A new Republican group launching Thursday has budgeted $35 million to strengthen the party's influence over the next round of redistricting, the complicated process of drawing favorable political boundaries for state and federal legislative districts.
The National Republican Redistricting Trust, overseen by Guy Harrison and other senior party strategists, was formed as a counterweight to the new Democratic group backed by former President Barack Obama and led by former Attorney General Eric Holder. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., are helping to raise money the NRRT.
"As we inch closer to 2020 redistricting, NRRT will play an invaluable role as Republicans seek to protect our gains and outwork an awakened Democratic machine," Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, said in a statement the new group shared with the Washington Examiner.
Earlier this year, top Democrats unveiled the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, to counter what they view as the GOP's advantage in an unfair redistricting process. It promptly raised nearly $11 million with Obama's help.
The former president and other Democratic bigwigs hope to reclaim the more than 900 legislative seats the party lost during his two terms in the White House, and they see the next redistricting as a crucial battleground.
The NRRT is similar in structure to Data Trust, the private third-party organization that can raise money in unlimited amounts, like a super PAC, and manages the Republican Party's voter data information for its voter turnout and analytics program.
With this new group, Republicans for the first time will have an organization dedicated to redistricting, the decennial process of altering House district borders based on population changes during the previous 10 years as gleaned by the Census.
The NRRT has buy-in from the RNC and GOP affiliates at the state and national and will function like an umbrella organization, coordinating strategy and action in the upcoming redistricting battle, which begins in 2018 and runs through 2022.
Much of the fight will occur in the courts, both state and federal, and in the state legislatures governors mansions, where, with the exception of states that employ neutral commissions, the district lines are determined. The NRRT will monitor all 50 states to ensure that the necessary resources are available and relevant GOP entities deployed.
The group will also perform the crucial function of accumulating the granular level of data on voter performance, population, geography and other factors that are required to draw politically favorable lines. This data is vastly different than standard data for get-out-the-vote operations, and beyond what the political parties are equipped to gather.
"The NRRT is the Republican solution to the challenge of redistricting," RNC co-chairman Bob Paduchik said in a statement.
Sometimes derided as "gerrymandering," redistricting in most states is a political process controlled by the party in power, or negotiated among Democrats and Republicans if the government is divided. The aim is to draw district maps for the legislature and U.S. House that are friendly to a party's candidates.
Over the years, the increasing amounts of very specific voter and population data has enabled the consultants expert in the intricate redistricting process to design very specific districts that often, though not always, protect the political parties from mood shifts in the electorate.
Having been the beneficiaries of a wave election in state houses and governors' mansions in 2010, Republicans were able to command redistricting for the lines that will last until 2022, when new boundaries will take effect based on the 2020 Census.
The NRRT, in the planning stages for months, is angling to maintain the Republicans' grip on the House by dominating the next round during what could be a turbulent environment for the party with President Trump in the White House.
NRRT officials declined to disclose the names of the group's donors.
Top NRRT advisors include Harrison, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP campaign arm, in the 2010 and 2012 election cycle, and as such heavily involved in the last redistricting.
Jason Torchinsky, formerly of the Justice Department's civil rights division, is general counsel; veteran operative Gail Gitcho is advising on communications; fundraiser Lauren Bryan is handling finance. NRRT officials shared with the Washington Examiner a statement of its views on district boundaries:
WHAT WE ARE FOR:
- Compact Districts: In political science, compact districts are districts with higher Reock and/or Polsby-Popper scores. But compactness scores are impacted by both physical and political geography. A district that has an entire city may look compact but may not score well because of the city's boundaries.
- Preserving Communities of Interest: Like communities (can be defined myriad ways) should be kept together. Cities should be whole within districts or districts whole within cities rather than stretched out into suburban and rural areas to spread their influence across entire states. Split as few counties and other political geographies as possible.
- Complying with the Federal Laws including the Voting Rights Act and State Law Requirements: Ensuring that every district drawn complies with federal law and constitutional requirements. This includes Section 2 requirements, along with Fourteenth amendment requirements. State laws sometimes require specific drawing methods or other requirements that must be followed