Blackwell fights RNC rules change
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Republican National Committee members began setting the stage to reverse one of the most controversial Republican Party rules ever passed. At the party’s national convention in Tampa (Fla.) last summer, Romney forces pushed through an unprecedented rule: a rule permitting the Republican National Committee to revisit regulations governing the presidential nomination process during the four years between presidential elections.
At a session Thursday of the party’s Resolutions Committee during the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, a motion was passed calling for revisiting the controversial change on nominating rules at the meeting of GOP state chairmen scheduled for April.
Although this is simply a resolution and only calls for revisiting the rules change, its passage demonstrates how much conservatives are upset by the change enacted last summer.
By a vote of 78 to 17 during its meeting at the Tampa convention, the GOP Rules Committee voted to alter the RNC’s Rule 12 in an important way. Formerly, the rules accepted by a national convention were locked in and not amendable until the next convention. Now, under the altered Rule 12, by a vote of three-fourths of the full Republican National Committee, there can be a mid-term convention or another vehicle between presidential election years to make alterations in Rules 1-24, which govern the presidential nomination process.
Led by Republican National Committeeman Morton Blackwell of Virginia, conservatives voiced strong opposition. Such a change, they warned, could spell “evolving rules” during the four-year period between presidential elections. This is what has happened to the Democratic Party, they note, since their national convention in 1968 created a commission to suggest party reforms for the nominating procedures and it has since had a string of commissions and mid-year conventions altering its presidential nominations.
Moreover, conservatives feel, this is one more step toward the national party forcing its way on state parties—an argument that was pivotal to eliminating another proposed rule that would have given the presidential candidate and not the state party control over who actually serves as a national convention delegate.
Blackwell and other conservatives blamed the rules changes–those accepted and eliminated–on Washington attorney Ben Ginsberg, a member of the Rules Committee in Tampa and part of Mitt Romney’s campaign team.
“Recently, Mr. Ginsberg worked for the campaign of [Minnesota’s conservative Rep.] Michele Bachmann,” Blackwell wrote in RedState last year. “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.”
The alteration to Rule 12 was accepted by voice vote on the convention floor, with a chorus of boos greeting the announcement by convention chairman and House Speaker John Boehner that the “ayes” were accepted.
Conservatives on the RNC made it clear to Human Events during the Charlotte meeting that they never liked the change or how it was accepted.
RNC members discuss rules change
“There was no need to fix anything because nothing was broken, period,” South Dakota’s GOP National Committeewoman Sandy Kading told us.
“It was a step in the wrong direction,” said North Carolina State Chairman Robin Hayes, “It should never have happened in the first place.”
There are others who suggested caution and an interest in discussing the issue more before any reversal is made. Former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, for example, told us: “I think it’s very premature to be discussing [reversing the rules change] before we even have an RNC Rules Committee constituted yet.” Committee selections will be made after the expected re-election of National Chairman Reince Priebus and other RNC officers on Friday.
“I am going to talk to Morton [Blackwell] on this and learn as much as I can,” said Shawn Steel, California’s national committeeman who has been active since he was a Teenage Republican campaigning for Barry Goldwater in 1964. “On one hand, there is a case to be made against opening the door to keep changing the [presidential nomination] rules over four years. But on the other hand, three-fourths of the RNC is an awfully big threshold to reach before making changes and changing a particular rule would have to be something that has strong support for it to get that far.”
To many, Republican Party rules and the chances of altering them are “inside baseball” and “getting into the weeds.” But to party activists, they are obviously quite important and sure to be discussed and debated increasingly at national GOP gatherings.