June 19, 2007

California Republican Party hires political director through H-IB Program

If this wasn’t so funny, it would be sad- or if it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny- I’m not sure which.  In any event, I thought America had an over-supply of right-wing political operatives- do we really need to import them?

The California Republican Party has decided no American is qualified to take one of its most crucial positions — state deputy political director — and has hired a Canadian for the job through a coveted H-1B visa, a program favored by Silicon Valley tech firms that is under fire for displacing skilled American workers.  Christopher Matthews, 35, a Canadian citizen, has worked for the state GOP as a campaign consultant since 2004. But he recently was hired as full-time deputy political director, with responsibility for handling campaign operations and information technology for the country’s largest state Republican Party operation, California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring confirmed in a telephone interview this week.

In the nation’s most populous state — which has produced a roster of nationally known veteran political consultants — “it’s insulting but also embarrassing … to bring people from the outside who don’t know the difference between Lodi and Lancaster … and who can’t even vote,” said Karen Hanretty, a political commentator and former state GOP party spokeswoman.

U.S. Department of Labor records show the state Republican Party applied for an H-1B visa to fill the job of “political consultant” and was granted a visa labor certification in March 2007. The three-year H-1B visa does not become valid until Oct. 1, 2007, government records show.

Party officials said Matthews has been working in the interim under a “TN” visa — a renewable one-year special visa for Canadian and Mexican professional workers created under the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Matthews was hired by Michael Kamburowski, an Australian citizen who was hired this year as the state GOP’s chief operations officer. But neither new official has experience in managing a political campaign in the nation’s most populous state — and as foreign citizens, neither is eligible to vote.

Kamburowski, a former real estate agent who sold property in the Dominican Republic, is a permanent U.S. resident in the process of obtaining American citizenship and does not require a specialized work visa, state GOP officials said. “There are talented Republicans in California, and the message that (party chair) Ron Nehring is sending is that there’s no talent pool here,” Hanretty said.  The state party and its 58 county operations face several challenges, Hanretty said, including “redistricting on the ballot, uncertain legislative races ahead of us … and a number of Republican congressmen who are under federal investigation and are going to be challenged by Democrats.  “Who will help these candidates?” she asked. “A couple of foreign transplants who don’t know the political landscape and don’t know the history of the complicated politics in California?”

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