DANA POINT, Calif. — Any rank-and-file Republican activists planning to attend the party’s winter meeting to lobby members before Friday’s election for president should probably check their credit card limits.
Rooms at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach resort, where the Republican National Committee is locked up this week, start at $1,283 for Wednesday night, with a AAA discount, and $881 for Thursday night. These rates do not include the mandatory $55 per night resort fee.
“It costs $75 just to park a car!” complained conservative radio host John Fredericks as he sat in the lobby bar, adding that breakfast for two cost him $60. “And we are supposed to be the party of the working class? It’s like the Politburo going to the Black Sea.
The hotel is located on a cliff with breathtaking views of the Pacific and has a 30-meter-long swimming pool and easy access to a secluded beach. It offers attendees a golf course, spa, and several high-end boutiques, including a Cartier jewelry store. Rooms have deep Jacuzzi tubs and come with copies of the luxury lifestyle magazine Robb Report stacked with the hotel brochure.
Fredericks, a frequent guest on Steve Bannon’s ‘War Room’ podcast and a supporter of former President Donald Trump who attempted a coup, said it was obvious the party picked the hotel the most expensive for miles around.
“Why are they holding it there? So you can’t go there,” he told Bannon on a recent broadcast. “The base is tired of being dictated by these people’s arrogance and elitism…. I’m trying to give our base access to what’s going on.
RNC members and staff pointed out that, thanks to the flat rate negotiated with the hotel, members, their guests and party staff pay a base rate of just $250 per night.
While this discount makes rooms affordable for members — many of whom aren’t particularly wealthy and most of whom pay their own expenses to attend meetings — it still leaves high costs for food and incidentals.
“It’s ridiculous,” complained an RNC member who spoke on condition of anonymity about restaurant prices. “I’m looking for all the free meals I can get.”
An RNC official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the party was limited in its options. A hotel should have at least 350 rooms and enough meeting space for the various committees and sub-committees to meet simultaneously, be able to cook multiple meals for hundreds and, most importantly, be prepared to face possible protests and negative publicity. “Most hotels don’t want to deal with a Republican event,” the manager said.
This flat rate, however, is only available to people the party or any of its 168 members want to be there.
And that, by definition, excludes activists from the “anti-establishment” parties at the precinct and state level who are most interested in preventing incumbent President Ronna McDaniel from winning a fourth two-year term.
“Re-electing her will destroy the party,” Fredericks said.
Choosing expensive hotels also has the effect of dissuading certain media from being there to cover the meetings.
In the past, security personnel hired by RNC have worked to limit journalists’ access. In 2021, during the Winter Meeting on Amelia Island, Florida, contracted party security restricted journalists’ movements in public areas of the Ritz Carlton. A year later, in Salt Lake City, RNC security actually demanded that reporters show their room keys at the Great America Hotel or be kicked off the property.
If the intention of choosing such an exclusive venue was to avoid drama and controversy, it might not have succeeded.
Fredericks, in conjunction with Bannon, hosted a candidates’ debate Wednesday at a nearby Marriott Residence Inn, but it ended with only election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, one of the main sponsors of their two podcasts.
A huddle room of 50 Bannon fans, many wearing Trump gear, filled the room as Fredericks, who uses hundreds of thousands of Hilton Honors points to cover the price of his room, told them they would not be not welcome at the Waldorf Astoria.
“Good luck walking down the hall with Mussolini’s Gestapo there,” he warned.
Caroline Wren, a former Trump fundraiser who now supports Harmeet Dhillon’s challenge to McDaniel and who entered the debate to represent Dhillon, replied, “If we won the election, that would be good. But we are not.
Failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake mingled in the lobby on Wednesday night, and Turning Point USA chief Charlie Kirk is also expected to pay a visit. Both are supporters of Dhillon.
Meanwhile, former Arkansas governor and potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson is attending the meeting to introduce the attendees. Fellow potential candidate and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is not present but has sent copies of his new book for distribution to members. Trump, who has already announced his candidacy for 2024, is not personally appearing but has sent three of his aides.
The 168 members of the RNC are due to vote on leaders, including the president, on Friday. The closed-door, members-only candidate forums began Wednesday and are due to end Thursday.
The Huffington Gt