Romney’s “RNC Power Grab”: What Really Happened
By Dean Clancy on August 29, 2012
The noes clearly had it, but the party bosses gaveled the dissenters down, shutting off the microphones and ignoring cries of “Roll call! Roll call!”
Yesterday, the Republican National Committee in Tampa adopted some rules changes that shift power from the state parties and the grassroots to the RNC and the GOP presidential nominee. Former Governor John Sununu of New Hampshire touted the new rules as providing “a strong governing framework” for the party over the next four years. But in fact the new rules should be very troubling and disappointing to conservative grassroots activists, because they move the national Republican Party away from being a decentralized, bottom-up party toward becoming a centralized, top-down party.
The Romney rules effectively disenfranchise grassroots delegates, and will thus tend to weaken and splinter the party over time. They specifically represent a blow to the Tea Party and the Ron Paul movement, and force grassroots conservatives of all stripes to contemplate their future within the GOP.
Party sage and long-time RNC member (and conservative activist) Morton Blackwell led a last-minute effort to stop the changes — an effort the FreedomWorks For America strongly supported, together with
Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. Phyllis Schlafly and RNC for Life also got involved, while Michelle Malkin, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh helped sound the alarm. But the Romney camp and RNC insiders won the day, successfully imposing their will with the help of their control of the gavels and superior knowledge of the process, and perhaps some dirty tricks. The conservative “rebels” won the moral victory, however, taking their fight to the Rules Committee and the full Convention floor and arguably winning the voice vote there to stop the rules, only to be gaveled down by Speaker John Boehner [view video from 1:08 minutes].
Yesterday’s fight offers a sobering glimpse of what life will be like for conservatives in a Romney Administration. It proves once again that sometimes we have to beat the Republicans before we can beat the Democrats.
In Terms of Substance
last Friday, August 24th, longtime GOP lawyer and Romney advisor Ben Ginsberg surprised Rules Committee members by proposing three basic changes clearly intended to head off a conservative challenge to President Romney and/or tamp down the Tea Party and Ron Paul movements in 2016.
The proposed changes would do two main things:
1. Amend existing Rule 12 to hand national party officials, for the first time, the power to change the party’s rules between national conventions, which take place every fourth year. Three-fourths of RNC members must approve a proposed change for it to take effect. This is unprecedented. It would enable top GOP officials to circumvent rules adopted by state and grassroots leaders at the National Convention. One can imagine how it might be used to shape and control the delegate-selection process to the advantage of insiders and special interests.
2. Amend existing Rule 15 to allow the presumptive presidential nominee to “disavow” duly elected delegates and force state parties to hold new elections to replace any delegate or alternate deemed unacceptable by the presumptive presidential nominee. One can imagine the influence this change would give a presumptive nominee over any delegate that doesn’t toe the line. He could, in effect, choose the people who are to choose him. It’s not hard to imagine the temptation a campaign would feel to use this power to intimidate delegates and to reward friends, supporters, and campaign contributors. The proposal also contained a provision altering the method of allocating delegates, in order to front-load and shorten the primary calendar.
Unfortunately, the proposed change to Rule 12 passed. Thankfully, the proposed changes to Rule 15 were stopped. But an “insiders’ compromise” version of the “disavowal” provision did pass.
Under the “compromise,” a new Rule 16 was added to stop an alleged “faithless elector” problem — delegates who run claiming to support one candidate but then vote for another at the Convention.
The new Rule 16 requires that a delegate who attempts to violate his binding pledge to a candidate under state law or state party rules shall be deemed to have resigned and the Secretary of the Convention must record the improper vote as it should have been cast based on state law or party rule. This compromise was supported by conservative stalwart James Bopp, as well as Ron Kaufman and Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.
Blackwell opposed the compromise because it retained the Rule 12 change. As long as the RNC can change the rules between conventions, the proposed changes to Rule 15 that we managed to stop could easily be revived at any time, without a vote at a National Convention. Since the RNC usually follows the lead of its Chairman, and the Chairman has powerful incentives to go along with an incumbent Republican President, it should be easy for Team Romney to change the party rules pretty much any time at their pleasure. This should trouble every Republican.
