The Battle Over Chairman Frederick

Lately I’ve spoken with several people about the situation concerning the Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. As there are still a number of people out there who remain uniformed, let me bring you up to speed. There are a growing number of individuals who are looking to remove Chairman Jeff Frederick from his position. In order to better understand the situation, let’s flash back a year ago.  After the November elections of 2007, the Republican Party lost majority in the Virginia Senate, a position it enjoyed since 1997.  But why did the party lose?  Some argued it was as result of the actions or inactions of the Chairman, John Hager.  Drawing upon the discontent of many of the Republicans in the state, especially the conservatives, Jeff Frederick, Delegate from the fifty-second district, launched a campaign to win the chairmanship from Hager at the May 2008 convention.  Another complaint raised against Hager was the lack of fundraising under his watch.  The Frederick campaign worked diligently, especially here in Harrisonburg, to promote their cause.  By comparison, the Hager campaign was not so visible.  Right before the convention the mudslinging intensified including slanderous accusations. I n the end, however, Frederick easily defeated Hager.

Since his election however, Chairman Frederick has come under heavy fire for three separate publicly stated accusations.  The first two mirror complaints leveled against John Hager; of low fundraising and the very poor results of the 2008 elections.  As faithful readers to this blog know, I held out little hope of Jim Gilmore’s chances of success against Mark Warner, but the fact that he won only 6 localities (Augusta County, Colonial Heights, Hanover County, Poqouson, Powhatan County, and Rockingham County) was a staggering loss.  Concurrently, John McCain lost the state by over two hundred thousand votes, thus being the first Republican candidate to lose the Old Dominion since Richard Nixon began the trend of winning in 1968.  Far more troubling, however, were the results of Virginia’s representation in the House of Representatives. Thelma Drake lost the usually conservative second district, and Keith Fimian was unable to retain Tom Davis’ seat in the eleventh.  But, the most heart breaking loss was Virgil Goode’s 727 vote loss in the fifth district.  I do wonder if the RPV could have done more to retain some of these seats.  After all, back in 2006, the RPV hired a number of activists, including myself, to bolster and augment the efforts of House and Senate campaign staffs.  Even though Senator Allen lost his reelection bid, I still maintain that the RPV put forth a good effort through their grassroots organization plan.   What I want to know is, where was this coordinated plan in 2008?  Why did the RPV not send out a similar cadre of staff?  In Harrisonburg I saw McCain and Goodlatte staff, but where was the RPV?   To my knowledge the closest RPV representative for this area was about a hundred miles away in Lynchburg (if anyone can validate or disprove this information, please let me know).  I’m guessing the issue revolved around money and fundraising.

The third concern revolves around Senator Northam, who was supposedly considering switching to the GOP.  As the Democrats held a 21-19 majority in the Virginia Senate, one switch like Senator Northam’s would tip the balance of power toward the Republican Party as Lt. Governor Bolling could cast votes to break the tie.  While  this plot unfolded Chairman Frederick sent out a twitter message stating, “Big news coming out of Senate: Apparently one dem is either switching or leaving the dem caucus. Negotiations for power sharing underway.”  After this message, the picture gets a little murky.  Some claim that Senator Northam never intended to leave the Democrats, but attempted to use this tactic to leverage his party.   Others state that Chairman Frederick’s early tweet tipped off the Democrats who were able to pressure successfully Sen. Northam to remain in their party.   Regardless of the actual reasoning, I believe that Chairman Frederick’s early posting was a poor decision as it gave many of us false hope, ultimately proved to be erroneous, and gave additional fodder to his enemies.

The plot doesn’t end here.   At the Advance last year a number of members of the RPV State Central Committee attempted to remove Chairman Frederick, but were unsuccessful.   Recently, the Committee served the Chairman a notice that they will vote on whether or not to retain him at a meeting on April 4.  In addition, both the leadership of the Republican Party in the Virginia Senate as well as all of the Republican members of the Virginia delegation in the House of Representatives have called on Chairman Frederick to resign.  I got the Senate letter in an email several days ago and it reads:

**VIRGINIA SENATE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS**

**March 6, 2009**

RPV State Central Committee

c/o The Honorable Michael E. Thomas

901 East Cary Street Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Mike:

We write on behalf of the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus to express our support for the recent actions taken by members of the State Central Committee in relation to Chairman Jeff Frederick. An overwhelming majority of our Caucus has expressed grave concern over the state of affairs at the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) in recent months and has lost confidence in Delegate Frederick’s leadership.

