Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Retreat to Santa Fe

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 14, 2011

The Democratic Party might have a 3-to-1 voter registration edge over Republicans in Santa Fe, but the city in late September will play host for a “retreat” attended by major GOP contributors and potential big-money donors, organized by the Republican Governors Association.

At least one potential presidential candidate is scheduled to be at the private Sept. 21-23 gathering. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who currently chairs the Republican Governors Association, will be there, according to a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez, as will several other GOP governors.

And yes, the host governor will attend, spokesman Scott Darnell said Wednesday.

Politico’s Mike Allen said in a column this week that the Santa Fe retreat is one of several held each year by the association’s Executive Roundtable.

“The roundtable — which requires members to contribute a minimum of $25,000 a year to the RGA — is part of an RGA effort to cultivate major individual donors, rather than the corporate donors upon whom the group traditionally relied,” Allen wrote.

Allen quotes “a source familiar with the RGA’s finances” who said that contributions from roundtable members accounted for almost half of the $22.1 million the RGA raised in the first half of this year.

Specifics of the events haven’t been publicized. And it doesn’t look like they will be.

Asked Wednesday where the retreat will take place, association spokesman Mike Schrimpf said “We usually don’t give out that information.” None of the events will be open to the public, he noted.

Schrimpf said such retreats typically feature policy sessions with GOP governors as well as dinners and other social events.

A roundtable retreat is scheduled in Aspen, Colo., for next week. According to both Politico and a Washington Post blog, among the Republican governors attending that event will be Perry, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Susana Martinez of New Mexico.

If Martinez does have national ambitions, as some pundits have speculated, getting well acquainted with the big-money bunch at these private schmooze sessions won’t hurt.

Rite of first refusal: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney this week publicly refused to sign a controversial pledge by a group of social conservatives in Iowa. On Wednesday, his rival Tim Pawlenty followed suit and said he wouldn’t sign “The Marriage Vow — A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family” touted by the organization called Family Leader.

The pledge covers a variety of issues including gay marriage, abortion, marital fidelity, porn and Sharia law. Candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum quickly signed on.

The original version of the document included a statement that suggested that African-American children born into slavery were better off in terms of family life than black children born after Barack Obama became president. That statement has since been removed.

But while those two former governors were agonizing over whether to risk offending the religious right, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a longshot 2012 contender, not only declined to put his John Hancock on the pledge, he ripped into it with glee.

“While the Family Leader pledge covers just about every other so-called virtue they can think of, the one that is conspicuously missing is tolerance,” Johnson wrote Saturday in his campaign blog. “In one concise document, they manage to condemn gays, single parents, single individuals, divorcees, Muslims, gays in the military, unmarried couples, women who choose to have abortions and everyone else who doesn’t fit in a Norman Rockwell painting. ...

"The Republican Party cannot afford to have a Presidential candidate who condones intolerance, bigotry and the denial of liberty to the citizens of this country," Johnson said, "If we nominate such a candidate, we will never capture the White House in 2012.”

“Well, first of all, who’s Gary Johnson?” Family Leader leader Bob Vander Plaats asked when sought his response to Johnson’s statement.