At a minimum, the effect of the new rules will be to empower insiders over the broad party electorate and to discourage grassroots activists from taking part in the process. The new rules will thus have a chilling effect on intra-party debate, including debate over the National Platform and, of course, on future rules changes. The “Inner Circle” has scored quite a coup.
In Terms of Process
After Ginsberg’s proposed changes were presented in the RNC Rules Committee, Blackwell circulated a letter denouncing them and vowing to resist them by means of “minority reports,” which can be offered for votes on the Convention floor and, if adopted, would have the effect of defeating the proposed changes.
Over the next four days, we worked feverishly to kill the rule changes, sending out a national call to action and urging our activists to lobby the party chairs and Rules Committee members from their state about the issue. We lit up facebook and twitter (using the hashtag #RNCpowergrab) and burned up phone lines with hundreds of calls. We filled up people’s voicemail inboxes. We caused an avalanche of emails.
We irritated the heck out of some people. But the pressure had a decisive effect. Negotiations began on the so-called “insiders’ compromise.” We knew we were fighting an uphill battle. Blackwell laid the groundwork for a floor fight by obtaining more than the requisite number of signers on each of the two minority reports. (Twenty-eight signatures are required.)
As the Rules Committee meeting neared, Team Romney worked hard to peel signers off the minority reports. When the committee finally met, Blackwell was absent, and we have conflicting reports about whether he still had the requisite number of co-signers. One report suggests he did, but that the committee basically disregarded the minority reports because he was not there to defend them.
Why was Blackwell absent? This was out of character for the veteran, battle-scarred activist.
Did the insiders pull a Nixonian trick to make sure the leader of the opposition wasn’t present during the crucial meeting? Here’s how CNN explained his absence:
… [S]ome [rules] committee members suggested meddling was at play. A bus full of Virginia delegates arrived at the committee meeting — after it had adjourned. “The bus that was supposed to pick up the Virginia delegation arrived an hour later than it was supposed to,” explained Virginia delegate Morton Blackwell, a prime opponent of Rule 16 [a.k.a. the insiders’ compromise on delegate “disavowal”].
Blackwell continued: “And then when we went downtown, we went around the same series of blocks repeatedly – twice. And then the bus took out away from downtown, went about a mile and a half, and then did a u-turn and came back. And did another circuit, of the same place where we had been before.” And at that point, the Virginia delegates demanded, “‘Stop the bus. And we’re going to walk.’ And we did.”
Mike Rothfeld, a Virginia delegate also on the bus, went further. “They pushed us around for 45 minutes and then we missed the meeting,” Rothfeld said. “We were in the security perimeter, they pushed us out of it three separate times. They moved us around until the meeting was adjourned.”
[Colorado delegate Florence] Sebern claimed the snafu was “deliberate.”Neither she nor the others recalling the story would say who they were directing their anger at. And none could provide proof to back up their claims.
Other examples of possible dirty tricks:
1. Florida activist Laura Noble informed us that both of Florida’s Rules Committee members, Peter Feaman and Kathleen King, were removed from the Rules Committee and replaced with Romney-appointed delegates.
2. Some Rules Committee members were physically barred from entering the room, despite having proper credentials.
3. Some delegates were told that Blackwell was trying to use the situation as an excuse to reopen a settled debate that he had lost four years ago regarding Rule 12. Not true.
4. Some delegates were told Romney personally knew nothing of the matter and it was just his overly aggressive lawyers acting beyond their authority and there was nothing to worry about, he would put a stop to it once he found out what was happening.
5. Some delegates seem to have believed that the rules fight was really just a proxy fight in the larger
battle being waged between the Romney and Ron Paul camps over who would represent certain states on the convention floor. This assumption may have discouraged some Rules Committee members from supporting the minority reports. Governor Sununu chaired the meeting. Governor Barbour strongly urged “unity” and the need for everyone to set aside “differences” to “defeat Barack Obama.”
The rules package, containing the insider’s compromise, passed by a decisive vote of 78 to 14.
Unfortunately, the Rule 12 change (permitting the RNC to change the rules between conventions) remained in the package, unaltered.
