The Arizona Republican Party has put a bounty on the heads of voters this year — and their hired guns are cashing in. Republicans are spending $10 for every person GOP organizations and paid strategists recruit to join the party as it looks to increase its registration edge over Democrats.
So far this year, the GOP has doled out more than $300,000 to register nearly 22,000 new members, said Matt Salmon, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party.
Although party officials have characterized the effort as a way for the state party to financially help local GOP organizations, it’s been the political operatives that have really benefited.
Salmon said nearly two-thirds of all the money spent has gone to political operatives like noted Republican strategist Nathan Sproul.
Sproul, who is playing a major role on high-profile campaigns such as Len Munsil’s gubernatorial race and the effort to ban gay marriages, was unavailable for comment late Friday.
But Salmon said Sproul — who was hired for similar work in the past — was the only professional he was aware of hired by the party to boost registration numbers, which he believes was necessary.
“Had we not done this, I really think we would have been overtaken by the Democrats,” he said referring to state registration numbers. “And studies show that if you register someone, they will vote that year.”
The latest figures from the Secretary of State’s Office show there were 1,042,420 Republicans and 890,861 Democrats registered.
But with less than 82 days left until the November general election, the GOP has upped the ante for new members. About two weeks ago, it started offering $10 a head for every new voter brought into the party. That’s up from $2 when the party started its efforts in the spring.
But that doesn’t mean anyone who successfully recruits a new member will be paid.
Garrick Taylor, a spokesman for the Republican Party, said only official GOP organizations like legislative districts or Republican clubs can receive the money.
“We’re not going to be giving money to organizations called ‘Republicans for Janet Napolitano,’ ” he said. However, he did say they are talking about paying individuals who recruit members.
Taylor also rejected any notion that the strategy of paying professionals to register members was a sign the party is in trouble. The money is a way to drive local Republican groups into the streets and increase the size of the party during a pivotal election year, he said.
This year Republicans are trying to unseat popular Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, as well as defend a U.S. Senate seat held by Jon Kyl from his well-funded challenger Jim Pederson.
Michael Fries, who is in charge of the Democrats’ campaign efforts, said his party doesn’t hire professionals to recruit new members. He said volunteers are the ones who recruit new members.
Fries also said he wasn’t concerned by the concentrated effort of Republicans to increase their edge in registration.
“This is a campaign about talking to voters day in and day out,” he said. “(Republicans) are trying to come up with a strategy that works because they don’t have a good message.”