This June, the College Republican National Committee will hold its elections. And delegates will face a clear choice for chairman: Paul Gourley, of the incumbent CRNC administration, or Michael Davidson, California College Republicans chairman.
Gourley, as treasurer under current CRNC Chair Eric Hoplin, allegedly oversaw a series of CRNC fund-raising scandals, most notably a direct mail campaign designed to confuse and bilk senior citizens out of their money. During the 2004 election cycle, the CRNC, through its direct mail firm Response Dynamics (RDI), garnered over $6.3 million by sending misleading letters to elderly donors. The letters often included the headings "Republican Headquarters 2004," "Republican Elections Committee," and the "National Republican Campaign Fund." During the election cycle, the median age of 49 of the top 50 donors to the CRNC was 85, and 14 of the donors were older than 90.
Gourley lent his signature to the direct mail campaign knowing that "these letters were the darkest part of our contractual obligation with RDI," but he now claims that by doing so, he was putting "the interest of the College Republican National Committee above my own." One particularly egregious letter had Gourley supplicating for cash, misleading donors by explaining that for a sum of $1,000, a small American flag lapel pin would be given to President Bush to wear during his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
Calls to Gourley's spokesman Jake Grassel were not returned.
Davidson, meanwhile, has entered the fray. A University of California at Berkeley graduate, Davidson has been calling for CRNC reform for months, vowing to make fund-raising practices more open and accountable. "All fund-raising activities, invitations, and letters shall be posted to a secure section of the website where members of the National Board can access and read them," Davidson pledges on his website, www.yourcrnc.org.
Davidson emphasized to me that he's not making fund-raising reform the main issue of his campaign. "My main goal is building the foundation of the organization to equip the next generation of Republican leadership with the tools and resources it needs to succeed," he said.