The package then went immediately to the full Convention for approval. On the convention floor, Governor Sununu offered it as a “strong governing framework” for the party over the next four years, and with no debate or even mention of the controversy over Rule 12, Speaker Boehner then called for the ayes and noes. The crowd roared loudly, on both sides of the question. Despite the “noes” being (in this hearer’s estimate) louder than the “ayes,” Boehner hastily gaveled the matter closed.
Boehner’s declaration that “The ayes have it” provoked cries from the crowd of “No!”, “Boo!”, and “Roll call!” view video starting at 1:08 minutes]. But apparently — and to our surprise and disappointment — the microphones had been turned off and delegates were denied a chance to call for a recorded vote from the floor. We were given no recourse.
Had we been able to force a roll-call vote, it would have delayed the day’s proceedings by several hours. We had been counting on this fact to provide us with leverage, since we knew Team Romney would have done almost anything to avoid such an embarrassing logistical foul-up on the Convention’s first night. But alas, it seems, that possibility had been foreseen, and the grassroots revolt was forestalled.
After the disappointing outcome, FreedomWorks released the following statement from Matt Kibbe:
I believe that the Republican Party has made a huge mistake by effectively disenfranchising grassroots activists who want to be a part of the party process. If the party sincerely wants the support of citizens, shutting them out of the process is not the way to do it. Sooner rather than later the Republican establishment needs to come to terms with the decentralized nature of grassroots organization circa 2012. The terms of engagement can no longer be dictated from the top-down.
The new rules strongly suggest the insiders don’t think they need the grassroots to win in 2012, despite the critical role grassroots voters played in the historic 2010 wave election. Despite this setback, we’re proud to have come so close to victory on such short notice and while operating under such severe disadvantages, relative to the insiders. This episode confirms just how powerful grassroots action can be in today’s world — and we hope the party insiders are taking note of this fact. The RNC power grab has succeeded. For now. We’ll be back.
We expect Democrats to be top-down, but it’s disappointing when the Republicans, who claim to be bottom-up, act just like Democrats. Perhaps this centralization of power in the RNC is simply a logical development in the present era — a “progressive” era, when all institutions, under the pressure of unlimited, centralized government, tend, over time, to reflect and become servants of that government. It’s another sign that the retaking of Washington by the American people will be a “hostile” takeover.
What does Romney’s RNC power grab mean for the future? At least three things:
1) As of today, the GOP is now much less representative of state parties and voters than it was yesterday, and thus more representative of whichever interests are smart and powerful enough to dominate the RNC.
2) Grassroots activists will now have to add “Monitoring the RNC” to their “eternal vigilance” list.
3) FreedomWorks will have to add “Influencing — and when necessary, fighting — the RNC” to our
“Hostile Takeover” strategy. We must fire Barack Obama. We must show up on election day 2012. But the conservative grassroots must also decide whether and to what extent they want to remain engaged in a Republican Party whose establishment clearly still does not get them.
Dean Clancy is FreedomWorks’ Legislative Counsel and Vice President, Health Care Policy
Michelle Malkin: RNC power grab: the aftermath (2012-08-29)
Original Mass Tea Party Post from August 28:
The Following Message is from Freedom Works
As you may be aware, the RNC and the Romney campaign are pushing a massive change to Republican Party rules which will, in part, allow the Presidential nominee to choose delegates and allow the RNC to change rules relating to the party platform and delegate selection whenever they like.
Anger Erupts At Convention Due To GOP Corruption
Please call your state’s Rules Committee delegates here and ask that they oppose the “compromise” on Rule 15, oppose Rule 12, and support the full Minority Reports on the Rules.
Rule 12 is a threat to all grassroots activists. If this rule goes through, all the hard work you’ve done at the county level, congressional district level, and state level will be nullified by a few Party Elites at their discretion alone. No longer will the grassroots choose who represents them.
Morton Blackwell and his Virginia delegation are leading the charge to fight this power grab.
We need you, especially if you are a delegate in Tampa, to call the Rules Committee to stop this takeover of the party.
The top men at the RNC and Team Romney are not going to give up their effort to centralize the delegate process and turn our bottom-up efforts upside down. It is up to you, the grassroots, to stop them.
