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Jewish World Review
June 28, 2007
/ 12 Tamuz, 5767
Good Ol' Boys Empty GOP
Debra J. Saunders
THE GOP has a guy problem. Even after Veep Dick Cheney shot a friend in a hunting accident, he still hunts. In California, GOP biggies injure their comrades in a less ballistic manner. State party chairman Ron Nehring is under fire for handpicking an Australian immigrant who was ordered deported in 2001, was jailed on visa violations in 2004 and has filed a $5 million wrongful arrest lawsuit against U.S. Department of Homeland Security to be the party's chief operations officer. Under Nehring, the party also sought an H-1B visa so that a Canadian citizen could serve as director of political research and technology.
If someone had paid a Democratic operative to smear the state GOP, he could not have done a better job than Nehring. After all, Repub biggies routinely harp about illegal immigrants and the need for the federal government to get tough on employers who hire them. So when the party seems to carve out an exception for an Australian and an H-1B visa for a Canadian to do work no American can do it seems as if Nehring bought a billboard that shouts: You can call me "mate," but not "amigo." Eh?
I've talked to party operatives who insist that Michael Kamburowski was a good COO. Canadian Christopher Matthews was Stephen Harper's personal assistant before Harper was elected prime minister. It's not unusual in politics for operatives to work in other countries. Some insiders see The Chronicle stories as overplaying the fact that the GOP did a poor job vetting one job candidate (Kamburowski).
"Get over it," state GOP board member Jon Fleischman, wrote on his blog www.flashreport.org. "It's time to move on. The guy omitted key information when he applied for the job. When it was revealed, he quit."
Problem is, it is impossible to believe that Fleischman or other partisans would get over this story so quickly if the Democrats had hired a top staffer whose deportation had been ordered and was suing Uncle Sam.
Savvy Republicans are also concerned that Nehring and Kamburowski both worked for anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, and Norquist remains a Nehring client. Norquist's name has been in the news this month as Italia Federici, former head of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, pleaded guilty to tax evasion and obstructing justice when she lied to a Senate committee investigating disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Norquist helped found the council. The Washington Post also has reported Abramoff turned to Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform to funnel gambling money to former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed.
Thus Norquist had a role in a scandal that helped bring down the GOP majority in Congress as voters saw GOP leaders as more interested in helping themselves than in serving the public. Former state GOP Vice Chairman Jim Hartman noted in an e-mail, "Red flags should have gone up long ago on Nehring's ties to Norquist." Hartman especially resents Norquist's attempts to hound moderates out of the party as if Norquist, an Abramoff crony, stands for true conservatism.
So how did Nehring get this job? He ran unopposed for a non-paying post.
Get over it?
No. As state GOP board member Tim Morgan wrote in The Chronicle, Nehring didn't look for "the best and the brightest talent from among our political class." When I ran into Nehring in Sacramento Tuesday, he couldn't even argue that Kamburowski had the requisite experience. You can't help but believe Nehring picked a guy who is good to pal around with. Some GOPers seem more interested in working within their comfort zone than in winning.
Now the party will pay a price. Money will dry up. Big donors don't want to hand money over to losers. And they don't want to bankroll bad headlines.
When you only want to work with people who tell you only what you want to hear, it gets to be a small room.
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