Financial services, car companies, and media outlets aren’t the only people facing layoffs this winter. Conservative groups are too. National Journal reported on NAM:

The National Association of Manufacturers, which employs one of the highest paid DC trade association executives, John Engler, who received total compensation of $1.2 million in 2006, has laid off staff just weeks before Christmas, a spokesman for the organization confirmed. He said someone would call me back to say how many employees were let go. One source said as many as eight or ten people received pink slips.

I know of three other high profile conservative groups that are cutting, one 20% of staff and anothers are cutting quite deep. I am not even counting Freedom’s Watch. This is in addition to all the professional Republicans left unemployed by election day, and the resulting shift at lobbying firms.

Some of this is due to the economic cycle, like Sheldon Adelson’s bankruptcy. I imagine that the small-dollar direct-mail and telemarketing that sustains so many smaller groups is falling, but those numbers are harder to get. Some, like the lobbying firms, are a direct result of the political cycle. But when you talk to the donors you hear something more. They are tired of being taken for a ride. They understand that a lot of the older institutions are not providing value. You do see a fetishizing of new media and technology right now because it’s the only really new thing that people are coming to donors with, but they understand that there is some snake-oil out there and are getting confused.

Ultimately, they want value, and they want leadership. And they are cutting off an establishment that isn’t providing either.

This is happening at the same time as many of these groups are considering succession plans. Suddenly, a lack of leadership, a lack of funds, and a dismal political and economic climate are making some of these people think twice about the future of their organizations.

This should be an opportunity. For a while, people in the conservative movement are going to have to live lean and demonstrate value. When people get excited again, whether around new candidates, a new batch of ideas, or responding to Barack Obama and Democratic proposals, they will be opportunities for people that have been putting points on the scoreboard. In the meantime though, it’s going to be very scary.

When we get onm the other side of this, the movement is going to look very different.

Categories: Syndicated