Anyone who has immersed themselves in political life knows that the toughest and dirtiest battles are not fought at the top of the food chain, but the bottom. The watchful eyes of the media largely keep our elected officials in check, but when absolutely no-one is watching, you create the potential for one of the most toxic political environments in the country. I’m speaking, of course, about the College Republicans.
The vast majority of CRs are great people, but there are far too many of us (myself included) who come out scarred and jaded after watching four years of shameless backstabbing, political vendettas, and routine corruption. Often, those who claw their way to the top of the garbage pile go on to become our most aggressive and successful strategists - Karl Rove was national chairman in the 1970s, and Lee Atwater managed his campaign for that office. However, for every Karl Rove, there are probably ten young activists who end up fleeing the cesspool. Most of the time, we “grown-ups” shrug off their antics, because “they’re just college kids” – but eventually somebody has to stand up and say that our young leaders deserve better than to be treated like dog feces. The CRs are an integral part of the party’s operations, and they need to be subject to the same ethical standards we apply to anyone else.
Unfortunately, the only way this situation was going to get the attention it deserved was if it spun far so far out of control that it became newsworthy – and sadly, the California College Republicans (CCR) have finally reached that low. I’ve spent the last several days interviewing people familiar with the situation, and frankly I have been shocked and disgusted by actions of that organization’s leadership.
A plethora of strange and twisted events have occurred in the last few months, all of them connected with the CCR State Committee’s desire to influence the election of their successors - but in order to understand the full scale of the issue, I want to begin with the biggest act of corruption I have ever witnessed in College Republicans:
Last Thursday the CCR State Committee voted 6-1 to revoke the charter of the College Republicans at the University of California–San Diego (UCSD). As a result, all of the members of the UCSD chapter (30 active, over 500 on the mailing list) have been effectively kicked out of College Republicans, and a full 10% of the electorate at the state convention (and a key center of opposition to the incumbents) was eliminated in the blink of an eye. The flippant expulsion of these kids should be enough to provoke outrage – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A quick look at the months leading up to this travesty reveals a sordid tale of corruption and intrigue that would rival the most imaginative works of political fiction.
The whole thing started near the end of last year, when I had the chance opportunity to befriend a young intern by the name of Sarah Johnson (we stayed in the same intern dormitory her in DC) – while I was just getting out of college, Sarah was a wide-eyed 18-year-old who would soon be a freshman at UCSD. We talked a lot about CRs, as I had just finished my career (I was the chapter chairman at my college), and she had been receiving strange Facebook messages about the UCSD CRs impeaching several officers. At the time, we laughed it off - but when she got back to San Diego, she found out that she was not dealing with a run-of-the-mill CR squabble. As she told me Friday, she had “walked into a war zone”.
As it turned out, those Facebook messages she showed me were the first shots in the mother of all collegiate conflagrations. There had, in fact, been an underhanded attempt to impeach the CR chairwoman at UCSD, Dejah Stanley – and it backfired in a big way. Inez Feltscher, who succeeded Miss Stanley as chairwoman, gave me the run-down on the circus that followed. Apparently, one of the club’s Vice Chairs, Megan Rodriguez, wanted Stanley gone (most of the club didn’t). Hence, she called a meeting to impeach Stanley, where the articles of impeachment were convincingly voted down. However, this technicality did not stop the instigators from Facebooking the entire club to notify them that Stanley had been voted out of office. The rest of the club was none too pleased with this stunt, and promptly called a meeting where Stanley’s leadership was affirmed and Rodriguez was unanimously impeached as Vice-Chair - YouTube video of the vote was even made available to prove the integrity of the process. Rodriguez, however, decided not to recognize her removal and insists to this day that she is still the club’s Vice Chair for External Affairs. She was also a member of the CCR State Committee, and she decided to use her connection to make life hell for the club - that’s when the hard-core sleaziness started.
According to Feltscher, members of the UCSD CRs started receiving threatening phone calls from CCR state officials, telling them that (among other things) their involvement in Rodriguez’s impeachment would prevent them from ever working in politics again. As the problems got worse, the UCSD CRs found themselves on the outs with the state committee, and they ended up endorsing “Red State Rising”, a slate of state committee candidates running against the incumbent-endorsed slate (known as “Revolutionize CCR”). At this point, they found out that they were subject to an even bigger state committee vendetta – this one aimed at crushing “Red State Rising” in the election.
