Remember when the Red Queen asked in Alice in Wonderland, “How would you like to have your head hacked off?” That essentially was what was asked of liberty delegates from Maine, Oklahoma and Oregon yesterday, when the Credentials Committee met to decide the fate of these states’ delegations. Maine, whose delegation had been elected according to the rules, and yet had their status challenged; and Oklahoma and Oregon, who were challenging the complete disregard of rules at their conventions and were challenging the delegations that had been credentialed.
The challenge to Maine’s delegation was based on the assertion that delegates were picked and chosen, rather than voted on, and that floor and ballot security were lax. This was because ballots were initially printed on blue paper, and a Romney supporter handed them out early against instructions. When that occurred, Maine’s Executive Board agreed that the integrity of the vote was harmed, and those ballots were destroyed. New ones were printed on pink paper and used. Some members of two counties decided not to vote again, or refused, but 1,800 votes were cast.
In arguments for the liberty delegates whose status was challenged, their attorneys remarked,
“You will hear there was chaos, and issues in the convention. Most of you have been to conventions where things happened that weren’t planned, but at this convention, there were no objections to the way the vote was taken. That entire process was observed by the Chairman and the Executive Committee’s attorneys. The margins were not close, yet people who won elections by hundreds of votes are to be replaced by people who lost by hundreds of votes. Not a single objection was raised at the convention to the change of ballots or the votes. The RNC Committee’s report has ignored all those votes and says they don’t matter. You judge today if the will of those people matter – do their votes matter? Every step at that contention was done to insure integrity, every step was observed by both camps. Not a single complaint was made about the voting trail, from ballot distribution to voting, every step of that process was watched. The ballot count was supervised by both camps. When the results were input into a data base, that was observed by attorneys of each campaign. 2,300 votes were cast for Convention Chair, and 1,800 cast for delegates, and there was not a single complaint. But some people didn’t like that. Some didn’t want to recognize those elected. Sometimes you have to lose with grace, but that didn’t happen in Maine.”
Mike Rothfeld, delegate from Virginia supported, “What you will see is a lot of anecdotal evidence, but not one bit of fact. Without facts, that delegation should be seated. You should not have a situation where a committee of nine (RNC Contest Committee) can undo the will of over 2,000 Maine republicans. I wouldn’t want nine people from other states telling me who my Virginia delegation should be. If the RNC deprives half of that delegation to represent their electors, than that’s just wrong. You’ve usurped the will of over 2,000 people who put on that convention; two days, money, blood sweat and tears. You should not be able to go to a select group of people and say, “Fix it, ignore that election. That’s fundamentally unfair. 2700 people came and voted for a Chair of the convention. That (race) was highly contested and won by only four votes. It wasn’t challenged and the convention proceeded to run. The woman who ran credentials, now objects to it. New, young people, came into the party and if you disenfranchise them, even to where the Governor of the State says he won’t attend the convention if they’re not seated, you will do irreparable damage to the party, and its nominee, Mitt Romney. Take a step back from these complexities, 2700 people voted for the people whom you want to disenfranchise.”
But the Contest Committee did not see problems with credentials, ballots and floor security. They did not recognize that there was a quorum, even though that wasn’t challenged at the convention. They said they had irrefutable evidence that the convention was flooded with people who had no right to be there.
While the challenge to Maine’s delegation was based on problems only raised after the fact, it was evident that once the reality set-in that Maine’s delegation belonged to Ron Paul, that a case of sour grapes bubbled up, and the objection was filed.
Drew Ivers, delegate from Iowa, passionately stated, “Talk about credibility – the biggest glaring inconsistency is in the election of the Governer Paul LePage and his wife, Ann. They were elected by the same body that elected all the other delegates and alternates. So, if there’s no objection by the Committee on Contests or the RNC to say they were duly elected, then the rest of the body would also have to be ruled duly elected. This is the crux of the debate.”
There was also the issue that if Maine was to lose part of its delegation, who had the right to choose who would replace them? The situation in Nevada was referenced when in 2008, their delegate election was illegally adjourned, and delegates appointed, instead of being voted upon. State Chairman, Sue Lowden, was reprimanded by the RNC for her actions, but her appointed delegates were still seated. The RNC essentially said, “The way you did this broke the rules, but since you’re here at the convention, go get credentialed and seated anyway and we’ll forget about the votes sitting in those ballot boxes that were never counted.”
In the case of Maine, rules were just for others, and the RNC decided that delegates could be appointed. Maine was not even allowed to have its five delegates who weren’t challenged, elect the replaced delegates, as they were not considered legally elected. The Contest Committee picked new delegates, some of whom didn’t even receive a hundred votes in an election where 1,800 voted.