While we recognize the recently circulated petition is a State Central Committee matter, we stand in full support of your effort. Our Caucus has engaged in conversations with other elected Republican leaders in recent months as it became clear that Delegate Frederick’s lack of judgment was hurting our Party. Each time, we have decided that it is not our role as elected officials to pick the Chairman of RPV. We are gratified to see this movement initiating from the “grassroots.”

Our members recognize the importance of this year’s elections –both statewide and local. As a slim minority party in the Senate, it is critical to our Caucus that we retain the Lieutenant Governor’s office, retain control of the House of Delegates, and regain the Governor’s mansion. We are confident in the ability of our ticket this year to succeed, but their job would be made easier with a functional state party behind them. Heading into such an important year, it is critical that our state party have the full confidence of our candidates, our elected officials, and our grassroots. Like you, we are convinced that the only way to ensure this is a change in leadership at RPV.

Accordingly, we support and appreciate your efforts in this regard and stand ready to assist as needed.

Sincerely,

Sen. Thomas K. Norment, Jr.

Republican Leader

Sen. Stephen D. Newman

Republican Caucus Chairman

Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle

Republican Leader Pro Tempore

Sen. Walter A. Stosch

Republican Leader Emeritus

Sen. Mark D. Obenshain

Sen. Frank W. Wagner

Republican Whips

P.O. Box 1697 ♦ Williamsburg VA 23187 ♦ (757) 259-7810

Paid for and authorized by the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus

**

**

Virginia Senate Republican Caucus

Sen. Thomas K. Norment, Jr.

Republican Leader

Sen. Stephen D. Newman

Republican Caucus Chairman

Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle

Republican Leader Pro Tempore

Sen. Walter A. Stosch

Republican Leader Emeritus

Sen. Mark D. Obenshain

Sen. Frank W. Wagner

Republican Whips

Sen. Harry B. Blevins

Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II

Sen. Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.

Sen. Robert Hurt

Sen. Stephen H. Martin

Sen. Ryan T. McDougle

Sen. Frederick M. Quayle

Sen. Frank M. Ruff, Jr.

Sen. Ralph K. Smith

Sen. Richard H. Stuart

Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel

Sen. William C. Wampler, Jr.

Sen. John C. Watkins

Thomas J. Cosgrove

Executive Director

The House of Representatives letter reads (as found on bearingdrift.com):

March 12, 2009

The Honorable Jeff Frederick

Chairman, Republican Party of Virginia

115 E. Grace Street

Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Jeff:

For the good of the Republican Party of Virginia we write today asking that you step aside as chairman in light of the recent call from three-fourths of the State Central Committee seeking your resignation. Clearly it is the sentiment of the grassroots membership of the Party to move in another direction.

With November’s elections rapidly approaching, it is essential that our party be unified as we work to regain control of the governor’s mansion and retain control of the House of Delegates. No one will benefit from a protracted battle over the leadership of RPV. It is in that spirit that we ask you to step down.

Sincerely,

Frank Wolf

Robert Goodlatte

Eric Cantor

Randy Forbes

Robert Wittman

Although kept secret for some time, the particular charges offered by the State Committee are broader reaching than the three listed above.  This morning I got an email from Chairman Frederick that lists all of these charges as well as his response.  It is as follows:

Notice of Intent to Remove Jeff Frederick as State Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia

Initial Response to Charges – Summary

The Call to remove Chairman Frederick consists of ten charges. Charges 1, 2, and 3 concern the Chairman’s management of RPV finances. Of those three charges, Charge 1 is the most specific, while Charges 2 and 3 are widely ambiguous, lacking specific references detailing the allegations. The remaining seven charges in the Call concern alleged infractions of the Party Plan or specific interpretations of the Party Plan.

Charge 1:

Failure to transmit, in a timely manner, online contributions made to the Republican Party of Virginia and processed by his own company. Withholding 7% of online contributions made to the RPV for a period of weeks during the summer of 2008 after repeatedly assuring the Executive Committee that he was not using his company as a vendor for RPV.

Response to Charge 1:

While waiting for a newly contracted vendor to complete work on a new RPV website and for a new online donation vendor to complete its setup requirements, the Chairman established a “place holding” website through his own firm, GXS Strategies, Inc., also using its online donation company and subsidiary, ChargedContributions.com, for a period of 91 days. In return for a 7% discount fee, it was expected that ChargedContributions.com would cover all incidental expenses related to any transactions, including payments to merchant banks and credit cards.

Key facts:

· This “place holder” approach was immediately successful. Under the previous chairman, the Party raised only $2,000 online for the first five months of 2008 combined. After the Chairman and RPV staff set up an efficient, yet temporary system, the Party raised over $21,000 online in just three months at no cost to the Party. The funds collected by the RPV website were deposited into a non-interest bearing escrow account for distribution to the Party. Distributions were made on 8 July and 1 October.

