Linda Chavez to Halt Fundraising

Posted January 15, 2008 at 6:39pm

Months after allegations surfaced that they frittered away perhaps millions of dollars in Republican political contributions, conservative pundit Linda Chavez and her husband, former White House official Chris Gersten, are closing down their substantial GOP fundraising operation.

In interviews Tuesday, the couple cited privacy concerns over recent media scrutiny of their high administration costs — sometimes as much as 95 percent — and ideological divisions within the Republican Party for their decision to stop raising money.

Gersten and Chavez confirmed their intentions following a Roll Call inquiry involving a new group, Republicans for Traditional Conservative Values, which Gersten formed late last year.

Gersten said he now plans to close the new political action committee and shutter fundraising efforts altogether for the couple’s four existing groups: the Republican Issues Committee, Stop Union Political Abuse, the Pro-Life Campaign Committee and the Latino Alliance.

“I’ve called my attorney and I’m going to be shutting down [Republicans for Traditional Conservative Values],” he said. “What I was thinking of doing was holding open the option of sometime in the future of having a vehicle to do direct-mail fundraising to support traditional conservative Republican candidates.”

“I’m closing it down because of my family,” he continued. “I don’t foresee any future political action committee fundraising will be initiated by me.”

A Washington Post investigative piece last summer reported how Gersten, Chavez and their children built a massive Republican fundraising empire in recent years, raising $24.5 million for their conservative political action committees from January 2003 to December 2006 alone.

The liberal fundraiser EMILY’s List by comparison raised about $34 million in the previous election cycle, according to CQ MoneyLine.

But of the total raised by Gersten and Chavez, the Post reported, only about 1 percent, or $242,000, actually made its way to candidates. All the while, the family members paid themselves about $260,000 during a recent five-year period. The couple also earned income from nonprofit groups run by Gersten, Chavez and their two sons, the Post reported.

”I guess you could call it the family business,” Chavez told the Post at the time.

Gersten and Chavez’s groups also have faced huge fines in recent years from the Federal Election Commission. According to campaign finance records, the Pro-Life Campaign Committee was fined $150,000 in May 2006 for failing to file accurate records with the agency.

Latino Alliance also negotiated a $2,500 settlement with the FEC in 2006 for filing incomplete records. And last year, the Republican Issues Committee was hit with a $110,000 fine for failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions and payouts.

Chavez told Roll Call late Tuesday that deep rifts within the Republican Party — now evident in the GOP presidential primaries — also contributed to the couple’s decision to halt their fundraising efforts, particularly with regard to Latino Alliance, which focuses on bringing the county’s fast-growing Hispanic population into the Republican fold.

But with immigration reform last year proving too hot to handle, and now temprarily relegated to the back burner, Chavez suggested that finding conservative donors — or Republican lawmakers who would be willing to take PAC donations from such groups, for that matter — is difficult.

“This isn’t the time to be trying to do this … we’ve had some incredibly abrasive rhetoric coming out of the Republican Party, beating up 24-7 on immigrants — even if the focus is on illegal immigration,” Chavez said. “The whole point of [the Latino Alliance] was to try and move Latinos into the Republican Party, but given the inflammatory rhetoric that’s coming out of the Republican party now, that’s a Herculean task.”

She added: “It’s frankly not clear to me that it’s the most propitious time to try to be making that pitch.”