Former Maine State Representative Stavros Mendes made his own very personal plea,
“Ever since I was a little boy I’ve been participating. First by holding up signs for candidates. Then in 1992, I ran for office. In 1994 I campaigned in Massachusetts for Romney. I’ve been to many of these conventions, and this was the first one where we had to show ID; it was the strictest I’ve been to ever. Charlie Webster, the Temporary Chair, did give a Credentials Report before the vote for Chair (which was accepted). There was no doubt, not even from the governor’s legal counsel – no one in Maine doubted the credentials. Ron Paul had overwhelming numbers, and they won. What precedent do we set today if we overturn this election? (In the future) Do we want every delegation challenged, because that’s what precedent you are setting? That’s going to be the new policy if your candidate is behind at these state conventions. We believe in the sanctity of the vote. Erin Day spent school funds to come here, along with 20 other young supporters. You’re going to send her home telling her she’s a cheater and a fraud, because that’s what’s going to be said about her in Maine. (Delegates) Charlie Summers, US Senate candidate, and the Governor and his wife aren’t coming if this happens. Charlie’s one of your committee picks, and he’s not coming. Don’t do this to my Governor and friends!”
The guest gallery of the meeting was filled with supporters of Maine’s liberty delegation, and they applauded Mendros, but the members of the Credentials Committee were mostly silent. It was obvious from their reception of the arguments for the elected delegates that they weren’t getting the message, and the few liberty members of the Committee weren’t anywhere close to a majority.
The motion to unseat most of Maine’s delegates was called, and 20 elected members of Maine’s delegation were replaced with individuals chosen by the Republican National Committee.
Cries of, “Shame, shame!” erupted from the gallery, and those offenders of decorum were quickly removed from the room by security. I had joined in the cries, and it was only through the intercession of Mike Rothfeld with security, that I was able to stay. This vote cast a dismal pall on the proceedings as members broke for lunch. The two hours spent on Maine had gone by in an instant, and there were still the fates of Oklahoma and Oregon in the balance.
Later, Governor Paul LePage responded to the ruling,
“I have decided to not attend the 2012 Republican National Convention… I made it clear, when the challenge was issued, that I felt the Maine Delegates selected at the Maine Convention should be seated in Tampa. It is unfortunate that not all of these Delegates will be seated.”
Texas At-Large Delegate, Troy Christensen, warned,
“More disturbing is that the RNC will name replacement delegates, which I think violates the RNC rule that each state gets to choose its delegates.”
The elected Delegation Chair for Maine, Brent Tweed, expressed his own disappointment, “Essentially, they have replaced half of Maine’s duly elected delegates with those of their own choosing. Maine’s delegates should be elected by Mainers. Instead, they are being appointed by nine RNC members from states like California, Mississippi, Washington, Kentucky and Arkansas. For a party that claims to respect the rights of states and individuals, the Republican Party should respect the right of Maine to select its own representatives.”
Maine and Oregon were represented by attorneys brought in by the Ron Paul campaign. In Oklahoma’s case, they were represented pro se, and Michael Stopp opened their argument that delegates had not been elected legally, which was the inverse of Maine’s delegation which was challenged, even though they had been legally elected. Stopp charged that the Oklahoma Executive Committee, “Broke rules to stop the Ron Paul people. The Chair conducted fraudulent election for At-Large Delegates. When the Executive Committee was challenged, they responded that rules were broken because of time constraints. But, the time problems were due to the E-board causing them. Credentials were never approved by the body. They were never valid, so then votes can’t be valid. Rule 18 requires a roll call vote (paper ballot) to fill At-large Delegates and Alternate slots. All votes were questionable. We must follow rules to build trust. I attended West Point, and the most important lesson I learned was in the honor code – A cadet must not lie cheat or steal.”
In Maine’s case, credentials at their convention were never challenged. In Oklahoma’s case the credentials were challenged from the very beginning. Earlier, delegate Adam Bates told me, “They were trying to pack the convention as delegates checking into the convention were not asked to show ID to collect their badges. Aside from the obvious potential for manipulation in such a loose credentialing process, it struck many of us as odd that a party hell-bent on pushing voter ID laws couldn’t be bothered to ID voters at its own convention.”
“After the reading of the credentials report, State Vice-Chair Pam Pollard admitted that the count was inaccurate and that there were some 22 delegates that needed to be added due to some confusion at the county level,” he continued. “When the new counts were announced, more than 200 delegates had been added. Points of order were made regarding this. They were dismissed. No motion was ever made to properly amend the credentials report and no vote were ever taken accepting the final report. As a result, those delegates should have never been seated.”
“The party leaders opted to move on without a proper vote on, or acceptance of the credentials.” Bates said. “Ultimately, the permanent roll of the convention was not certified until roughly 6pm. But we didn’t even get into the credentials problem when we filed our challenge with the RNC. State Party Rule 18D, which says that the votes for At-Large Delegates and Alternates have to be roll-call votes, a ballot, or written at the state convention. Instead, they did a voice vote, that the E-committee said they won. We protested and asked for a standing vote, which they won again as all their guests and others stood. The written vote never happened, and the E-committee acknowledged that it was required, but that their vote still satisfied convention rules. The convention rules superceded state party rules. Our challenge was based on the fact that we had an improperly elected slate that shouldn’t be seated. But the E-committee said they would have been elected anyway, even if a paper ballot had been properly used.”
