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My views on the controversy at the 2012 Republican National Convention regarding the Rules of the Republican Party

I have posted below three letters to my fellow Republican National Convention Delegates.   These letters express my views on the controversy at the 2012 Republican National Convention regarding the Rules of the Republican Party

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September 3, 2012

 

Dear Fellow Delegate,

Now that the national convention is over, many delegates and others have asked me to sum up my views on the controversy at the convention regarding The Rules of the Republican Party and where we should go from here.

What happened regarding the party rules in Tampa was a totally unnecessary – but largely successful – attempt to concentrate and centralize more power at the top of the party and restrict or shut off opportunities for power in the party to flow from the bottom up.

The effort was led by Ben Ginsberg, a member of the Convention Rules Committee from Washington, D.C., who represented himself as the spokesman for Mitt Romney’s Presidential Campaign.

Recently, Mr. Ginsberg worked for the campaign of Michele Bachmann.  In Tampa, he led the effort to make major changes in the party rules strongly opposed by Congresswoman Bachmann.

Mr. Ginsberg is simply a man unencumbered by principles.

For four years, the Republican National Committee’s Standing Committee on Rules carefully reviewed The Rules of the Republican Party and adopted changes to propose for adoption by the national convention.

Then the Republican National Committee voted unanimously to approve the new rules proposed by its Standing Committee on Rules and sent them on to the Convention Rules Committee.

Enter Ben Ginsberg.

At the Convention Rules Committee meeting, he proceeded to introduce and support many amendments to the newly-revised rules which had been approved the previous day by the RNC.

The changes he proposed shared a common theme:  to concentrate and centralize more power at the top of the party, and to shut off opportunities for power in the party to flow from the bottom up.

Since these rules changes would go into effect for the 2016 presidential election cycle, none of Mr. Ginsberg’s power grabs would in any way help us elect Mitt Romney and defeat President Barack Obama in November.

And I’m sure you agree defeating Obama should be our top priority this Election Year.

But Ben Ginsberg’s efforts predictably enraged conservative Republicans who treasure the protections long incorporated in our national party rules.

The record will show that during the Conventions Rules Committee meeting, as a member of that Committee from Virginia, I repeatedly warned Mr. Ginsberg that his power grabs would hurt the Romney campaign by outraging grassroots conservatives and libertarian activists whom we want to support our candidates this year.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ginsberg continued on his path.

There are some folks who, if you give them a fur coat, think they’re King Kong.

As anyone with relevant experience should have foreseen, when the Rules Committee report was presented for consideration to the National Convention, a thunderous “NO!” vote arose from the convention floor.

Most of the news media and those of us in the convention hall agree that the vote on adopting the Rules was obviously close. Some believe the “NO” vote was louder, but Speaker Boehner ruled that the “ayes” had it.

I was the youngest elected Goldwater delegate at the 1964 national convention.  I have attended every national convention since, and I’ve represented Virginia on the RNC since 1988.

Nothing like this has ever happened before in living memory at a Republican National Convention.

When they were presumptive Presidential nominees – and when they were Presidents of the United States – neither George H.W. Bush nor George W. Bush ever attempted to undermine the means by which power within the Republican Party structure can rise from the bottom up.

The operatives whom the Romney campaign put in charge of Rules matters seem to want the power to rule the national Republican Party, as Nelson Rockefeller used to run the New York State Republican Party.

These operatives should be repudiated – and it’s not too late to do so.

Later in this email, I’ll discuss some of the awful changes Mr. Ginsberg supported.

But first, it’s necessary to stress how important I believe it is to elect Mitt Romney and defeat Barack Obama in November.

My wife and I have supported Republican candidates every year in our 40-year marriage.  This year, my wife and I have contributed at least five times as much money to Romney Victory, Inc. as we have ever given to any other campaign.

Four years ago, I predicted in a posting which still can be seen on the website RedState, how bad a President Barack Obama would be.

He has been even worse than I predicted.

Barack Obama is a leftist ideologue who has filled his Administration with other leftist ideologues, and their policies are bankrupting our country and destroying many of our liberties.

Mitt Romney strongly supports conservative principles – and he would undo the damage Obama has done.

He would end the slide into national bankruptcy, restore threatened liberties, and put our country on the path toward economic growth and more job opportunities.

It’s little short of tragic that some of his operatives blundered by setting up an entirely unnecessary, major controversy with grassroots Republicans at our national convention.