· The “place holder” page automatically reported contributions to the RPV employees’ responsible for fundraising supervision, and, providing redundant transparency, the entire account was accessible to RPV employees.

· Of the $21,135.00 in contributions collected for RPV by ChargedContributions.com, the company retained 7% of the total, or $1,479.45, to cover incidental expenses and required remittances to merchant banks, credit card companies, and an online processing service. After fulfilling obligations to merchant banks and credit card companies, ChargedContributions.com retained a maximum total of $581.62 to cover other incidental expenses associated with the credit card collection process.

· In order to fully comply with Virginia campaign finance disclosure law regarding the work it did on behalf of RPV in constructing the “place holder” website and donation page, GXS Strategies, Inc., of which ChargedContributions.com is a subsidiary, reported an in-kind contribution to RPV in the amount of $17,717.61 on 8 September.

· Far from withholding money from RPV to benefit himself, Chairman Frederick’s company provided free services to the Party in an amount that was 30 times greater than the total of the alleged monetary compensation received by his company.

· All records, documentation, and filings verifying this information and detailing these transactions can be accessed via the Virginia Public Access Project, The State Board of Elections, the Federal Elections Committee, and internal RPV documents.

To summarize Charge 1, the Chairman’s company donated $17,717.61 in-kind to the RPV. During the period this company was used, RPV netted $19,655.58 from its online donations. The Chairman’s company provided interim services for 91 days, and the Executive Committee and RPV staff had a full accounting of the fundraising.

Charge 2:

Repeated failure to fully comply with a July 22, 2008 directive unanimously adopted by the RPV Executive Committee to disclose existing and pending contracts with vendors.

Response to Charge 2:

A search of existing contracts reveals that the Executive Director of the RPV provided every known contract to members of the Executive Committee, and that a good-faith effort was made to inform members of future contracts. The Executive Committee itself acknowledged in September 2008 that they were in possession of those records, and no member has indicated to RPV, in writing or otherwise, of the existence of any contract or agreement by which we have not fully complied with this directive, let alone repeatedly so.

Charge 3:

Unauthorized expenditures of RPV funds for unbudgeted activities without either State Central Committee or Executive Committee consent.

Response to Charge 3:

While there is no specific allegation in this charge, it has been suggested by more than one Executive Committee member that the Chairman’s procurement of office space in Northern Virginia was a breach of his authority.

The Chairman rented space at a rate of $600 per month for an office in Prince William County to serve as a Northern Virginia satellite office for RPV and for his legislative constituent service office. It was his intention to use the office space for himself for donor meetings and for other business to be conducted by RPV’s Northern Virginia Field Director and its Finance Director. For the period beginning 15 October 2008 and ending 15 June 2009, Friends of Jeff Frederick paid $2,400 for its portion of the office and RPV paid $2,400.00 for its portion. All payments were made directly to the landlord.

The Party Plan grants the Chairman authority to operate the State Headquarters within the approved budgets for personnel, but makes no other restrictions on the Chairman’s ability to authorize expenditures.

Charge 4:

Failure to provide members of the State Central Committee with a reasonable time to review and consider the proposed 2009 budget prior to proposed adoption by the State Central Committee. Failure to provide one or more members of the State Central Committee with any opportunity to see the proposed budget prior to the meeting.

Charge 5:

Disregard for the minimal rights of members of the State Central Committee to participate in discussion and debate at the December 2008 meeting by refusing to recognize numerous members attempting to speak and failing to ascertain the required 2/3 vote necessary to end debate. Lack of transparency in the budget process by giving members less than 36 hours to consider the budget rather than the usual three weeks.

Charge 6:

Corruption of process by failing to conduct a proper vote on 2009 budget by (1) beginning, but not completing, either a hand count or roll call vote, both properly called for; and (2) unilaterally declaring the vote result without even a partial count of those in favor and no count whatsoever of those opposed.

Response to Charges 4, 5, and 6:

These charges all refer to the approval of the 2009 RPV Budget at the 5 December meeting of the State Central Committee. They state that Chairman Frederick demonstrated a less than firm grasp on the proceedings at various SCC meetings by failing to provide adequate time for budget review, or by failing to recognize various members during debate. More accurately, though, they reflect the disappointment of some State Central members in the outcome of this meeting.

The Executive Committee recommended against approval of the budget by the State Central Committee. But after a prolonged and contentious debate, the State Central Committee voted to approve the budget, which is now in force.

