Maryland Republican Party owes over $100,000 to vendors

Maryland's Republican Party is once again in the red and plans to move its party headquarters to cut costs, according to financial reports discussed Saturday at the party's annual convention.

The party owes $122,000, most of it to two vendors, and has $48,000 in its bank accounts, GOP Treasurer R. Christopher Rosenthal told delegates meeting at the Sheraton Annapolis Hotel. The party also has access to a $33,000 line of credit, which he says adds flexibility.

"I'd like to see it better than that," Rosenthal said. "We've seen it a lot worse in the past. The party sees ups and downs." He added that the vendors "work with them" and are not "banging on the door" for repayment.

He said he is not feeling any "panic" about the debt because it is early in the four-year fundraising cycle. He pointed out that the party was right to spend as much cash as possible during the 2010 election supporting candidates.

Still, the debt shows a contrast from 18 months ago, when then-GOP leader Audrey Scott brought the party from the brink of bankruptcy with an aggressive fundraising program. Her efforts allowed the Maryland GOP to finish paying off a longtime debt owed to former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who gave the party a loan that was deemed inappropriate by the state Board of Elections.

The weekend convention was the first since Alex X. Mooney became state party chairman. Last December, he vied for the open position, defeating four other candidates, including Mary Kane, who'd been the party's nominee in 2010 for lieutenant governor.

The detailed discussion about the party's budget — and ways to improve — occurred Friday evening in an executive session that started as a public meeting but was closed after Mooney announced a reporter was present.

Later, speaking to the GOP delegation, Mooney said they had an "extensive debate" about "getting our budget where it needs to be."

"I made clear that we need to get the ship under control," Mooney said.

Del. Justin Ready, who is the party's interim executive director, said cash flow has stabilized over the first six months of the year when he said the party was "bleeding money" and spending more each month than it was bringing in. He said hiring two new fundraisers helped stanch the losses.

Rosenthal, the treasurer, said he expects to raise roughly $600,000 in 2012, but did not specify how. The party now spends $30,000 a month on rent, salaries and other fixed costs, he said..

As a way to cut costs, the party plans to move its headquarters, currently in a plum location just step from the State House on West Street in Annapolis. Rent there is $6,000 a month, Ready said.

There's been no decision yet where the new offices will be, though time is running short. The current lease expires Jan. 31.

One factor contributing to the debt was lower-than-expected revenue from the party's annual Red, White and Blue fundraiser, Rosenthal said. Only $9,000 was raised at the event this summer, which featured GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich.

As a comparison, in 2010 the party raised $110,000 after expenses at the same event. That dinner starred former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is also seeking the Republican nomination for president.