Funding remains a chief concern for some with Rand Paul's caucus plan

08/20/2015 11:56 PM

As U.S. Sen. Rand Paul readies his final pitch for a presidential caucus, he will need to assuage concerns from some Kentucky Republicans still unclear about how much money Paul had promised to cover the cost of the caucus process.

Recollections of those interviewed by Pure Politics were mixed. But the concerns expressed by several Republican Party executive committee members underscore how important the cost factor will be as they decide Saturday whether to fundamentally alter Kentucky’s presidential nominating process, at least for this cycle.

Such a move would allow Paul, who held a conference call with central committee members Thursday evening to discuss the proposal, to continue his presidential aspirations while simultaneously seeking a second term to the U.S. Senate. It would allow him to sidestep Kentucky’s prohibition against candidates appearing more than once on a ballot, with the caucus proposed for March versus the typical May primaries held here.

Paul has said he intends to pay for the caucus, but exactly how much the process will cost remains to be seen. Kentucky’s junior U.S. senator has set aside $250,000 for the caucus and pledged another $200,000 in the future. Plus, when any candidate files to run in the presidential caucus that person’s campaign must fork over a $15,000 filing fee, which also can offset costs.

That’s a sticking point for Richard Grana, chairman of the Republican Party’s 1st Congressional District and a member of the 15-person caucus committee that drafted rules for the proposal. Grana, of Paducah, said he would like all expenses covered in time for the Republican National Committee’s approval of the caucus.

In fact, that’s how he understood the original funding proposal.

“I actually thought the agreement was that they were going to pay what we had discussed in our committee meetings,” Grana said in a phone interview with Pure Politics. “The budget is $500,000. It’s not a firm budget, but that’s the one that I saw in the meetings.”

Two-thirds of those present Saturday must approve the caucus plan before it moves forward.

“It just depends on how bad they want to do the caucus,” Grana said of the funding. “… I don’t think the party should be liable for any of the expenses, so we need to have the money as per the budget at least by Sept. 24 because if we only have $250,000 now and by Sept. 24, or Oct. 1 is the actual deadline when we could change back, I don’t want to go into this without having total funding in our pocket.”

Scott Lasley, RPK’s 2nd Congressional District chairman who also led the special caucus committee, called the $500,000 proposed budget “pretty minimal,” meaning caucus locations will likely be limited if the party moves forward with the caucus.

“Most counties will have a single caucus location, which has some benefits to it, but there are some folks where that will certainly be an inconvenience,” he said in a phone interview.

Lasley, of Bowling Green, said he also believed the caucus would be completely funded by the time the Republican central committee voted on the proposal, but “there is some confusion on that.”

“I can’t swear to that 100 percent, but that was the way I understood it,” he said. “But some people on the special committee had a slightly different (interpretation), that the money would be earmarked and ready to transfer.”

But Troy Sheldon, the party’s 4th Congressional District chairman who also served on the caucus committee, recalled that funding discussions centered on Paul making a chunk of the funding available, then supplementing that as necessary.

Sheldon, of Alexandria, unequivocally supports moving to a caucus in 2016, echoing others who said Kentucky could gain national media coverage of a caucus that could draw double-digit presidential entrants. He and others said that also might attract a flood of new registered GOP voters.

“Sen. Paul’s already put in $250,000. That’s more than 50 percent of the funding,” he said based on a $400,000 estimate. “If we expect to get get 10 candidates in at $15,000 apiece, that’s another $150,000, so you’re looking at $400,000. Sen. Paul has committed to fund it, and I have no reason to doubt his word at all that he’ll fund it at 100 percent, so it’s actually a unique opportunity. The Republican Party gets to have a caucus without having to pay for it necessarily out of party money.”

Still, cash “is the biggest factor” for many on the central committee, said former state Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, a member of the RPK executive committee.

Gregory said she’s “pretty pleased with the proposal” and said “things are probably in place” to fund the caucus. But she told Pure Politics she’s “reserving final say” on her vote Saturday. If financial questions are addressed, she said she expects the plan will likely pass.

“I don’t know that that was something that was ever absolutely guaranteed,” Gregory, of Monticello, said of fully funding the caucus plan by Saturday. “The guarantee that was made from Sen. Paul was that he would fund it, but it wouldn’t cost the state party or the local parties any money.

“So the question then I guess becomes the full discussion Saturday of exactly what are the estimates? There’ve been different numbers thrown around for that. I do think it’s reasonable to expect there would be at least 10 campaigns that would pay the $15,000 filing fee to participate and so it’s reasonable to expect that to offset some of the costs, but I’m kind of just waiting to hear what all the explanation is about these numbers.”


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