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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Conversation with Hoplin & Grasell

--posted by Tony Garcia on 4/30/2005

Today was the Minnesota 6th Congressional District Republican Party Convention in Stillwater. There was a lot going on and only some of it will I report on. This posting is about a conversation that I had with Eric Hoplin and Jake Grassel.

First was the conversation with Hoplin. Among the highlights was the emphasized and restated statement: "I did not endorse Paul Gourley."

I replied, "I'm going to quote you. Are you sure?"

"I have endorsed neither candidate and wish both of them luck."

We did that three times. He also mentioned that he wanted to be hands off (you decide for yourself if you believe him or not) because he was tired of the running tradition of CRNC Chairs fixing the election so that their choice for successor would win. Among the names that he gave as participating in this was Karl Rove. As he said that I could not stop from laughing in my mind at how that was the blueprint for Kristen handing over the CR Chair (U of MN) to Tyler by freezing out any opposition from even being nominated.

We also discussed RDI. Now you have to understand that Hoplin just gave a speech to the convention as he is running for MN GOP Deputy Chair on June 11. I asked him specific questions about RDI and he dodged almost all of them. The first question was, "How much money has been refunded after the RDI incident this past election." Well, from 2002-2004 there was roughly a whole $18,000 refunded...out of the millions raised with questionable, if not criminally misleading, fundraising. Did I mentioned that only 10% of funds raised were used for anything besides more fundraising?

Hoplin said that he is very proud of his record with RDI. He implied that all the signatures on the fundraising letters were not authorized at all. To which I asked, "if you are so proud of this record then why are you not mentioning your 'housecleaning' ability in your speeches?" His answer (in 5 minutes or more) was that he has other things that he is proud of also. His biggest theme in his speech today was his fundraising ability and the ability to bring resources together. Well, on the first point (fundraising) I would say that he either had no hand in fundraising (as those letters were bearing unauthorized signatures) or his fundraising tactics are ones we do not want in the Minnesota GOP. On his second major theme: his legacy in the MN CR is one of divisiveness and top-down control.

Oh yes, Hoplin claims that his priority since his first day as CRNC Chair was to end the RDI contract. "Do you have copies of memos from the meetings that demonstrate this priority? Agenda meetings, e-mail, something that shows that this was a priority BEFORE the media caught the story?" "No." "Eric, with all due respect, you know how that sounds then to me?" He replied with some blather about the finite details of the contract, which I also asked for a copy of. Jake said that he can send some of the many things I requested. I will look forward thsoe.

My impression of Eric Hoplin after meeting him is that he is a slick-talker. "Slimy" is the only other adjective that comes to mind, but that may be because of his RDI albatross is influencing the impression. He was very personable to everyone, though it did not have a genuine feeling.

I also asked about the lapel pin letters to which he laughed and said that "you can't believe the liberal media." Are they wrong? He did not answer that and instead went on a diatribe about the entire blogosphere being nothing but lies (sorry CR vETS for "truth"--they've got you pegged).

I also talked with Jake Grassel (I believe he is the Chair for MN CR and Paul Gourley's national campaign manager, unless I misheard his credentials). The major questions I had for him were relating to (1) the continued divide between the U of MN Campus CR and Campus Republicans (aka CaR) which leads to a division of resources for the local and grassroots causes and (2) the lack of debates accepted by Paul Gourley in his race for CR National Committee chair.

Before I summarize the conversation I will give this assessment of Jake. He seemed like a very genuine, nice and good guy. Jake, I know you read this blog. I would love to get a couple of beers with you sometime after the CRNC convention...when both of us have no axe to grind. ;)

Now for the general answers. Topic 1: the divide. He tried to bring the 2 groups together this past year. That lasted for a whole 4 months (long enough for the 2004 election...so the CR's got the extra resources they needed, but that is my observation--do not attribute that as coming from Jake). Jake mentioned a couple of CR names of people who then actively sought to re-establish the divide between CR and CaR. We also discussed how lasting this actually has been...dating back before his term as MN CR chair. My own first hand experience goes only as far back as Kristen Meyer's shady selection of her successor for CR. He did not comment on that, but I did not give him the chance to...it was before his term and not his responsibility.

Topic 2: debate avoidance. Jake got visibly annoyed with my pressing this issue, but I was not a saint. I was being fairly aggressive on this topic. His response was basically that a debate was not logistically possible. After all, Gourley still has classes to finish (though he does find time to campaign!!). And besides, people are not able to go to different states to watch the debates. Then, according to Jake, the debates are only about spin. (Uh, like the campaigns aren't anyway?)

"You can put video of the debates on the CRNC website" I mentioned.

"No one is interested in watching videos of the debates."

Excuse me? So, you're telling me that the CRs who are tasked with making a vote on something this important are too irresponsible with that task to watch video of debates? Basically, 'We want you to vote the way we tell you to, because we don't think that you are smart enough to think about the content of debates on your own.' That is horribly short changing the mentality and dedication of those who are going to vote for CRNC chair.

I pressed on, "Having only one debate at the same convention where the votes will be made, and after the endorsements of those voting, is like having the Presidential Debate on Election Day."

"Not at all because Presidential Debates are watched by millions of people and so it is justifiable to have them before election day."

Uh, I am now confused. Gourley won't debate because people can not physically be there to watch. Gourley won't videotape the debates. But it is not as if the Presidential Debates were being held on election day because millions of people watch those (nevermind the annoying nuace that they watch via live video and are not physically at the debate).

After these discussions I am firmly planted on these two beliefs: Hoplin for MN GOP Chair will be a very bad thing for the MN GOP (Eibensteiner's already been horrible in many regards). Gourley as CRNC Chair will be the status quo for the CRs...from scandal to shady business practices to fostering division.

Like I said, after actually meeting these two I would not trust Eric any further than I could spit upwind...and certainly would not trust him standing behind me. Jake seems like a decent enough person, I just flatly disagree with his positions as the campaign manager.


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