Undoubtedly, the worst power grab initiated by Mr. Ginsberg was his ramming through a change in the Rules of the Republican Party, a new Rule 12, which permits the Republican National Committee to change national rules between conventions.

The Democrats have had such a rule for years, and those in power in their party spend the periods between their national conventions fighting in their national committee over rules changes to benefit this or that faction, or this or that potential presidential nominee.

We Republicans have avoided that by prohibiting changes in the rules between our national conventions.

The office of the RNC Chairman is – and has to be – very powerful.  A National Committee of 168 members, which meets for a few hours two or three times a year, can’t micro-manage the RNC.

The RNC Chairman has the immense power of the purse and a large staff to influence the decisions of the RNC, so an RNC Chairman can get the votes of a super-majority of the RNC for just about anything he or she desires.

But until now, the fact that the RNC Chairman must abide by stable party rules has served as the main protection for input by grassroots conservatives and libertarians.

For practical purposes, the new Rule 12 adds to the power of the RNC Chairman (or to the White House when there’s a Republican President) the ability to change party rules at will.

Over a number of election cycles, our party has struggled to avoid the front-loading of our delegate selection process, moving us closer and closer to a single national primary as states race to the head of the line to hold their primaries.

Yet prudence dictates that there should be a reasonably long nomination process in order to properly vet all of our candidates.

After special studies and much consultation, many serious party leaders finally came up with a workable solution.  Party rules were changed in this cycle to prohibit winner-take-all primaries in March of presidential election years.  March primaries had to in some way allocate delegate votes proportionally to the popular vote.

The new system worked, and Mitt Romney is a better presidential candidate because of that experience.

Mr. Ginsberg gutted the hard-won reform by ramming through a change in the rules to permit winner-take-all primaries in March.

When I asked him why he did this, he replied to me, “It wasn’t our idea.  We did it as a favor for some friends.”

That’s a far cry from a process in which the best interests of our party are carefully discussed and considered.

I have innumerable times over the years recruited new participants into the Republican Party by stressing the fairness, openness, and stability of our Republican rules compared to those of the Democratic Party.

The way to treat newcomers to our party is fairly, politely, and even cordially.

That’s what we do in Virginia. And that’s how to build and sustain a majority party.

Among the many still-not-publicized rules changes rammed through the Convention Rules Committee by Mr. Ginsberg was one to raise from five to eight the number of states a presidential candidate would have to win in the nomination contests in order to have his or her name formally placed in nomination before the convention.

Raising the bar was a gratuitous slap at prospective new participants in our nomination process.

Despite his success in recruiting new volunteers, Congressman Ron Paul won a majority of the delegate votes in nowhere near five states this year.

To discuss all the power grabs the rules suffered this year would be tedious in a letter, so let me mention only some of them, including the one which resulted in a “compromise.”

Mr. Ginsberg got the Convention Rules Committee to pass a rule change which would allow presidential candidates to remove national convention delegates who were legally elected under the party rules and laws of the respective states.  This caused such a furor that a Minority Report to the Rules Committee Report seemed certain.

That would have forced a debate on the convention floor and a vote of the entire convention body.

A valid Minority Report required the support of 28 members – or 25% — of the Convention Rules Committee.  Well over 35 signatures were certain, despite all available arm-twisting of Mr. Ginsberg and those who supported him on everything else.

State parties, including Virginia’s, fiercely defended their right to elect their own delegates.  The “compromise” was for Mr. Ginsberg to agree to take out the provision which would have given candidates the power to disavow and remove legally elected delegates.

In place of that obnoxious provision was inserted a guarantee that delegate votes would go to candidates who won those delegate votes in binding presidential primaries, a matter which would have been routinely enforced under the existing rules.

Conservatives continued to mount efforts to file two Minority Reports, but in the end, enough Rules Committee members were persuaded not to sign them or to remove their signatures.

Neither had the required 28 signatures, and one wound up with 27 valid signatures.

Therefore no Minority Reports reached the convention floor.

I should mention that Mr. Ginsberg moved one rules change which would have required the signatures of 40% of future Convention Rules Committees for a Minority Report to be considered on the convention floor.

That would have rendered future Minority Reports virtually impossible because the signatures would have to be obtained and the Minority Report filed within one hour of the adjournment of the Convention Rules Committee.

The opposition to this attempted power grab was so intense that Mr. Ginsberg withdrew his motion.

