DANA POINT, Calif. — Any grassroots Republican activists thinking of going to the party’s winter meeting to lobby for members ahead of Friday’s election for chairman should probably check their credit card limits.
Rooms at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort, where the Republican National Committee is hiding this week, start at $1,283 for Wednesday nights with a AAA discount and $881 for Thursday nights. These rates do not include a mandatory resort fee of $55 per night.
“It’s $75 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 going to the Black Sea for the Politburo.”
Located on a bluff with commanding views of the Pacific Ocean, the hotel features a 100-foot swimming pool and easy access to a secluded beach. It offers attendees a golf course, spa, and several high-end boutiques, including a Cartier jeweler. Rooms have deep whirlpool tubs and come outfitted with copies of 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’s attempted coup, said it was obvious why the party chose the most expensive hotel in the area.
“Why are you keeping it there? So you can’t go,” he told Bannon on a recent broadcast. “The grassroots is fed up with 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 block rate negotiated with the hotel, members, their invited guests and party staff pay a base fee of just $250 per night.
Though this discount makes the rooms affordable for members — many of whom aren’t particularly wealthy and who largely pay their own expenses for attending meetings — there are still hefty fees for dining and incidentals.
“It’s ridiculous,” ranted an RNC member who spoke about the restaurant prices on condition of anonymity. “I’m looking for every free meal I can get.”
An RNC official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the party’s options were limited. A hotel must have at least 350 rooms, enough meeting space to allow the various committees and subcommittees to convene simultaneously, be able to provide multiple meals for hundreds, and most importantly, be prepared to deal with potential protests and negative publicity. “Most hotels don’t want to deal with a Republican event,” the official said.
However, that lockdown rate is only available to people the party or any of its 168 members want there.
And that, by definition, excludes the county and state “anti-establishment” party activists who are most interested in preventing incumbent Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel from winning a fourth two-year term.
“Your re-election will destroy the party,” Fredericks said.
Choosing expensive hotels also has the effect of discouraging some media from being there to cover meetings.
In the past, security personnel hired by RNC have worked to limit journalists’ access. In 2021, at the winter gathering on Amelia Island, Fla., the party’s contracted security measures restricted the movement of reporters in the public areas of the Ritz Carlton. A year later, RNC security in Salt Lake City actually asked reporters to show their room keys at the Great America Hotel or be thrown off the property.
If the intent of choosing such an exclusive location was to ward off theatrics and controversy, it may not have been successful.
Fredericks, who worked with Bannon, hosted a candidate debate Wednesday at a nearby Marriott Residence Inn, but it only had to do with election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, a main sponsor of her two podcasts.
A boardroom of 50 Bannon fans, many wearing Trump clothing, filled the room when Fredericks, who uses hundreds of thousands of Hilton Honors points to cover his room rate, told them they weren’t welcome at the Waldorf Astoria.
“Good luck walking down that hall with the Mussolini Gestapo,” he warned.
Caroline Wren, a former Trump fundraiser who now supports Harmeet Dhillon’s fight against McDaniel and represented Dhillon at the debate, chimed in: “If we won the election, that would be fine. But we are not.”
On Wednesday night, Arizona’s failed gubernatorial candidate, Kari Lake, mingled in the lobby, and Turning Point USA chief Charlie Kirk will also pay a visit. Both are Dhillon supporters.
Meanwhile, former Arkansas governor and potential Republican presidential nominee for 2024, Asa Hutchinson, is attending the meeting to introduce the participants. His potential running mate and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is not attending but sent copies of his new book for distribution to members. Trump, who has already announced his candidacy for 2024, will not appear in person but will send three of his employees.
The 168 members of the RNC are scheduled to vote on officers, including the chair, on Friday. Closed candidate forums for members only began on Wednesday and will end on Thursday.