POLITICS
01/16/2013 03:05 pm ET Updated Jan 16, 2013

Mark Willis, Reince Priebus Challenger, Jumps Into RNC Race, Declares War On 'Pricey Consultants'

A piping hot press release Wednesday from Mark Willis, a Republican National Committeeman from Washington County in Maine, announces his intention to run against current Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus at the RNC's Winter Meeting on Jan. 25. Willis' platform? Well, the first thing he'll do is get rid of the consultants:

Mark Willis, Republican National Committeeman from Maine, who is challenging Reince Priebus for the Chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, has announced he will fire all RNC consultants and return the money to Republican State Committees where it is needed most to support candidates at the local level.

“It is the least I can do to start the restoration of faith in the Republican Party. This will begin the process of earning back the trust from GOP members and donors which is currently so sorely needed; especially after the massive losses in November,” said Willis.

[...]

Willis’ plan is to conduct competitive bidding for all agreements and put out RFPs (Requests for Proposals) for all contracts over $100,000 in value. “I will exercise oversight on contracts granted and will thoroughly review them to ensure the RNC receives services and results of the highest quality from its contracts,” said Willis.

Willis explains Priebus should have gone outside the RNC for fresh views and objective judgments rather than looking to those responsible for the vast losses in November to track down the causes of the losses.

“It is clear that under Reince Priebus, the RNC has overseen the abysmal stewardship of donor contributions. Balancing checkbooks and fundraisers mean nothing when money goes to undeserving consultants. The RNC needs leadership understanding of the importance of individual states and donors. GOP members are more likely to donate their hard-earned money when they have trusted leadership,” said Willis.

As Kevin Miller of the Portland Press Herald reports, Willis was last seen at the 2012 Republican National Convention, where he led a group of "renegade" Maine delegates, first in their boisterous support for Ron Paul, and later, in anger at the way they were treated at the convention by party officials, including Reince Priebus.

Per Miller:

But Willis' challenge of sitting RNC chairman Reince Priebus is, in many ways, a clear sign that the small and boisterous libertarian wing of the Republican Party that backed Ron Paul for president is still clawing for greater recognition in a deeply divided party. And Willis hopes his candidacy -- even if unsuccessful -- will further that conversation.

"He (Priebus) seems to have the votes locked up, but I don't think any candidate should run unopposed, especially after what happened at the convention and in the November elections," Willis said. "Someone from the grass roots needs to get on the ballot and stand before that body and explain to them what has happened over the last six months."

Willis is hardly the first person to suggest that the GOP needs to take all of its top-dollar consultants and push them out to sea on an ice floe. That opinion has been shared by everyone from members of the establishment GOP, like Newt Gingrich, to conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh. That said, it should be pointed out that Gingrich's position is closer to Willis' than Limbaugh, who is just mad at people like Steve Schmidt and Mike Murphy for constantly harping that the GOP has a problem getting beyond its nativist base when it comes to expanding its "tent."

As MSNBC reported in November, "nearly a third of the Romney campaign’s funds paid campaign consultants." Spencer Zwick, who runs a political consultancy firm and whose career is basically just centered around knowing Mitt Romney, made out especially well, according to the Boston Globe.

Willis is thus tapping a rich vein of intra-party angst, coming out against the consultants whose lavish compensation frequently exceeded their utility. However, he may be significantly underestimating the extent to which the modern conservative movement is, as Alex Pareene points out, explicitly "dedicated to separating conservatives from their money."

Let's also remember that Michael Steele -- a gaffe-prone bumbler who nevertheless led the GOP to big electoral wins in 2010 -- was replaced by Reince Priebus, who, while keeping himself from too many awkward moments and unforced errors, led the party to a dispiriting 2012 result. So, no, I couldn't even begin to tell you what the RNC membership is actually looking for in a chairman.

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