There circulated in the media coverage of the Tampa convention a report that a late and wayward bus deliberately prevented the Virginia Delegates from arriving at the convention hall in time for me to take part in the final (usually pro-forma) meeting of the Convention Rules Committee held as the convention began.

It is true that our Virginia bus got our delegation to the convention hall after the Convention Rules Committee meeting adjourned.  But I never for a minute believed our bus had been deliberately delayed.

One should not attribute to conspiracy what can adequately be explained by incompetence.  You will recall that staggeringly bad transportation arrangements inconvenienced most of the states’ delegations that day.

All in all, in most ways our 2012 convention was a roaring success.

We presented great speeches by Mitt Romney and his brilliant choice for running mate, Paul Ryan.  Other great speeches by Ann Romney, Marco Rubio, and a galaxy of others put our party’s best feet forward.  The 2012 Republican Platform clearly expressed our conservative and liberty-loving principles.

My strong advice is for all of us to work tirelessly and give generously to our national campaign.  Everything is on the line this year.

And there’s another reason for solid conservatives to contribute more time and money now.

I believe we shall win this election, and then there’s the important matter of staffing a new Administration.

I worked full-time in the Presidential Personnel Office of President-elect Ronald Reagan and then for three years on his White House staff.

Personnel is policy.

An incoming administration tends to hire people who contributed significantly to winning the election.

If we expect a new President to hire a lot of principled conservatives and libertarians, we should maximize the number of principled conservatives and libertarians who have credentialed themselves by taking part in the Mitt Romney campaign.

And then, in 2016 we can work to repeal the current Rule 12 – and reverse the other mistakes incorporated in the new rules last week.

Cordially,

Morton Blackwell
National Committeeman, Virginia

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August 28, 2012

 

Dear Fellow Delegate,

You have heard the growing controversy regarding a number of new power grabs in the Rules of the Republican Party as proposed for adoption in the report of the Convention Committee on Rules and Order of Business.

That committee report will be considered by the convention at today’s afternoon session.

Do not be fooled into believing that a good “compromise” has been reached which is even near acceptable.

The Minority Reports are alive and well. Although ferocious efforts have been made to get Rules Committee members to withdraw their names from the Minority Reports, grassroots outrage actually persuaded additional Rules Committee members to sign onto the Minority Reports since the Rules Committee meeting last Friday.

The Rule 15 “compromise” affects only one of the three most damaging changes which the Minority Reports would correct. That is the proposal that presidential candidates would be given the power to disallow and remove delegates elected under state party rules or state law.

Unchanged in the “compromise” are the gutting of the currently-in-effect reforms which succeeded this year in stopping the trend toward a national presidential primary and the very worst change proposed in the national rules, the proposed new Rule 12, permitting the Republican National Committee to regularly amend the national party rules between the national conventions.

The Minority Reports would solve both problems.

Proponents of the “compromise” ignore the enormously destructive problem of the proposed Rule 12. Rule 12 would enable 75% of the Republican National Committee later to eliminate their “compromise” and to destroy or make drastic changes in dozens of other rules which have served our party well over the years.

In practice, Rule 12 would enable an RNC chairman to enact almost any rules change he or she desired, because an RNC chairman already has so much power and influence that he or she can almost always can get 75% or more of the RNC members to vote for or against anything. A chairman already has the enormous “power of the purse,” and should not have also the power to change party rules at will.

There is already quite enough power flow from the top down in our party. Instead of approving more power grabs, we should be looking for ways for more power to flow from the bottom up. That’s how to attract more participants into our party.

The media’s picked up on this series of last-minute manipulations by D.C insiders and consultants, and I’m sure you’ve been bombarded with contacts from both sides.

The truth is, this isn’t a compromise. It’s far from it.

This is insider establishment politics at its worst – and they’re dealing furiously against grassroots conservatives like you and me.

And no change to Rule 15 will mean anything if a party chairman decides to use the powers given under a new Rule 12 that allows the RNC to change the Rules of the Republican Party between national conventions.

So I’m asking you to support the full Minority Reports on the Rules – and to not be fooled by any so-called “compromise.” I especially ask you to take a stand in your delegation for a roll call vote on the Minority Reports.

Cordially,

Morton Blackwell
National Committeeman, Virginia

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August 26, 2012

Dear Fellow Delegate,

On Tuesday of this week, as Republican National Convention delegates, you and I will be voting on rules changes that could fundamentally change our Republican Party — and not for the better.

