What Is the “Senate GOP Trust”?

Republicans in the Virginia state Senate have a “Republican Caucus” that, in theory, convenes periodically to hash out legislative and political strategy. But it appears that decision-making power has shifted to an entity referred to as the “Republican Leadership Trust,” which excludes the handful of conservative Republicans in the Senate.

I first heard of this group in one of the periodic e-mail missives distributed by Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, R-Centreville:

Well, I’m sitting on the Senate floor at 1:30 p.m. on crossover day. The Senate is in recess until 3 p.m. I believe that part of the reason that we’re in recess is so the Senate GOP Trust Senators (the leadership, etc.) can meet to plot legislative strategy. I and some other conservatives are not members of “the Trust,” so I have a bit of a break. I can’t help thinking that that sort of discussion is exactly what a
Republican Caucus is supposed to do…

I’m not exactly what you’d call a General Assembly insider — I’ve yet to set foot in the state Capitol so far this session. But I do read the press accounts with some frequency. If anyone in our intrepid press corps has written about the “Republican Leadership Trust,” I haven’t seen it. I am almost certain that no one has made the existence of this GOP schism the focal point of a story.

It’s certainly not news that there are divisions within the Senate GOP. But it is news that a sub-set of the GOP Caucus is now formally excluding conservative members from important deliberations. One of the jobs of the media is to track the shifting loci of power in the General Assembly. If the MSM fails in its duties to provide context and meaning to events in the General Assembly, new mechanisms and institutions will arise to replace it. Which leads me to my next post…

Update: As readers have informed me in the comments section, the press has covered the Republican Leadership Trust. I take full responsibility for my ignorance of the subject and will readily admit, in this particular regard, that I was too quick to blame the press corps for not writing about it. Additionally, it is important to note that the Trust did not “exclude” other senators, as I stated above, but that some senators declined to participate. Still, it is interesting to note that decision making, on some issues at least, has shifted from a caucus of all Republican senators to this smaller body.


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11 responses to “What Is the “Senate GOP Trust”?”

  1. Vivian and Shirley Avatar
    Vivian and Shirley

    LeBlanc, Bob Crouch, and Leighty were pulled out of the block by a Senate substitute yesterday but what’s afoot here is not what it appears to be. The D’s are very close to closing a deal in the House that will let LeBlanc be approved. Tommy Norment is catching heat in the Senate for being too cozy with the guv. So…a ploy has developed. What looked like a strip-out of those three was actually a move to take a little heat off of Norment, and buy a couple of extra days to finish closing the LeBlanc deal in the House. Just for insurance, the guv’s office is going to use Leighty as a pilot fish or seeing-eye dog for LeBlanc’s perp walk through the House vote, by packaging those two together in a resolution still to come. Crouch is a decoy, just to confuse them, like the aluminum shards planes eject to throw missiles off. LeBlanc will be approved.

  2. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    Jim,

    I seem to remember when the “Senate GOP Trust” was formed it was “open” to all GOP Senate members. The reason for the quotes on open is, if I remember correctly, there were certain actions expected by all who joined which included monetary support for certain candidates in the Senate “leadership”. I could be wrong, but I remember hearing that somewhere. I’d be interested if someone else remembers more clearly and can post. There most certainly were “pay to play” kind of expectations to be part of that club, even if the “pay” part was not necessaily monetary.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Prpobably a better name for “Senate GOP Trust” would be “GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee”

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    This story came out last year as I recall–and I think there were a number of posts on here about it. But the Trust is neither a secret nor a conspiracy. It is essentially the off-spring on the Senate side of the dissolution of the old Joint GOP Caucus operation, just like the House Republican Campaign Committee is. The only difference between the two is that some of the Senate GOP members chose not to become involved in the operation while I am not aware of that having happened in the House.

