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Republican Redistricting Efforts Bankrupt for 2011?

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Former Speaker Newt Gingrich was part of a group that started Making America's Promise Secure, which is no longer involved in redistricting.

Republicans are in danger of entering the next stage of redistricting at a significant financial disadvantage thanks to a cash-strapped Republican National Committee and a high-profile outside group that never got off the ground. 

In 2009, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and GOP lobbyist Charlie Black were part of a group that started Making America’s Promise Secure. The 501(c)(4) was supposed to handle the analytical and legal legs of the redistricting tripod for the GOP. 

Traditionally, the RNC centralized the Republican redistricting effort using soft money donations. But the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 banned soft money and left Republicans scrambling to reconfigure their redistricting strategy.

MAPS was supposed to fill the vacuum, corral the GOP’s top redistricting talent and bear the financial burden since the group is not subject to federal contribution limits. But with states on the cusp of drawing new Congressional lines, MAPS is nowhere to be found. 

“I don’t see them on the radar, period. Anywhere,” GOP attorney and redistricting veteran Mark Braden told Roll Call. 

“I don’t know that they ever got off the ground from a funding perspective,” another veteran redistricting source said. “They raised expectations to a level that they couldn’t meet.” 

According to multiple sources involved in the redistricting process on the Republican side, too many big donors didn’t have enough confidence in the group’s leadership and thought the group’s vision was too broad. 

When contacted for this story, MAPS Executive Director Michael Smith simply said he was no longer involved in redistricting. It’s unclear whether the group will shutter for good or change its focus. 

Democrats have not relied on the national committees to handle redistricting in the past, so their transition to outside groups was virtually seamless.

MAPS’ lack of success is in stark contrast to the tens of millions of dollars raised and the tremendous effect that the American Action Network and Crossroads — two Republican outside groups — had on the 2010 elections. 

Their success demonstrated donors’ willingness to address a present problem rather than a future need. Republicans are fortunate that the 2010 investment worked because MAPS doesn’t appear to have any money and the RNC had less than $2 million in the bank and $15 million in debt as of Nov. 22.

Brad Todd, a top consultant for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said it is “not just an accident” that there was a shift in GOP donors toward legislative elections in 2010. 

“There was a conscious decision to win elections. People got tired of paying lawyers,” Todd said.

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