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The Secret of How the GOP Has a Lock on the House for the Foreseeable Future

Tens of millions poured into a stealth redistricting project before the 2012 elections kept dozens of GOP Districts safe from Democratic challengers.

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Dark Money Funds GOP Redistricting Project

The Republican Party did not build the highway leading to the U.S. House of Representatives by themselves. ProPublica’s investigation “found that the GOP relied on opaque nonprofits funded by dark money, supposedly nonpartisan campaign outfits, and … corporate donations to achieve Republican-friendly maps throughout the country.”

Millions of dollars was raised: “Two tobacco giants, Altria and Reynolds, each pitched in more than $1 million to the main Republican redistricting group, as did [Karl] Rove's super PAC, American Crossroads; Walmart and the pharmaceutical industry also contributed. Other donors, who gave to the nonprofits Republicans created, may never have to be disclosed.”

According to ProPublica, “To fund the work, the Republican State Leadership Committee used its previously dormant nonprofit arm, the State Government Leadership Foundation. Such dark money groups are increasingly popular because they are allowed to keep secret the identity of their donors. Federal tax law permits them to do this as long as they pledge that politics is not their primary focus.

“Flush with anonymous donors' cash, the Foundation paid $166,000 to hire the GOP's pre-eminent redistricting experts, according to tax documents. The team leader was Tom Hofeller, architect of Republican-friendly maps going back decades.”

PtoPublica reported that Hofeller's “team was paid with dark money and [since] the redistricting process is so secretive, it is hard to know the full extent of its activities.” Team Hofeller “provided technical assistance to an aide to Rep. Paul Ryan as he drew new districts that favored Republicans. In Missouri, Hofeller was the sole witness called by attorneys representing the Republican legislators who drew the maps there.” And Hofeller also concentrated his efforts on North Carolina.

Perhaps no other state was transformed as much as North Carolina. As ProPublica detailed, dark money groups affiliated with longtime Republican Party funder Art Pope, who ProPublica called “the most influential conservative donor in the state,” worked its magic. Not only did Pope donate heavily to the GOP’s redistricting project, he threw a bundle of cash into the re-election campaign of Justice Paul Newby, which ultimately guaranteed that the 4-3 GOP majority on the state Supreme Court would continue, virtually assuring that any challenge to redistricting would be rebuffed.

In a piece earlier this year for The Nation titled “How the GOP Is Resegregating the South,” Ari Berman pointed out that redistricting, as conducted in North Carolina, is an extension of the GOP’s Southern strategy, “as Republicans attempt to turn this racially integrated swing state into a GOP bastion, with white Republicans in the majority and black Democrats in the minority for the next decade.”

Berman ominously noted that “In virtually every state in the South, at the Congressional and state level, Republicans — to protect and expand their gains in 2010 — have increased the number of minority voters in majority-minority districts represented overwhelmingly by black Democrats while diluting the minority vote in swing or crossover districts held by white Democrats.”

While 2010’s redistricting resulted in keeping the Republican Party’s electoral hopes alive, voter suppression efforts engineered mostly by GOP-controlled state legislatures were largely ineffective this time around. However, expect more voter suppression efforts in years to come.

And, there’s another electoral scheme the GOP is kicking around; gerrymandering the electoral college. Instead of the winner of the majority of votes in a state receiving all of that state’s electoral votes, those votes would be divided on the basis of congressional districts. In such swing states as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia, where Obama won largely because of big city turnout, Romney, who won more congressional districts, would have received the majority of electoral votes.