    Every member of the Senate GOP was invited to join. The only requirements to join was to pay dues to the group, a requirement which any caucus operation expects from its members, and to support the leadership of the caucus, a requirement which is not unreasonable assuming that leadership is not criminally corrupt. The caucus elected a leadership and the membership has an obligation to support those leaders if those members have an expectation of receiving help from those leaders. There was never and has never been a requirement that members of the Trust financially support any other candidates directly, leadership or otherwise.

    I have no doubt that if a House member were openly rebellious to Howell that said member would have little cause to expect support from Howell if he gets in trouble. And I am not talking about fealty on votes. The Senate is sort of notorious for not taking binding caucus positions as the House does. Instead, I am talking about actively undermining the leadership and its supporters. I doubt that Howell or Hastert at the national level would tolerate a Republican who openly demonstrated a complete disdain for them and worked to undermine those leaders’ supporters for re-election.

    It should also be pointed out that it has been previously reported that every GOP member of the Senate was invited to join. Some, including Cuccinelli, chose not to. If he wanted a seat at the table, it seems like he could have taken one. And not all conservatives are out. Wagner and Bell did not vote for the ’04 package and are members. I do not think anyone is more conservative on social issues than Rerras and Hanger and they are members. It was also reported back in March last year that when Potts went off the reservation that the Trust booted him from the group and I have not heard that he is back in at this point.

    Finally, the Republican Caucus continues to meet, I believe on Tuesdays. I assume that matters of common interest among all members of the Caucus are discussed. That being said, it does not seem far-fetched that members of the Trust group, finding some common ground on issues, might also work together outside the caucus without consulting those who would be expected to oppose those issues.

    But is this a shift in the “loci of power?” No. The Trust has no standing under the rules of the Senate. And there are caucus subsets in every legislative body in America. VA has a conservative caucus, a black caucus, etc. So to it goes here.

  5. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    “and to support the leadership of the caucus, a requirement which is not unreasonable assuming that leadership is not criminally corrupt.”

    While I’m sure none of the leadership has a criminal conviction, the treatment on the “leadership’s” part toward conservatives has been a corrupt “vendetta” despite what Chichester would say. There were also I believe expectations that members would support certain legislative agendas that some would find unacceptable. Thus the “conservative caucus” was formed.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    It is highly unlikely that there was an expectation that members would support any specific policy agenda item. If that were the case, then why have some who did not vote for the ’04 increase–which seems to be viewed as the defining issue for people in the blogging world–been willing to join?

    As far as a vendetta goes, non-Trust members have done things that undermine Trust members. If you want to argue that leadership is out to “get” Ken Cuccinelli, etc., you certainly are free to do so, but in doing so, I hope you will realize that there has been plenty of fire in the other direction too. I am not sure anyone has behaved pristinely here.

    And maybe that is the bigger issue. Maybe instead of moderates and conservatives tossing bombs at each other, they should look for areas of common agreement and work towards those in concert. Maybe instead of everyone trying to undercut everyone else, they should focus on what they agree on and when it comes to the issues of disagreement, not make it so personal on either side.

    Remember, neither side can get to 51% of the vote without the other. We need both wings to maintain a majority. You may think John Chichester is too liberal and others may think that Ken Cuccinelli is too conservative. But they are not a Senate Majority Leader Saslaw or a House Speaker Hall holding hands with a Governor Kaine. And while there are some who would argue that it is better to be in the minority while holding on to some “principles,” my guess is that serving in the minority is not a lot of fun, especially if the Majority is a complete pack of Bolsheviks like Saslaw, Hall and Kaine. Conservatives may not get everything they want now, but under the other scenario, they would get nothing at all. Half a loaf is better than none I figure.

    Just think for a second about what would have passed had the Dems been running the show instead of the moderates you seem to dislike:

    The Dems would have passed a ruinous minimum wage increase.

    The Dems would have killed the marriage amendment

    The Dems would have killed Stosch’s–yes Stosch, one of those moderates–little bill to provide education vouchers to special education students–just because the Dems would want to curry favor with the VEA.

