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20130213_HA_JimBrulte028.JPGTo rebuild the California Republican Party, Jim Brulte will first have to climb out from under a mountain of debt.

The former GOP Senate leader, who is expected to take helm of the embattled party next month, said Wednesday that the CRP is between $500,000 and $800,000 in the red, a figure he says could vary based on the potential for legal battles with former vendors.

"This is more like a bankruptcy workout," Brulte said of setting up party infrastructure as chairman. "First of all you have to pay off your debt, hopefully while you're doing programs simultaneously. We have to increase our income and reduce our expenses, that's just prudent."

Brulte's estimate, which he said was based on briefings he's received, suggests a much more dire financial situation than the one depicted by the party's latest campaign finance filings, which showed its primary committee inching back into the black after a difficult year. Anemic fundraising and cash issues forced the party to lay off staff months before the November election because of cash issues. It now employs just three full-time staff members, two of whom work out of their homes.

Brulte said the current debt level means the party will rely heavily on volunteers as he and other leaders seek to revive fundraising programs he says have been allowed to atrophy in recent years. He blamed, in part, a heavy reliance on cash generated by having former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in office.

"The party got lazy. It believed because it was getting these huge contributions there was infrastructure," he said. "Well, once we didn't have a Republican governor, some of those contributions dried up. We shouldn't be surprised by that."

Brulte said he hopes to "get back to the basics" if elected chairman at next month's CRP convention in Sacramento, focusing on fundraising, candidate recruitment and voter registration and outreach programs.

"These are all the nuts and bolts that are necessary to win elections," he said of his priorities.

Outgoing Chairman Tom Del Beccaro and the CRP's current spokesman were not immediately available to comment on the current level of debt.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Brulte. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua



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