each group significantly as the cycle goes on.
“This is going to be Tom Reynolds’ legacy to the NRCC,” said one GOP leadership aide. “His hallmark is his ability to get his colleagues to buy into his vision.”
Rep. Sue Myrick (N.C.) will head the NRCC executive committee, which will oversee the general operations of the committee. Reynolds held this post in the 2002 cycle.
Myrick has held the Charlotte-based 9th district since 1994 and served as mayor of that city from 1987 to 1991.
Reynolds has not chosen the remainder of the executive committee, but the eight elected members of leadership will serve in an ex officio role.
In a nod to the committee’s successful recent history, Reynolds has also named a Chairman’s Cabinet that includes three ex-chairmen of the NRCC, former Rep. Bill Paxon (N.Y.) as well as current Reps. John Linder (Ga.) and Tom Davis (Va.).
Paxon chaired the NRCC from 1992 to 1996; Reynolds won his 27th district when he retired in 1998. Linder headed the NRCC during the 1998 cycle, and Davis led it in the past two elections.
In addition, lobbyists Dan Mattoon and John Hishta, who served as executive director in 2000 and 2002, respectively, are part of the cabinet.
Aside from those Members and advisers charged with crafting the overall message of the committee, Reynolds envisions the NRCC’s efforts split into three categories: incumbent retention, recruiting and fundraising.
On the incumbent front, he has selected Rep. Phil English (Pa.) to chair the Incumbent Development panel, Rep. Bob Ney (Ohio) to head up the Incumbent Review Committee and Rep. John Shadegg (Ariz.) to organize the Education and Training board, which will serve as an information-sharing database for Members.
Serving under English will be Reps. Don Sherwood (Pa.), Todd Tiahrt (Kan.), Fred Upton (Mich.) and Heather Wilson (N.M.). All five Members will mentor endangered incumbents as they prepare for 2004.
“We want to make sure [incumbents] are using all the resources available to them to win re-election,” Reynolds said.
Ney will direct a board of review along with Rep. Roger Wicker (Miss.), Jennifer Dunn (Wash.), John Doolittle (Calif.) and Nancy Johnson (Conn.). The board is aimed at formalizing the process of monitoring incumbents’ progress.
Shadegg will oversee a database where Members will be encouraged to share successful tips and techniques on electioneering.
Rep. John Sweeney (N.Y.), who came to the House in the same class as Reynolds and is a close ally, will chair the recruiting arm of the NRCC along with Reps. Greg Walden (Ore.) and Candice Miller (Mich.), who will serve as vice chairmen.
Sweeney has a keen understanding of demographics and voting patterns, Reynolds said, and “will pragmatically recruit the best candidate for each seat.”
Walden, who will also serve as the the NRCC’s unofficial ombudsman as chairman of the audit committee, is in his third term representing the sprawling Eastern Oregon 2nd district.
A former secretary of state, Miller convincingly won an open seat in 2002 and managed to use her excess campaign funds to help 16 GOP candidates in the final weeks of the election.
Reynolds said he also hopes to enlist the recruiting skills of Rep. Tom Osborne (Neb.), the legendary former coach of the University of Nebraska football team. But, Reynolds has not yet approached Osborne.
Rep. Mike Rogers (Mich.), a second termer, will lead the crucial NRCC finance operation.
“[Rogers] has done nothing but give to this Conference,” said Reynolds. “He is going to work to get Members involved to all take a piece.”
Rogers’ first big test will come March 18 at the NRCC annual spring dinner, which will be chaired by Rep. Joe Barton (Texas). Reynolds has set a fundraising goal of $4 million — half what the same dinner raised in 2002 — and admits he isn’t sure if the committee will be able to reach that figure.
A handful of other Members will chair outreach and organizational efforts.
Rep. Howard McKeon (Calif.) will be the NRCC point man on STOMP, House Republicans’ grassroots mobilization effort.
First organized in the 2002 cycle by Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas), Republicans must find a new way to fund the STOMP operation; last cycle it was paid for with soft-money outlays by the NRCC and Republican National Committee.
Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) will lead the Communications/Message Squad, which Reynolds envisions as a cadre of GOP lawmakers available to speak to talk-radio programs, cable news networks and major print outlets to push the Republican message of the day.
Pence brings a unique skill set to his new post, having hosted “The Mike Pence Show,” a conservative talk-radio program that ran statewide in Indiana from 1994 to 2000.
Rep. Jerry Weller (Ill.), who challenged Reynolds for the NRCC chairmanship after the 2002 elections, was named head of Community Partnerships group, which will attempt to bring more voters under the Republican umbrella.
Weller was NRCC finance chairman in the 2002 cycle.
Serving under him will be Reps. Tom Cole (Okla.), Ed Royce (Calif.), Sue Kelly (N.Y.), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Eric Cantor (Va.) and Barbara Cubin (Wyo.).
Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) will head up Coalitions committee, handling outreach to key Republican constituency groups.