    The Dems would have killed the bill stripping the Kaine of the authority to name 11 of the 17 members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board

    And those are just a handful that come to mind. So while things may not be conservative bliss, they could be worse than they are too.

    If everyone in the GOP stopped feeling like victims and found ways to work together instead of focusing on what is dividing the Republican Party, maybe we would not be losing seats the way we have in BOTH houses.

  7. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    Anon,

    I will check my sources and get back on the “legislative agenda” aspect.

    However, I believe you are a bit too hard on the “conservatives”. They have most certainly been open about their issue stances and disappointment with some moderates abandoning traditional Republican ideals in their votes, but to my knowledge they have not by and large made it “personal”. Meanwhile people like Potts totally abandon the party and its principles, call conservatives “extremists who want to take over the party”, while he totally reverses himself on just about every issue and runs as an independent candidate against our party. Then the “leadership” rewards him by letting him keep his seniority and committee chairmanships. Please, this is a slap in the face to all republicans, not just conservatives.

    In addition, just about every proposal by conservative members of the Senate is quashed in committee. These “leaders” act more like children than statesmen and they want to keep their club private. That is a problem.

    My problem is not with “moderates” or “conservatives” or even “liberals” for that matter in the party. It is with people who appear to be using their positions of power in the legislature to conduct their own little ego game. Vendettas are going on.

    Bottom line, all sides need to work together, but as far as I can see, the “leadership” in the Senate has not been doing ANY compromising in the last eight six years at least.

  8. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    Please ignore my typo in the last sentence. I was trying to remember if it was eight or six years since I can remember any significant compromise and came to the conclusion that 6 was probably closer to the truth (car tax).

  9. Not Susan Clarke Schaar Avatar
    Not Susan Clarke Schaar

    Let’s test Rtwng Extrmst’s hypothesis that “just about every proposal by conservative members of the Senate is quashed in committee.”

    Obenshain introduced 19 bills this year. 7 bills were incorporated into other bills or reported out of committee (37%).

    Cuccinelli introduced 32 bills. Of those, 2 were striken at his request. 13 bills of the remaining 30 were incorporated into other bills or reported out of committee (43%); 4 of the bills that died did so in Ed & Health, chaired by Potts (who isn’t a member of the Trust) and excluding those 4 bills, 13 bills out of the remaining 26 were reported (50%).

    O’Brien also introduced 32 bills. Of those, 3 were striken at his request. 19 bills of the remaining 29 were incorporated into other bills or reported out of committee (66%).

    Martin introduced 8 bills. Of those, 7 were incorporated into other bills or reported out of committee (88%).

    Newman introduced 11 bills. Of those, 10 were incorporated into other bills or reported out of committee (91%).

    By contrast, Potts (the only non-conservative Senator not a member of the Trust) introduced 6 bills and had 4 reported out of committee (66%), but 3 of those 4 were reported out of Ed & Health, the committee he chairs.

    And keep in mind that this purely objective analysis doesn’t take into account the possibility that the bills that died did so because they were bad ideas, not because of some perceived vendetta against conservatives. It also doesn’t take into account the bills that were not “killed” but were merely continued over to next year (perhaps because the lobbyists behind them needed more time to negotiate with opponents to secure passage).

  10. Not Susan Clarke Schaar Avatar
    Not Susan Clarke Schaar

    By the way, if you were trying to keep score at home, that’s a total of 97 bills introduced by the “conservatives” (not counting those striken at the patron’s request). Of the 97, 56 were incorporated or reported. That’s 58% success rate for the “conservative” bloc of non-Trust Senators. So much for “just about every proposal” being killed in committee.

  11. E Joseph West Avatar
    E Joseph West

    In regard to whether any Senators were “excluded” from the Trust caucus, I have been told that a couple were not “invited” and at least one would not accept the terms of membership so did not join. Does anyone know the terms of membership in this august body, formerly known as a rump caucus?

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