Lots of ink has been spilled about why then-sitting Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was likely on track to become Speaker of the House, lost his renomination bid. Clearly there were a lot of factors at play, as Jamie Radtke detailed in the best contemporaneous analysis of Cantor’s defeat. But at bottom, none of these factors should have been obstacles for Cantor, with his unsurpassed fundraising abilities and formerly sky-high popularity. The reason any of these things were able to touch Cantor, let alone derail him, was the consistently bad advice of his chief consultant, Ray Allen.
There is no sugar-coating possible here. Ray Allen is a disaster, and over the years has directly steered Cantor into mounting difficulty and acrimony within his district, consistently advising Cantor to attack, destroy, marginalize, threaten, ridicule, intimidate and run over anyone who even whispers about standing in his way.
Then he ran Cantor’s reelection campaign the same way, going negative early and often against a completely unknown, unfunded candidate. The results speak for themselves. Dave Brat’s name identification shot up dramatically, while Eric Cantor’s positive ratings dropped at an inverse proportion in reaction to the unhinged negativity of his ads. One absolutely telling factoid: of all the counties outside Richmond that comprise the 7th District, Cantor won only Spotsylvania, Culpeper, and Orange. These counties happen to be the only counties in the district outside the Richmond media market, thus beyond the reach of Ray Allen’s negative radio and TV ads. Put another way, the people most beyond the reach of Ray Allen were the ones most likely to vote for his candidate, meaning that Allen’s work likely directly harmed his client. But that didn’t matter to Ray Allen…he still got paid a percentage of the ad buys, and for all the direct mail.
So what does RPV have to do with it?
It is Allen’s “slash and burn” style of politics that has caused such rancor within the Virginia GOP this year, with Allen involvement in Republican intraparty controversies ranging from Campbell County to Virginia Beach, with Henrico, Richmond, and other areas in between. Ray Allen was the author of an orchestrated campaign of “slating” this year, a practice purposefully designed to shut out participation of minority voices in internal GOP processes in the most brutal, in-your-face way possible. Allen’s motive here was two-fold: first, he wished to regain control of the RPV Executive Committee by replacing as many District Chairmen as possible with his hand-picked lackeys. Second, in doing so he wanted there to be controversy and strife over the conduct of Republican mass meetings and Conventions, as a means of making such processes as distasteful as possible to the Republican electorate in the future.
You see, Ray Allen has his livelihood wrapped up in how the Republican Party of Virginia conducts its business. Sure, Cantor was his chief patron, but he made most of his money on Cantor’s coattails, attracting consulting and direct mail business from a variety of candidates and elected officials around the state. In that position Allen makes more money when the Party chooses state-run open primaries as the method for nominating candidates, as such elections provide him more opportunities to use his lucrative direct mail operation, Creative Direct LLC. Lots of people, myself included, have wondered why Cantor would back such divisive practices as slating. The real reason increasingly seems like Ray Allen again gave Cantor bad, self-serving advice; Allen’s goal seems less about helping Cantor extend the reach of his influence around the state than it was about lining Allen’s own pockets.
And, as if he hadn’t done enough damage so far this year, Allen further engineered the draining of the 7th District Committee’s bank accounts, sending $300,000 to DC-based national party organizations while intentionally stiffing the Republican Party of Virginia and other local efforts. (And no, Virginia, it was not to fund the Victory operation…that effort was already budgeted, and claims to the contrary are merely a fig leaf to cover Ray Allen’s giant single-finger salute to Chairman Mullins).
Chairman Pat Mullins’ Decisive Action.
We broke the story earlier this year about one way in which Ray Allen feeds off the Party he makes a living destroying. A huge part of Allen’s business is direct mail. For his clients, direct mail is much cheaper when it can be sent out using the Republican Party of Virginia’s bulk rate postage. Hence, a candidate using Ray Allen’s direct mail business would allow the Party to actually do the mailing for them, reimbursing RPV for the cost, which RPV would then pass through to Ray Allen. We exposed the whopping $1.13 million of such expenditures passed from RPV to Ray Allen in 2013 alone!! As we wrote then,
I donâ€™t know about you, that doesnâ€™t sit right with me. I think that if Ray Allen has access to Rep. Cantorâ€™s money, then let him have at it. But, the Republican Party of Virginia must stop subsidizing the corruption of its own processesâ€”immediately. Not a single dime of RPV money should find its way into the unclean hands of this political thug ever again.
It took a while, but Chairman Pat Mullins has heard the voice of the grassroots, and has taken the right steps. Earlier this week Mullins announced that the Party is henceforth severing all financial ties to the divisive Ray Allen, including by refusing to make any payments on behalf of candidates to Allen’s Creative Direct LLC. Mullins likely anticipated the reaction among Ray Allen’s well-connected allies in Virginia’s Congressional delegation and in the General Assembly, but he bravely did the right thing anyway.
Does this action mean the end of Ray Allen as a counterproductive, parasitic presence in the Virginia GOP? No, but it’s a big step in the right direction. It means that the party Allen sought to manipulate and control—the same Party he’s threatened to sue into bankruptcy over appeals of intraparty slating disputes—is not going to help fund the cynical, self-serving activities of the man who has given rise to so much strife and discord within the Party.
WELL DONE, Mr. Chairman!