UPDATE: Former chair Tamra Farah’s response disputing two reported dollar amounts related to the event has been added to the end of this story.
The El Paso County Republican Party is reportedly paying a five-figure speaking fee to Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, the keynote speaker at its annual fundraising dinner this Saturday.
As of chair Tamra Farah’s resignation last week, the party had sold just 150 tickets to the Sept. 7 event. In her resignation letter, Farah specifically listed “tactics” opposing her chairmanship by members of the GOP Central Committee, including: “withholding a potentially free speaker” and “suppressing Lincoln Dinner participation.”
Former EPC GOP chair Joshua Hosler laid out the dire state of the county party finances in a Facebook post last week:
Tickets to the event range from $45 for “Young Professionals,” to upwards of $250 with various preferred seating and VIP packages.
Keynote speaker Kirk’s national profile is presumably a draw for attendees, but his speaking fee is also a substantial portion of the event’s expenses.
Asked via email what portion of the “$50,000 in obligations” was dedicated to Charlie Kirk’s speaking fee, Hosler replied,
“I heard $18,000. The venue only holds 400. The math didn’t add up.”
That figure is at the high end of the $10,000 – $20,000 range listed on speakers bureau websites advertising Kirk’s services.
Turning Point USA is a conservative student organization dedicated to “combating liberalism on college and university campuses.” It’s perhaps best-known for its controversial “Professor Watch List,” designed to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students.”
Back in February, former Turning Point Communications Director Candace Owens keynoted the Boulder County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner. Her appearance was not without controversy, as news of her statement that the problem with Hitler was his ambition beyond Germany broke the day before the dinner. Owens resigned from the group in May.
County parties typically try to keep costs low, with speakers often discounting their fees or charging just for travel expenses. Donations to county parties count towards the state party’s total dollars raised for each election cycle.
In a Facebook comment, Colorado Republican Party Vice Chair Kristi Burton Brown wrote that the state GOP is assisting the El Paso County Republican Party’s sole remaining officer, Secretary Vickie Tonkins, with the event. Brown noted that El Paso is a “key county and we [the Colorado GOP] want you to succeed.”
El Paso County Republican Party secretary Vickie Tonkins did not answer a call requesting comment and her voice mailbox is full. A Facebook message also went unreturned.
UPDATE: Former chair Tamra Farah responded to former chair Hosler’s statement via email. She disputes the $18,000 speaking fee, but refused to provide a different number, saying only that she negotiated a 30% discount from an original figure lower than $18,000. She also disputed Hosler’s statement that the Lincoln Day Dinner has $50,000 in obligations, calling it “dead wrong.”