Pablo Pantoja, a Republican official charged with directing the party's 2012 Hispanic outreach in Florida, made headlines earlier this week when he announced he was switching parties to protest the GOP's "culture of intolerance."
But even as he was growing disillusioned with his party's attitudes toward minorities, he was applying for jobs at the Republican National Committee, according to e-mails provided to BuzzFeed.
In January, Pantoja sent an e-mail to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus's office attaching his résumé, congratulating Priebus on his re-election, and encouraging him to "Lead the way!" He followed up with another e-mail at the end of February asking if he could drop off his résumé in person at the RNC's office in Washington.
Pantoja said in a letter published Monday at the Tampa Bay Times that he becoming a Democrat because he had grown frustrated with the "harsh undertones against immigrants and others" in Republican rhetoric — citing a series of examples that extend back to the period of his GOP job hunt, including a February column by Ann Coulter, and a racially charged outburst at a CPAC panel on minority outreach in March.
"The discourse that moves the Republican Party is filled with this anti-immigrant movement and overall radicalization that is far removed from reality," Pantoja wrote.
But RNC communications director Sean Spicer suggested Pantoja's switch in party affiliation might have less noble motives.
"The RNC is making historic investments in growing the party. While it's disappointing when someone leaves the party, in this case it may be a more an issue of employment rather than policy," Spicer told BuzzFeed. "This strategy didn't work too well for Charlie Crist."
Asked about his recent search for a job at the RNC, Pantoja said, "I respect Mr. Spicer and I have not talked about the RNC as an organization in my letter or anyone there. In this career and livelihood many of us in this process seek to grow and network for other jobs usually within the same circles. I have even considered leaving the process to non-political jobs because of my evolution."
"In good conscience, especially in light of recent anti-immigrant debate, I couldn't talk to those grassroots people and others that have known me for my work before and not openly share my convictions and political party change. I wish they would have been more animate and driven to respond when the eugenics-based report was exposed as they are now," he added.
Pantoja's brief career in Republican politics was a rocky one. According to the résumé he sent to the RNC, he worked as a regional field director in central Florida for the Romney campaign from until the state's primary in February 2012. One former campaign official told BuzzFeed he was a "patronage hire" who was brought on at the urging of a major donor in Orlando, and that he was let go after showing up at the campaign offices in Tampa on primary night instead of hustling to get last-minute votes in the field.
"I'm surprised he would put the Romney campaign on his résumé since everyone there would give him a bad recommendation," the former aide said.
This article has been updated to include information about Pantoja's time on the Romney campaign.
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at email@example.com.
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