Do not let all the hard work we’ve done since 2009 go to waste. Stand up for our democracy right now.
Breaking News! RNC Tightens Noose On Delegates In Last Minute Rule Change
where delegates just received a copy of yet another proposed rule change by the RNC.
This is the shot being fired over the bow that everyone has known would be coming. The question now is, will some delegates still nominate Ron Paul or another candidate? Does it matter that even though many of us are bound by our state caucus or primary rules to vote for Romney, we’re only nominating a candidate – not voting for them? How many delegates will risk being evicted from the floor of the convention?
“You guys get kicked out, I’m going with you,” said one delegate from Nevada bound for Ron Paul, who wouldn’t be at risk for removal.
Right now states are maneuvering, will there be the five needed for Paul to have the plurality he needs for nomination? Tomorrow afternoon, all will be revealed, but in the meantime, read the rules change below, the latest from “The Party of Unity.”
To the Members of the Republican National Committee and the Convention Committee on Rules:
The undersigned are very pleased to announce that the leadership of the Republican National Committee and the Romney for President campaign has heard the concerns of the conservative grassroots voices in our party and has crafted an amendment to the Rules adopted on Friday to address these concerns.
At the same time, the revised language closes a loophole in our party rules, which previously failed to include a penalty for delegates who break their promise to vote for a particular Presidential candidate as required by state law or state party rules.
We are pleased that our party has come together to fashion this compromise. This will allow Republicans of all stripes to come to the Convention united and focused on defeating Barack Obama in November.
The Convention is our party’s opportunity to energize our supporters and activists. It would be unfortunate to squander the opportunity fighting an internal battle which we have now been able to successfully resolve and which will accomplish the goals of all parties involved.
The resolution that we have reached is straightforward. It simply prevents a bound delegate from nominating or casting a vote for a different presidential candidate than the one to whom the delegate was legally bound by state law or state party rule.
Instead, under this new provision, a delegate who attempts to violate his binding pledge is deemed to have resigned and the Secretary of the Convention will record the improper vote as it should have been cast based on state law or party rule.
It leaves the actual selection of delegates completely to state parties under state law and state party rules.
We are pleased that we were able to reach an acceptable resolution and urge the members of the Convention Rules Committee to adopt the revised Rule tomorrow to be included in their report to the Convention.
Text of the Rule:
For any manner of binding or allocating delegates under these Rules, if a delegate
(i) casts a vote for a presidential candidate at the National Convention inconsistent with the delegate’s obligation under state law or state party rule,
(ii) nominates or demonstrates support under Rule 40 for a presidential candidate other than the one to whom the delegate is bound or allocated under state law or state party rule, or
(iii) fails in some other way to carry out the delegate’s affirmative duty under state law or state party rule to cast a vote at the National Convention for a particular presidential candidate,
the delegate shall be deemed to have concurrently resigned as a delegate and the delegate’s improper vote or nomination shall be null and void. Thereafter the Secretary of the Convention shall record the delegate’s vote or nomination in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under state law or state party rule. This subsection does not apply to delegates who are bound to a candidate who has withdrawn his or her candidacy, suspended or terminated his or her campaign, or publicly released his or her delegates.
James Bopp Jr. NCM IN Vice Chairman Republican National Committee Cindy Costa NCW SC
Bob Bennett Chairman Ohio Republican Party
John Ryder NCM Tenn.
Ron Kaufman NCM Mass.
Henry Barbour NCM Miss.
Editor’s note: It is our desire to make sure that people are fully informed of what is going on at the convention. Nomination is not delegate voting. It is not the same thing. Mrs. Kennedy has been trying to keep people aware of what is taking place behind the scenes. If this is such an issue, then let us ask ourselves why do we send delegates if their vote will just be recorded as it should be and not as it is cast? Why not just skip all of that and enter a vote without the expense of travel and accommodations? I’ll leave that up to the reader to decide. By the way, this doesn’t just apply to Ron Paul. Promoters of Sarah Palin are also eager to put her name into nomination as well.
Read more: http://freedomoutpost.com/2012/08/rnc-tightens-noose-on-delegates-in-last-minute-rule-change/#ixzz24rUeanXy