Rules fight sparks drama at RNC
August 28th, 2012
07:12 PM ET
2 years ago

Rules fight sparks drama at RNC

Tampa, Florida (CNN) – The Republican National Convention adopted two controversial rules on Tuesday. But a fight over their adoption threw a wrench in the convention's carefully scripted events: pitting the likes of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and grassroots activists on one side with Mitt Romney's campaign and establishment Republicans on the other.

The days-long fight reached climax just hours after the Tuesday RNC session began, with supporters of the rules cheering their adoption and opponents booing against them. Moments before, some delegates even laid out angry – yet unsubstantiated – claims of meddling to keep some delegates away from a committee vote.

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At issue: two rules dubbed Rule 16 and Rule 12.

The first is a compromise of an earlier proposal, named Rule 15, that was vehemently opposed by many grassroots activists, including many Ron Paul supporters. It addresses delegate selection in future Republican presidential primaries – instituting stronger enforcement mechanisms to compel delegates to vote as they are bound by their states. In the original proposal, future presidential candidates would have had veto power over who could become a delegate.

The second rule concerns the RNC's ability to change its rules in between its conventions.

Both rules were adopted on the convention floor by a voice vote. Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, chairman of the Rules Committee and a top surrogate for Romney, presented the rules. House Speaker John Boehner held the audible floor vote to adopt them.

Though the voices "for" and "against" sounded about the same, Boehner declared: "The ayes have it."

That caused opponents on the floor to erupt in a chorus of boos.

"What [Rule 16] does, we're no longer picking the bodies in the seats," RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski explained about the compromise rule.

"What we're doing is we're implementing a penalty phase so that you can do what you've always done, as far as putting delegates…in chairs. But if those people do not vote the way they're bound to do, then essentially it's all null and void. They're no longer delegates."

On Rule 12, Kukowski said: "What has been a long time thing with the RNC rules is, you can only vote on them every four years at national convention….Four years is a long time. So essentially that rule is making it so that the RNC as a body can convene in between conventions and change rules."

The floor catcalls followed a similar drama that played out in the rules committee itself.

About an hour before the floor vote, committee members discussed and debated the rules in a meeting.

The rule governing delegate selection was the most contentious. Yet it passed by a vote of 78-14.

Sarah Palin reacted to the original measure on her Facebook page Monday night.

Calling it a "controversial rule change" that is "so very disappointing," Palin added: "It's a direct attack on grassroots activists by the GOP establishment, and it must be rejected."

Some delegates reacted angrily to the committee passage of Rule 16.

"This takes us away from state sovereignty," said Colorado delegate Florence Sebern. "It takes us away from local control in our states. And it moves us towards, as a Republican Party, central control and top-down decisions. That's what this is."

"Are we the Republican Party?" she added.

"My inbox blew up. I had over 8,000 Coloradans emailing and calling me saying, 'Stand firm on these two issues.'"

Her anger was backed up by others outside the convention. Many grassroots activists, including tea party sponsor FreedomWorks, urged opposition to the rules.

Julianne Thompson, a national Romney delegate and a Georgia State Coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, wrote an open letter to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and members of the Rules Committee.

"With your current attempt at this rules change, you are essentially striking the first blow that chips away at that freedom, and you disenfranchise the very people that turned the tide for the GOP in 2010 by returning power in the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans," Thompson wrote.

"I would like to hope that our nominee is unaware of the skullduggery that occurred with regard to this attempt at shutting out the people that have unified to help him win in November," Thompson added.

"The audacity of creating a firestorm when there is an opportunity for unity and peace that is needed to win back the Senate and take back the White House is irresponsible and I seriously question the motives of those behind this attempt."

A delegate from Utah, who supported the rule, also reacted.

"Rule 16 preserves the rights of the states to determine the way they select their delegates to the national convention," Bruce Hough said. "It gives the complete sovereignty to the states - as it has now - to make those determinations."

Romney attorney Ben Ginsburg – a Washington D.C. delegate – spoke about the rule.

"It's a great compromise," Ginsburg said. "It brings the party together. Some of the grassroots activists told us they had concerns about [the original proposal.] They were valid concerns. We were able to work out a compromise."

When pressed about lingering grassroots opposition to it, Ginsberg said:

"The vote was 78-14. It had the overwhelming support of the committee."

"I'm sorry we can't please everybody."

Though Rule 16 was approved by the committee, opponents vowed to try to kill it on the floor through a procedure called a "minority report."

Twenty-eight signatures were needed to advance that procedure. It's unclear if the opposition obtained the necessary number to do so.

Former Republican presidential candidate, tea party favorite and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, spoke to CNN outside the committee meeting after the vote.

"Well I was for the minority report because the backbone of our party is the grassroots," Bachmann said. "And I think it's very important that the people at the local level have their voice and have their say and be able to come here to the national convention and we need to hear their voice."

Meanwhile, some 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.

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."

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.

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. CBR

    Oh my. Mr Romney can no longer say that he was not running the convention from the wings. Most conventions allowed more than one name to be put forward for the nomination. Not so now. The conventions are programmed from beginning to end.

    It was nice of them to seat the delegates from the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Marianas in the front rows for a change. They cannot vote in any election and someday a politician will believe that they should be able to vote in elections. We allow their sons and daughters to enter the military and help to defend this country but they cannot vote.

    August 28, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  2. Larry L

    Ahh... the Crazies versus the Greedy. Still, they've still got hatred and bigotry in common.

    August 28, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  3. nothing new here

    The GOP establishment should have never gotten into bed with some of these extremist activists groups.
    A match made in Hell.
    And great entertainment as well :)

    August 28, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  4. teej

    Imagine that, being purposefully kept from voting. Voter purging... Who on Earth would think to do such a thing? Poor Republicans. Poor Poor Republicans.