Over the years, I’ve served on the Louisiana and Virginia GOP Rules Committees. I currently serve on both the Republican National Committee’s Standing Committee on Rules and on the National Convention’s Committee on Rules and Order of Business.

I was Barry Goldwater’s youngest elected delegate in 1964, I was honored to serve on President Ronald Reagan’s White House Staff from 1981-1984, and I have attended every Republican National Convention Rules Committee meeting since 1972. My wife and I have contributed major donations to the Romney-Ryan campaign.

These rule changes are the most awful I’ve ever seen come before any National Convention.

I’m writing you today to urge you to join the growing effort to stop the worst-ever changes in this Rules Committee’s Report and to vote in favor of amendments to Rules 12 and 15. The Minority Reports will restore important rights and protections which state parties and grassroots Republicans would lose under the Rules Committee Report as written.

These amendments to Rules 12 and 15 are contained in Minority Reports supported by at least 25% of the members of this convention’s Committee on Rules and Order of Business.

It’s rare for Minority Reports to come before our national convention, but the issues involved here are vital to the future of our party.

I must tell you there is tremendous arm-twisting now to peel signers off of the Minority Reports.

Finally, whether on Minority Reports or on voting down the Rules, it will require at least six states’ delegations to insist upon a roll call vote.

I will not pretend that the deck is not stacked against us.

But many state leaders, liberty-minded activists, and grass-roots conservatives are up-in-arms as word of this power grab spreads.

Our convention will make this important decision Tuesday as some of our first work. Many folks skip these procedural sessions thinking nothing of importance occurs.

This year, that is far from the truth.

If the Rules Committee Report were to pass without adoption of the Minority Reports, it would amount to a power grab by Washington, D.C. party insiders and consultants designed to silence the voice of state party activists and Republican grassroots by:

*** Handing national party officials the power to change national party rules adopted by state and grassroots leaders at the Republican National Convention. For generations, the prohibition of manipulated changes in the national Rules of the Republican Party between national conventions has served as one of the crown jewels of our party. It’s a power grab which opens the door to many future power grabs.

*** Stripping state parties in all states with binding primaries of the power of choosing who will represent their states as national delegates and alternate delegates.

This outrageous change would empower presidential campaigns to disapprove and remove delegates and alternate delegates selected by rules adopted by state Republican parties. Rather than grassroots activists who won delegate and alternate delegate slots by following state party rules, a large majority of positions would be handed to top donors of the winning campaign.

*** Gutting the great and successful reform adopted in the current election cycle to stop the dangerous trend to front-load the selection of national convention delegates. Our party would move again toward a national primary which would deny grassroots Republicans the opportunity to vet presidential candidates in a nomination contest of reasonable length. This reform must not be abandoned.

Like most of us delegates to this convention, I’ve spent years gladly battling in the trenches for our Republican Party.

And as the President of the Leadership Institute — which specializes in training thousands of conservative activists, students, and leaders to fight for our country’s future — I can’t tell you how disheartened I am to see these rules changes even considered.

These rule changes would give good folks like you less of a say over our Republican Party in favor of insiders and consultants in Washington, D.C.

At a time when Tea Party activists have re-invigorated our Republican Party — leading to massive gains in the U.S. House, the Senate, and many state legislatures in the 2010 elections — why would we want to discourage activism?

Thanks to their efforts, you and I have a new generation of exciting conservative leaders in Washington, D.C., who — in many instances — were elected despite the opposition of establishment-backed opponents.

Certainly this is not to say GOP leaders are always wrong.

But history shows that our Republican Party grows when we welcome newly active participants and treat them fairly.

Our Republican Party is strongest when we listen to the wishes of grassroots conservatives.

Instead of strengthening our party, these insider power grabs will weaken it.

For these reasons, I urge you to join the growing effort to adopt the Minority Reports when the Rules Committee Report comes up for consideration by the convention.

Cordially,

Morton Blackwell
National Committeeman, Virginia

P.S. Some of the most important work of the convention will take place on Tuesday where you and I will be voting on rules that could fundamentally change our Republican Party for the worse.

New rules will be voted on that have been designed to silence state Republican parties and Republican grassroots in favor of party insiders and Washington, D.C.-based consultants.

The vote will take place at Tuesday’s convention session, and I’m counting on you join the growing effort to defeat these new rules.

Please vote to adopt the Minority Reports on Rules and urge your delegation to call for a roll call vote on all Rules-related votes.

This fight is too important for us not to make a stand.

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