Robert’s Rules of Order and the Party Plan provide every member the opportunity to object and to challenge the Chair on rulings and by raising points of order. Further, Robert’s is clear that it is the responsibility of each member to guard the process by interaction and objection. In this case, no objections were made to the rulings, votes, and procedures described in these charges at the time of the meeting.

Charge 7:

Failure to “promptly convene” the Appeals Committee upon timely receipt of an appeal of a ruling by the General Counsel.

Response to Charge 7:

The “Appeals Committee” is not recognized by the Party Plan, so it not subject to any specific timeline. Moreover, decisions of the Appeals Committee must be affirmed by State Central if they overturn the ruling of RPV General Counsel. The appeal in question was filed specifically to the Appeals Committee the day before the December 2008 meeting of the State Central Committee. Because of an amendment made to the RPV Budget at the December 2008 State Central Committee meeting, the Party’s then-General Counsel stepped down. A meeting of the Appeals Committee could not be scheduled until after a new General Counsel accepted the post.

After a new General Counsel accepted the post, several attempts were made to schedule this meeting to comply with the availability of all participants. Despite these difficulties, the Appeals Committee is scheduled to meet on 20 March 2008, two weeks prior to the first State Central Committee meeting since December.

Charge 8:

Circumventing the State Central Committee by appointing committee and otherwise assuming Duties clearly prescribed in Article III, Section D, as duties of the State Central Committee without consultation or authorization.

Response to Charge 8:

There is ample and long-standing precedent for the Chairman to establish ad hoc committees without SCC approval. In fact, members of the Executive Committee and the SCC both offered positive feedback on the establishment of these committees, and further, no member lodged any objections. Further one of the established committees was specifically requested by a District Chairman on the Executive Committee.

Charge 9:

Damage to the reputation and effectiveness of the Republican Party of Virginia through refusal to coordinate activities, including campaign messages, with Republican nominees for public office.

Response to Charge 9:

Evidence to the contrary on this charge is extensive and heavily documented. In fact, the Chairman and RPV staff undertook several sensitive assignments from both federal and state elected officials and nominees.

Since Chairman Frederick assumed his current position, RPV staff works cooperatively, frequently, and regularly with Republican nominees, candidates, and elected officials. There are numerous examples to support this fact.

[NOTE: Since much of the evidence contradicting this charge contains sensitive internal campaign documents, supporting documentation is being offered exclusively to members of the State Central Committee.]

Charge 10:

Failure to notify the Executive Committee of a possible breach of security and/or compromise of security of data residing on servers and failure to act promptly to investigate potential breach when requested to do so.

Response to Charge 10:

In November 2008, some members of the Executive Committee alleged that there had been a breach of RPV’s e-mail lists. Less than 24 hours after the breach was alleged, Chairman Frederick utilized experts in his firm to investigate the possibility of any breach. After an extensive system analysis, which included an examination of log files, no evidence of a breach was found and the Executive Committee was so informed.

Concluding thoughts

And so the saga continues.  As more and more Republican leaders, especially conservatives like my own Senator Obenshain and the presumptive Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, call for the resignation of the Chairman, it will become increasingly difficult for Jeff Frederick to hold on to his position.  My hope is that the State Committee will judge all of the evidence presented both for and against the Chairman fairly and render a clear decision that all can respect.  As 2009 will prove to be a key year for our party, we need to be united.  Although I do believe it will happen despite my protests, I sincerely do not want this conflict to spill over into May’s convention.  I do not believe that most of the delegates, myself included, have sufficient information to judge this case and such a public trial would likely be exceeding ugly.  Things are bad, yes, but do they warrant Chairman Frederick’s removal?  Right now I don’t know.  However, as Chairman Frederick fights for his political life and his opponents gather their forces, I don’t think any vicious new chapter to this conflict will surprise me.   Nothing defeats the Republican Party quite as well as the Republican Party itself.

3 Replies to “The Battle Over Chairman Frederick”

  1. How many of those Senators voted for tax increases during a time of Surplus in 2005? You know just asking?

    The last thing that crew wants is a solid Conservative calling them out when they go to what method (compromise) to balance a budget that they… ahem… unbalanced by spending 6% of what they didn’t have?

    Another big hint Kaine didn’t run VA into a financial ditch… that is only reserved for Jim Gilmore… for sticking to his guns and delivering on his campaign promise…. promptly undone the next year by…

    the same group of Senators……

    It’s time for term limits on both parties… get them all out!

  2. Frederick beat the old party leaders with a big majority last year. These guys simply can’t take a loss, though, and now they are simply stealing back the position they feel entitled to with trumped up charges.

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