    August 28, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  5. bassman

    Sarah Palin is a fighter. No doubt about that. She will stand up agains't the Republican establishment. I think she likes the outsider role.

    August 28, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  6. truth hurts

    Once the primaries are held and candiates allocated delegates, no way should they be subject to some takeover by people flooding meetings. Why bother having primaries?! Come on, use some common sense. The time to use your grassroots connections is during the primaries and NOT afterward after you have lost them.

    August 28, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  7. CanadaONE

    Sad! America looks SO PATHETIC !

    August 28, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  8. wake up

    why is the heartland still considered in the 'red' state column after tea party congress went on a five week vacation and literally left farmers to go bankrupt in record ongoing drought and didn't do ANYTHING to help their own constituents?

    how does that make any sense? Isn't there any accountability or repercussions from anything in this country when it comes to blocking NINETEEN consecutive jobs bills? we need congressional term limits, period. the WHOLE thing is a total farce now.

    August 28, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  9. Melo-D

    The GOP meddling in the voting process?? Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, that's the new GOP strategy. When you don't have the votes to win just rig the election. I bet they are kicking themselves for not thinking of this sooner. 2000 was just a warm-up.

    August 28, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  10. beau

    So the Republicans are going to settle on an east coast, elite, millionaire from an aristocratic family? What is his experience that will make him a successful Conservative President?
    1. He fires people, lays off employees, and outsources jobs while pocketing the pension funds of those same employees.
    2. He is comfortable in an upper class setting. After all, America IS the upper class, isn't it? The little people, like you and I, are not really very important. People of Romney's class and background see us as livestock that can understand English.
    3. He does not care if Americans suffer. He has made lots of them suffer so far in his life. He's made of tough stuff. No weepy compassion will ever cloud his judgment.
    4. He knows how to destroy corporations and sell off their assets. He could use those skills to destroy the federal government, a stated goal of Conservatism
    5. After the Romney Administration is over in 2016 or 2018, Conservatives will say, "Hey, you can't blame us for the disastrous Romney Administration. He wasn't a TRUE Conservative. What we need is a TRUE Conservative like Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum … or maybe govornor Palin."

    August 28, 2012 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  11. Shastafarian

    In my opinion we should vote for the person who best represents our convictions on the following issues.

    Character and integrity: Prov. 29:2, 4, 12

    Sanctity of human life: Psa. 139:13

    Same-sex marriage: Lev. 18:22

    Freedom for religious speech: Acts 4:18-20

    Racial equality: Acts 17:26 and Rev. 5: 9-10

    National security: Neh. 4: 8-9

    Taxation and government spending: Neh. 5: 4-5 and Rom. 13:1

    Vote with prayer, seeking wisdom from God.

    August 28, 2012 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  12. Expat American

    Palin and Bachmann are the leaders of the Republican Party – it is what the GOP has become.

    August 28, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  13. beau

    I used to be a repub till congress was taken over by the tea party and Romney as our candidate.I cannot support a man who is a draft dodger and a tax evader.The repub congress has done nothing for vets,nothing for the middleclass.All of the good repubs have gone or have been forced out by the extremists that care nothing for the average joe or veterans like myself.Until we get real candidates that care for the middleclass and vets I will not vote for the repubs.Honor and respect,and caring for this nation is what the repubs used to stand for ,now we have wackjobs from the tea party holding america hostage and thats as un patriotic as it gets,it is hurting many americans,our economy and soldiers who are looking for work. Romney is not the answer he is the problem with America with his lies and phony religion...Sorry this voter will stay an ex repub till the party becomes honerable again.

    August 28, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  14. Andrew

    Silly republicans. Didn't realize your organization has always been for a top down rule? The little people are simply tools to be used to further the privileged few on the top. Even though the people at the bottom and middle make sure the whole operation is working either through management or the actual process the GOP still believes the guy on top was solely responsible for the company's success.
    Obama was right. He just used the subject in the wrong context to properly explain what he meant. Even Romney said something remarkably similar to Olympic athletes in Utah. Romney is partially right there. A lot of those athletes wouldn't be at their peak without the assistance of those supporting them. However, the mass majority of that is the athlete himself mainly in individual competitions. They got there cause of their hard work and yes they have a far more chunk of the pie in their accomplishments than a CEO of a large company or one with many employees. Small companies where there is a handful of employees or those who employ themselves and no one else do tend to provide the most work towards their company though.

    August 28, 2012 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  15. trex

    ............"Corporations are PEOPLE"....................."LEGITIMATE RAPE".................Manditory TransVAGINAL PROBES......................and MASSIVE TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH......................This, is today's gop.............

    August 28, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  16. trex

    .....And Mitt's god is some guy, that lives on the planet...KOLOB....

    August 28, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  17. 1centFree

    Romney said he's in favor of both provisions but cannot support them.

    August 28, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  18. sassysticks53

    Boring, boring and more boring. When will the auditorium fill up – when Christie gets to the podium?

    August 28, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  19. sassysticks53

    This is what happens when you let extremists take over your party. What a train wreck the GOP is today.

    August 28, 2012 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  20. D. Griffith

    If the GOP doesn't even want to hear from it's own supporters, it certainly doesn't care about the rest of Americans. Turn back the clock on civil rights, science, and freedom, vote Republican!! Less regulation on big business and banking more regulation on personal liberties, vote Republican! The American Taliban is not Mr. Lynd, but rather is the Republican party where religous fundamentalist decide your private life i.e. the contraception you can use, if you may or may not get an abortion, forcing a call to prayer in public schools etc. Stamp out the American Taliban vote Democrat for your own personal liberties as well as mine!

    August 28, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  21. enuff

    They're using their own tactics against themselves.

    August 28, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |