Trump backs Michael Whatley to lead RNC, as some Republicans were skeptical


WASHINGTON (AP) – In push michael whatley As the next leader of the Republican National Committee, Donald Trump Focusing on the North Carolina GOP chairman’s dedication to “election integrity,” he made the baseless suggestion that he would ensure the 2024 race “cannot be stolen.”

There’s no doubt that some of Trump’s most ardent supporters in Whatley’s home state would love a word.

Whatley has been accused by some Republicans of essentially fabricating his victory as state party chairman after a chaotic vote last year that resulted in a legal challenge that presented evidence that some The ballots were cast improperly. While Whatley and his colleagues acknowledged that technical problems made it difficult to vote with the party’s mobile app, they strongly denied that the irregularities changed the outcome of the contest and noted that the lawsuit was dismissed.

But for some conservatives, spurred by Trump’s insistence on years of vigilance against voter fraud, the episode raised suspicions that the party contest was stolen by a Washington Beltway fixture whose work George W. Bush In administration and as a lobbyist, he was viewed with suspicion.

“I can conclude only two possibilities. One, he felt he needed to cheat to win. Two, he is completely incompetent. Both are disqualified,” said Whatley’s challenger, John Kane Jr., who described himself as the “undisputedly” true “MAGA candidate” in the contest.

The controversy surrounding Whatley’s selection to the top GOP political post in North Carolina is one of several emerging signs that point to challenges ahead. Trump’s goal is control of rnc Whatley instigated the systematic removal of the organization’s current chair, rhona mcdaniel, But in doing so, he is elevating someone with a relatively low national profile and a glittering resume that includes links to establishment figures widely condemned by the radical activists who have been most vocal in their support of Trump.

Whatley, 55, declined to comment for this story through a spokeswoman. The Trump campaign did not respond to a message.

If Whatley ultimately becomes RNC chair, he will be charged with leading an effort to defeat Pres. Joe Biden At a time when the party is struggling to raise funds and woo a restless far-right faction. To his critics, Whatley represents more of this at a time when they are demanding more dramatic change.

‘A complete change’

“We need a complete overhaul of the RNC. Picking someone who is the male version of Rona is the exact opposite of what the RNC needs right now,” said RNC committeewoman Sigal Chatah for Nevada, who is closely associated with the group Turning Point , which McDaniel advocates. Kicks off.

Whatley’s allies portray him as a steady hand and strategic thinker with decades of Republican political experience, spanning from the mountains of western North Carolina to the halls of Congress and the executive branch.

A formative political experience came while Whatley was still a sophomore at Watauga High School. He volunteered in 1984 for the reelection campaign of Jesse Helms, a staunchly conservative senator whose crusades for civil rights, the arts, and against homosexuality heralded the GOP’s adoption of grievance politics under Trump.

Yet for most of his professional life, Whatley’s political sensibilities appeared far more closely aligned with the party mainstream and the corporate establishment.

He spent most of his 20s as a student earning four degrees, including a law degree as well as a master’s in theology from Notre Dame. Later, when Bush campaigned for president, he clerked for a federal judgeship in North Carolina before leaving for Washington.

An early assignment sent him to Broward County, Florida, where he worked among a team of lawyers on Bush’s behalf to dispute the outcome of the 2000 presidential election.

“It was really the first time that Republicans got in the trenches and fought,” Whatley recalled during a 2021 appearance on an election integrity panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “We knew if we weren’t there, they would steal it.”

After the Supreme Court ruled in Bush’s favor, Whatley got a job at the Department of Energy, after which he worked for the senator for two years. elizabeth doleNorth Carolina Republican.

oil and gas lobbying

However, lobbying on behalf of oil and gas giants soon became his vocation.

He launched his own firm, Patriot Group, in 2005. But his fortunes did not rise rapidly until he joined forces with two other oil and gas lobbyists in 2009. His firm, HBW Resources (the W stands for Whatley), became a force with political will.

HBW became a major proponent Keystone XL Pipeline, Whatley was also the architect of a federal and state-level campaign that played a key role in stopping a bipartisan effort to impose clean standards for oil used in the US.

The rules would drastically reduce imports of crude oil extracted from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada – a labor-intensive process that requires so much energy use that fuel derived from the region is considered one of the world’s dirtiest. It is believed.

But the legislative effort failed after the campaign mounted pressure from Congress as well as members’ home states.

To further its objectives, Whatley’s firm also founded the Consumer Energy Alliance, a non-profit organization that presented itself as non-partisan. In fact, the group was backed by some of the world’s largest oil companies, including Chevron, ExxonMobil and British Petroleum, as well as major industrial energy users. The group has been accused of using fraudulent tactics to generate support for their efforts, including allegations that they collected petition signatures under misleading pretenses for local initiatives in Ohio, Wisconsin, and South Carolina .

Following a major corruption scandal in the North Carolina Republican Party, in which the party’s former chairman was convicted in a bribery scandal, Whatley ran to replace him and stepped down from the nonprofit after winning. He left the firm he helped found in 2022.

army of election watchers

His focus soon turned to “electoral integrity”. As Trump railed against fraud ahead of the 2020 election, Whatley said he recruited hundreds of lawyers, as well as an army of poll watchers, to campaign across the state. After Trump won the state, he took credit for the effort, claiming that it prevented Democrats from cheating.

“They knew that if that happened, we would be screaming bloody murder,” Whatley said in 2021. “Because we put so much pressure on the system more than a year ago, it actually ended up being a very clean election.”

But to Democrats, many of the North Carolina GOP’s tactics amount to voter intimidation or suppression, which they say is ironic in light of Whatley’s contested election as state party chair last year.

“The next chair of the Republican Party is running on election integrity. His own choices were questioned. And a lot of people in North Carolina don’t feel he was elected fairly,” said North Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Anderson Clayton.

As Whatley looks to take over the reins of the RNC, which will require the approval of the organization’s 168 voting members, much of his success will depend on whether he can raise enough money to improve the organization’s dire financial situation Or not. The RNC has been vilified in recent months by the Democratic National Committee, which at the end of last year reported only $8 million in cash reserves, while it was $1 million in debt.

Art Pope, a North Carolina businessman and major conservative donor, said Whatley is well equipped to lead the organization. But he wasn’t sure the underlying dynamics would change.

“When the Republican National Committee was helping with Donald Trump’s legal fees, a lot of people didn’t want to give,” Pope said. “This will be a challenge for anyone who has been or will be chairman of the Republican National Committee.”


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