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RNC Chief Fights to Rebuild Fundraising Machine

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New Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is moving urgently to rebuild the committee into a fundraising powerhouse, trying to position the party to be able to withstand President Barack Obama’s expected $1 billion re-election campaign juggernaut.

During an interview Friday with Roll Call, Priebus discussed RNC fundraising strategy and goals for 2012 and the challenges he faces in the wake of a near-abandonment of the committee by small, medium and major donors during former Chairman Michael Steele’s administration.

Frequently using words such as “disaster” and criticizing Steele’s tenure, Priebus told Roll Call the past two years have “completely destroyed” trust and credibility with major donors.

Priebus is assembling a national finance team from scratch and plans for the RNC to be debt-free and flush with at least $10 million in the bank by year’s end. To restore trust with the national donor community, Priebus canceled his own election victory reception to save money, ordered the RNC to dump two of its three leased cars as soon as possible, and put an end to high-end travel perks such as car service transportation and expensive, brand-name hotels.

“So I’m trying to get rid of this Lincoln Town Car,” he said. “It frustrates me that we have a Lincoln Town Car in this building. I don’t know why — maybe it’s because I’m from Wisconsin. I just find it to be really bizarre.”

He questioned other bills left on his desk.

“To have $8 million owed to vendors on top of the $15 million you were authorized [in a line of credit], that’s what breaks your back,” he said. “And the bills keep coming.”

One of them, he said, was a year-old $80 entrance fee from the committee’s softball league.

“We’re not only paying the softball fee of $80, we’re paying the softball fees of last year. It doesn’t end.”

Priebus acknowledged that the RNC faces additional challenges, not the least of which is overhauling the committee’s once-vaunted ground game operation into a modern operation capable of competing with Obama’s trailblazing political organization, which includes the Democratic National Committee and his Chicago-based re-election team. But for Priebus, it all starts with turning the RNC into a cash machine — made clear by his hands-on approach to fundraising versus his delegation of other committee responsibilities.

“We need to raise more money; we need to have the resources available to be able to spend an enormous amount of money on all of the states,” Priebus said a day after returning from a multicity fundraising trip to Florida and two days before heading to New York to woo banking and finance industry donors. “We need to set up a [get-out-the-vote] operation that is fully funded by our donors and a [GOTV] operation that can actually make an impact on the ground in all these states.”

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