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Undoing the ‘Ginsberg’ rules at the Spring RNC meeting

Morton Blackwell's charge to restore power to the grassroots

There was plenty of coverage of the rules changes during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa (where I was an at-large delegate from Virginia). Erick Erickson blogged about it. The Blaze picked it up. Daily Beast, too. NBC. HuffPo.

Long story short: The Romney campaign, through D.C. attorney Ben Ginsberg (and then-surrogate John Sununu), strong-armed the Rules Committee into changing a number of rules that would consolidate power with the campaign of the incumbent (thinking ahead to 2016, Romney’s second term). Once the changes made it out of committee and to the floor, there was considerable objection as John Boehner presided over the vote to approve the rules. Virginia was unanimous in our opposition.

But Romney didn’t win. And the rules changes won’t have their intended effect.

Morton Blackwell, Virginia’s Republican National Committeeman and a long-time Rules Committee member, led the fight in the lead-up to the battle and has continued to work to undo the damage from the 2012 Convention. In January, Blackwell penned a letter, which he posted here at RedState, urging the RNC to change the rules back to the way they were before the Convention.

The time to make that change is now. The RNC will convene in Los Angeles on April 10-13 for their Spring meeting. Blackwell will attempt to reverse the rules.

This week, he wrote an email to GOP Chairman Reince Priebus. Blackwell writes [emphases mine]:

Dear Reince,

You will recall that I have submitted a motion to be considered by the RNC to repeal all the changes which the RNC can reverse which were made by the 2012 Convention Rules Committee to the Rules of the Republican Party as forwarded to the Convention Rules Committee by unanimous vote of the RNC.

My motion would repeal all changes made by the Convention Rules Committee to Rules 1 through 11 and Rules 13 through 25.

Prepared with assistance I received from your Legal Counsel office and attached is a copy of the Rules of the Republican Party as they would stand if my motion passed.

The power grab initiated by Ben Ginsberg at the Convention Rules Committee outraged many RNC members and millions of grassroots Republicans across the country.  It caused thunderous opposition when the Convention Rules Committee report was presented to the National Convention in Tampa.

What Ben Ginsberg did was an abusive overreach which he achieved only because he represented himself (correctly) as the designated spokesman of the Romney campaign to the Convention Rules Committee.  There is general agreement that his power grab was a terrible mistake.  It repealed good reforms passed by the RNC Standing Committee over the previous four years and passed unanimously by the RNC the day before.  It hurt the Romney presidential campaign.  Ginsberg’s effort was to further centralize power in the Party and to make it more difficult for power and influence in the Party to flow from the bottom up.

What he did certainly hurt our presidential campaign in Virginia.

The wording of the new Rule 12, which he strongly supported, puts Rule 12 and Rules 26 through 42 beyond the reach of the RNC and its Standing Committee on Rules.  Nevertheless, it is highly important now that the RNC immediately show grassroots conservatives unmistakably that the national Republican Party rejects what Ben Ginsberg did.

You and I have had some discussion about my motion, and I’m happy that you said you agree 100% with meBut it is not clear whether or not you support my motionSeveral people have told me that you believe that minor changes to a couple of the Rules will fix the problem.

That would not work.

We must clearly demonstrate that we entirely repudiate and reverse all that we can of what Ben Ginsberg did.  That precedent would strongly discourage the campaign of  future presidential candidates from using their immense clout to centralize power in the Party just before national conventions.  Nothing less will reassure the large numbers of grassroots conservatives that we are serious about welcoming them into participation in our Party.

Any amendment to the Rules must first pass in the Standing Committee on Rules, and then it must pass by a 75% vote of the entire 168 members of the RNC.

The influence of the RNC chairman is so powerful that no amendment to the Rules is likely without your personal support.  As national chairman, you have effective control over large sums of money essential for state parties and for Republican candidates, not to mention your control over RNC hiring and other powers.  Certainly no proposal you oppose could pass.  Your neutrality would probably defeat any proposed amendment which is in any way controversial.

I do appreciate the fact that you told me you would support a record vote on my motion.  I consider it very important that everyone knows how their representatives vote on reversing Ben Ginsberg’s power grab in Tampa.

One effect of my motion would be to restore the change passed by the 2008-2012 Standing Committee on Rules (and unanimously passed by the RNC) to provide for the election of the chairman of the RNC Committee on Resolutions, rather than fill that position by appointment of the national Party chairman.

Chairmen of the Standing Committee on Rules are elected, and election of the RNC Resolutions Committee chairman would be no great limitation of the national Party chairman’s power.

So I ask for your open, strong support of my motion when the RNC meets in April in Los Angeles.

The new Rule 12 was sloppily worded, and it would be helpful if you would let RNC members know in advance your interpretation of how it will work.  On its face, Rule 12 says proposed amendments to the Rules of the Republican Party first have to pass the Standing Committee on Rules and then must pass by a 75% vote of the entire membership of the RNC.

That would seem similar to the process by which the U.S. Constitution is amended:  The Congress approves an amendment, and then it goes to the state legislatures for ratification.  Before it is ratifed, 75% of the states must approve an amendment, and the states may not amend in any way what the Congress has proposed.

Would you rule, contrary to the amending process for the U.S. Constitution, that the RNC could amend, by majority vote, proposed amendments to the Rules submitted by the Standing Committee on Rules for RNC approval?  Would only final passage by the RNC require a 75% vote and amendments by the RNC to what the Standing Committee has proposed require only a majority vote by the RNC?

The email goes on to address a number of other issues pertaining to the Republican Party. Blackwell references a series of changes in the email, which he attaches. Those can be found uploaded to my Scribd account here.

I will travel with Blackwell to Los Angeles in April and provide updates via my Twitter account. Longer updates will be posted here on my RedState diary.

Matthew Hurtt is a grassroots activist  and freelance writer working within the Republican Party in Northern Virginia. Since 2009, he has trained thousands of activists nationwide under Morton Blackwell’s direction. In 2012, Hurtt served as an at-large delegate to the Republican National Convention from Virginia. Follow him on Twitter.

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