Critics see cronyism in hiring of finance exec who quit suddenly
The party's board of directors hired Bill Christensen, a former statewide executive director of Victory 2006 -- a committee that aids Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's fundraising efforts -- on Monday to fill the top GOP financial post temporarily.
Christensen's appointment came after Michael Kamburowski, 35, an Australian native, resigned as the state party's chief operating officer. The Chronicle reported Sunday that Kamburowski was ordered deported in 2001, later was jailed for visa violations and responded by suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for $5 million for wrongful arrest.
Kamburowski was handpicked this spring for the top party finance job by Nehring, who became state Republican Party chief in February. The two worked together in the 1990s in Washington, D.C., for an organization run by conservative activist Grover Norquist.
Tim Morgan, current treasurer of the Republican National Committee, was the lone holdout among the California GOP's board of directors when it voted 19-1 last March to go along with Nehring's strong recommendation to hire Kamburowski.
"I was never so proud of that lonely vote," said Morgan, who said he expressed strong displeasure with Nehring's move to hire a virtual unknown in California politics without a full executive search and vetting.
"We're a multi-million enterprise," Morgan said. "We deserve the best management we can get -- and we should expect no less. Right now, we're experiencing a return to cronyism and retreat from professionalism, and we've got to get the best management we deserve."
Nehring declined comment Monday about how he decided to hire Kamburowski or whether he had vetted the Australian citizen -- who has never worked in a California political campaign and whose resume shows no employment history from 2000 to 2006.
Barajas said state party officials consider the hiring and resignation to be a personnel matter and plan a nationwide search for the next executive to assume control of party finances....
Kamburowski and his attorney said he is a legal, permanent resident. Speaking to The Chronicle on Saturday, Kamburowski declined to talk about his past immigration troubles -- including a 2001 deportation order and 2004 arrest on visa violations -- citing his pending suit.
Kamburowski's attorney, Michael DiRaimondo, said his client challenged the government's deportation order, and an immigration court overturned it.
In 2005, Kamburowski sued Homeland Security officials seeking $5 million in damages for "severe emotional stress and embarrassment" and loss of his job, alleging wrongful arrest and imprisonment -- a charge the government denies, in U.S. District Court in New York.
The Republican Party's effort to quickly move on and hire a new chief operating officer might not ease the pressure on Nehring. Some Republicans said the controversy threatens to hurt the state GOP's financial operations in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election.
The Chronicle reported this month that the state Republican Party also recently applied for, and received, an H-1B visa to fill the job of political director and hired a Canadian, Christopher Matthews -- who has never run a California campaign, to take over as deputy political director and head of technology at the party.
With Congress embroiled in a national debate on immigration legislation, the news that top California Republican Party officials had been involved in two questionable immigration-related hires concerned party activists.
Schnur said Nehring, a former chairman of the party's central committee in San Diego County,
Nehring continues to appear to have some support among members of the state GOP's six-member operating committee -- who were charged with approving the chairman's choice of Kamburowski as chief operating officer.
Southern California party vice chair Jon Fleischman, a member of the operating committee, said on his FlashReport.org site Monday that GOP officials were impressed that Kamburowski was "a smart, engaged and savvy person," and wanted to support their new chairman's choice for the top financial post.
But he acknowledged that Kamburowski wasn't asked if there were problems with his background, and "he did not disclose this information during the hiring process.''
Marty Wilson, the GOP fundraiser who represented Schwarzenegger on the party committee, agreed.
But Wilson said that with Kamburowski's resignation, donors should have no concerns about the party's operation under his management.