Oklahoma’s Executive Board’s attorney’s argued that the standing vote was overwhelmingly in their favor, 75% to 25%, and that a roll call vote would not have changed the outcome. Rule 18D wasn’t mentioned.
Stopp countered that, “We have video, that the opposition’s number is inaccurate. Even with audio embellishment it couldn’t look like 75% to 25%. Was there not enough emphasis or importance to have a paper ballot for the delegate vote?”
Almost every person in the Credentials Committee agreed that Oklahoma’s republican party did not have to obey its own State Rules for balloting, and voted to seat the delegates.
“She flies with her own wings” is Oregon’s state motto, and in the case of rules, they also flew out the window. Curiously, in Oregon, their state convention is held simultaneously, in five different locations, reflecting their Congressional Districts.
Former gubernatorial candidate and State Chair Allen Alley originally wrote an agenda for their state convention listing adjournment at 4pm. Then, thinking that 5pm would be a more realistic, added an hour. (For those of you who have attended State Conventions, that is a naively optimistic end time, as many conventions are scheduled for a entire weekend. At our 2012 Nevada State Convention, business didn’t conclude Saturday till almost midnight, and we still met for most of Sunday when we adjourned.).
With five locations in Oregon having meetings, they all ended at different times. One adjourned at 5pm without debate, and the delegates went home. Two chose to work past 5pm, and made motions carried by 2/3rds majorities, to continue to work on the business of electing At-Large and Alternate Delegates. But in the remaining two, the motions failed. In these last two districts, delegates were picked from totally new slates.
That’s where rules came into play. Oregon’s Party Rules state that they can fill vacancies, but only if that vacancy occurs after elections have taken place. It was argued that no elections took place, because they happened after 5pm. The vacancy can’t occur if the election never happened. Oregon’s Executive Committee voted among themselves which delegates would get elected, rather than the a vote by the convention delegates.
Oregon’s delegation challenge asked, “What are conventions actually for? Were the three conventions actually adjourned? Agendas aren’t fixed, even when adopted. Business carries over all the time. People spend their money, take their time to attend these conventions, and is this party going to ignore that? Let the votes of the people at that convention be counted, let their votes stand.”
The delegates at the conventions where the motion to adjourn had failed, continued their conventions in parking lots after the doors were closed. To them, the 5pm adjournment on the agenda was just a suggestion and nothing more. They elected delegates according to party rules and those delegates weren’t recognized. They charged, “When they weren’t getting the results they wanted (their delegates elected), the email went out (to the five locations) to shut them (the conventions) down.”
“No motion is necessary when an hour is set to adjourn.” asserted Alley, “ It would require a 2/3rds vote to extend the end time prior to 5pm. Twentyfive Alternate Delegate positions were vacant after adjournment. The E-committee is responsible for filling these positions. It’s fully compliant with Oregon law, Standing Rule 11-3.”
It was very fortunate when Mike Rothfeld of Virginia was elected to the Credentials Committee. Once again he went to bat for his fellow liberty delegates. “A Chair put together a meeting incompetently, he extended it a mere one hour, knowing that if he ran out of time, he could run out the clock, knowing that he and his friends could appoint their friends. It is wrong to reward that behavior. If you won’t seat the elected delegates, then throw a pox on both houses and let us (the Credentials Committee) elect the delegates.”
It was obvious to only a handful of Credentials Committee members, that Oregon’s State Republican Convention had been poorly planned. Besides the unrealistic time set to adjourn, how could you have five different sites deciding to adjourn or not adjourn? Why were the legally done elections not recognized? When those delegates would not close their conventions as they still had business to do, shouldn’t they have been congratulated for persevering? How could Oregon’s E-Committee elect delegates on their own, when the rules only allowed for that situation in the case of vacancies – vacancies when elected delegates left their positions?
In spite of that, Oregon’s selected delegates remained in place by an almost unanimous vote.
The mood in the gallery was somber as the Credentials Committee adjourned. Some of the members had slept through the proceedings. Others, played games on their phones and checked e-mails. The half dozen members who took the mic to support the liberty delegates felt defeated. But, the loss was the Republican party’s. The new blood that has come into the GOP from its infusion of Ron Paul supporters is sorely needed. The more the GOP tries to thwart them in their attempts to shape candidates and policy, the more determined they become. The decisions on Maine, Oklahoma and Oregon will be remembered; and as liberty supporters in Nevada learned from 2008, they were well-prepared, when this year they successfully elected a delegation predominantly of their own, as well as the National Committeeman and Committeewoman.