I got the details on this second sub-plot from Adam Ellison, head of “Red State Rising” and their candidate for State Chairman. RSR has also experienced the strong arm-tactics employed by certain members of the State leadership, this time in their capacity as representatives of the “Revolutionize CCR” campaign. At the state’s annual Republican convention, one state co-chair even went so far as to imply that physical violence could occur against a consultant for Red State Rising.
Then again, that wouldn’t be terribly surprising to anyone frequenting the comments section at The Dana Report, one of the only blogs covering the election. State Co-Chair Leigh Wolf is a frequent commenter, as are other people involved in the race, and you’d be amazed at the comment threats being fired off on one post written after that convention. One commenter asks another “Alec, are you the dude that got thrashed by Leigh Wolf after passing around some random s*** at the CCR meeting? Saw the camera… just wondering.” Mr. Wolf then responds “Yes he was. You’re a sniveling weasel Alec. Bring that trash to the CCR convention, I dare you.” Another shocked commenter than asks if Wolf is making a threat, and receives a rather chilling response: “Yes Matt Schenk it is a threat. I’m glad you picked that up... I will publicly embarrass and make famous anyone who puts their own agenda before CCR at the expense of CCR’s reputation. So i repeat to (name deleted), Bring that trash to the CCR convention, i dare you.” I might add here was that the person was merely distributing literature noting that impeached UCSD Vice-Chair Megan Rodriguez, now a top-ranking “Revolutionize CCR” candidate, had no business masquerading as a sitting vice-chair of the USCD College Republicans…which brings us back to the plot that resulted in dozens of innocent CRs being thrown out of the organization.
Somewhere in the middle of this debacle, Club Treasurer (and Rodriquez ally) Chelsea Green resigned from the UCSD club along with a few lackeys. She then removed all of the other officers from the club’s bank account and commandeered it for her own use. While the university did ensure that the account was eventually returned to its proper owners, Green did manage to withdraw $500 before ceding back control. Coincidentally, she was also able to form a rival “College Republicans” club (with herself as chair) the very same day. At this point, I should probably tell you about the bogus restraining order filed against a member of the UCSD CRs (thrown out in court), but that would interrupt the story.
The renegades then set out on a quest to get their old club de-chartered by the state committee - not a bad plan, considering that they could abuse Megan Rodriguez’s connections. So, they compiled a mailing list of “members” by trading signatures for Red Bull during finals week. They have yet to use that mailing list, despite being in existence for several months - nor have they even hold single meeting - but they did amass a “membership list” to submit to the state committee in their bid to steal the UCSD charter. So, the state organization scheduled a “debate” between the two clubs to determine which was the “legitimate” holder of the UCSD charter.
Now, one would think that preference would be given to the larger club with a 23 year history. However, through a rather amazing feat of intellectual gymnastics, the charter was awarded to the upstarts who don’t even bother to have meetings. Here’s how it went: First, the committee validated the invalid impeachment of Chairwoman Dejah Stanley (remember her?). Then, they declared that, because the club refused to recognize that impeachment, all actions taken by the club afterward were illegitimate. This invalidated the subsequent impeachment of Megan Rodriguez, meaning that the club could now be charged with preventing their suddenly-unimpeached vice-chair from performing her duties. Furthermore, the committee deemed that, as the rebels did recognize the impeachment of Dejah Stanley, they were the only legitimate CRs at the school.
Personally, I find this entire process appalling – these people are supposed to be the future of our party, and nobody will even slap them on the wrist for unjustly expelling an entire chapter. Not only that, but the chapter was disbanded largely for reasons that had nothing to do with the UCSD feud. Yes, that was the excuse, but I’m guessing that the primary reason had far more to do with eliminating voters who were going to oppose “Revolutionize CCR” in this month’s elections.
It’s high time that somebody stood up to these punks, and I personally am willing to flog this issue until something is done about it. If “Revolutionize CCR” and their state committee friends want to play hardball, then let’s play hardball. From here on in, I’m on a mission to make them famous. Any slimy move they make will be blogged about, fed to my Twitter followers, sent to my mailing list, and forwarded to my media contacts. The only thing that these people are “revolutionizing” is ham-fisted, Chicago-style machine politics, and our kids deserve better than that.
College Republicans is supposed to be a place where our young activists learn about the principles of our party - but if this travesty is allowed to stand, then the only thing they’ll learn is that Red Bull does indeed give you wings. We need to do everything we can to get these kids back into CRs (and maybe throw out the bums that did this to them) – and there is no time like the present to get moving.