Republican Liberty Caucus of Texas board member Jeff Larson gives his first-hand report of events in the Credentials Committee at the Republican National Convention in Tampa during their main meeting Friday of last week. Accompanying video includes a short interview with Jeff from a local TV station.
Short version, the good guys lost all three today: Maine, Oklahoma, and Oregon.
Karin (Credentials Committee member from Maine) was prevented by RNC rules from voting on her own case. The Credentials Committee voted to allow her to speak, though.
The format was, first, counsel for each side got 30 minutes (or 25 minutes plus 5 minutes for rebuttal). Next, Credentials Committee members could question counsel or their witnesses. Finally, counsel and witnesses were excused, and Credentials Committee members could make whatever motions they wanted. Each of the over 100 Credentials Committee members could speak twice to each motion.
The Chair moved to allow the Vice-Chairs to speak. All the Vice-Chairs were also members of the Committee on Contests, which had pre-heard each of the three cases and had ruled against us each time. Mike (Credentials Committee member from Virginia) objected on the grounds that this would allow the Vice-Chairs to prejudice the Credentials Committee in favor of accepting the Committee on Contests reports (which were all against us). A vote was taken, and the Credentials Committee overwhelmingly voted to allow them to speak.
There was a motion to limit debate to 2 hours. Although it wasn’t clear what the motion applied to, it passed overwhelmingly.
Counsel then presented for Maine. The Challengers (the bad guys) claimed the convention was an utter mess, with people wandering in off the street and voting, people being issued other people’s credentials, etc. The Respondents (the good guys) claimed that aside from a few hiccups, the convention was well run and that all the delegates won by huge margins.
One of the questions was, “If credentials was such a mess, how did you know you had a quorum?” Respondent’s counsel answered that there were 1800 votes cast in the delegate’s races out of 2700 registered in attendance, which pretty well ought to be a quorum.
After over an hour of questions, Mike from Virginia asked just what the 2-hour limit applied to. The Chair said he thought it meant presentations+questions+motions and debate, but he’d let questions continue anyway. Someone then called for the orders of the day, which automatically cut off questioning. In my opinion, the questions hadn’t quite become circular, but had gotten to the point where little new ground was being covered.
There was a motion made to accept the report of the Committee on Contests, which would have tossed half the Paul delegates and replaced them with Romney delegates appointed by the Committee on Contests.
Mike from Virginia made a motion to amend the report to strike all the Romney delegates and replace them with the duly elected Ron Paul delegates. Karin from Maine seconded the motion, but there was an objection because she was one of the challenged delegates. (Kelly?) from Iowa provided a second, solving the problem.
The Committee on Contests had interpreted RNC rule 23 to mean, “We can do whatever we want to fix a problem with a delegation”, which is how it justified striking half the elected Paul delegates and replacing them with Romney delegates. Respondent’s counsel argued they were ignoring RNC rule 17, which allowed a delegation to elect to replace any vacant seats. This would have allowed the 5 uncontested delegates from Maine to pick the replacements. A Credentials Committee member from New Hampshire made a lengthy argument in favor of the Committee on Contest’s interpretation of rule 23. I didn’t think it had much substance.
Stavros Mendros, Credentials Committee member from Maine, made an excellent speech introducing much factual information about the Maine convention and the background. In my opinion, it had the information that Respondent’s counsel should have provided in their presentation. Stavros got an ovation from the other Ron Paul committee members and from the spectator’s gallery.
This report is not an exhaustive list of everyone who spoke to every motion, but hits some of the highlights. A committee member from Louisiana spoke against the amendment (in favor of the Committee on Contests), and the other committee member from Virginia (the lady) spoke in favor of the amendment.
A committee member from Washington gave a speech that was very hostile to Ron Paul. It was the first genuinely anti-Paul speech I’d heard that day, as opposed to one that was merely against Mike’s amendment.
Karin from Maine gave a very emotional speech, claiming that the Challengers had deliberately tried to sabotage the Maine convention, and when that didn’t work, they then filed the challenge. She used the phrase that I’m sure was on a lot of people’s minds, claiming the challenge was just an example of Sour Grapes.
Karin got applause for her speech, which was followed by a voice vote. To my ears, Mike’s amendment went down by about a 2:1 margin.
Mike then made a second motion, to amend the Committee on Contests report to strike all the disputed delegates, and to allow the 5 undisputed delegates (which included the Governor) to elect replacements.
A committee member from Minnesota made a good speech, reminding the committee that although the Republican Party was supposed to be the party of the grass roots, allowing an RNC committee to hand-pick the delegation instead of allowing Maine to select their own delegation was concentrating all the power at the top, to the detriment of the party.
Stavros Mendros from Maine then made another great speech, this one in favor of Mike’s second amendment. He mentioned that the results of the previous vote defeating his first amendment had been tweeted back to Maine, with the result that the Governor had affirmed he would not be attending the convention. Stavros begged the committee to not embarrass his state any more, and to allow them to elect their own delegates. Again, he got applause, only the 3rd time of the day for anyone.
A voice vote was taken, heavily against Mike’s 2nd motion. Mike from Virginia called for a standing vote. 12 committee members, all from states like Virginia, Nevada, Iowa, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and the Virgin Islands, all stood (I hope I didn’t miss anyone, Maine was not allowed to vote). In opposition, the entire rest of the room stood. Cries of “Shame on you!” and “Shame!” erupted from the gallery. The Chair ordered the Sergeant at Arms to remove anyone disrupting the meeting, and he escorted a couple of people out. Afterward, a few people cried “Shame” once, then immediately left the room.
Business returned to the main motion. Since both amendments had failed, the motion was to adopt the Committee on Contests report, striking half the elected Maine delegation and replacing them with Romney people. The motion carried without much opposition. (I’m pretty sure there were 12 no’s.) Thus, the Maine Ron Paul delegates under dispute were not seated. We still get half the original strength as part of the Committee on Contests “compromise”.
The Credentials Committee stood at ease, so I went out into the hall to break the bad news to some of our people. I was talking to a delegate from Arkansas, when a curious thing happened. An RNC staffer approached, and told him he had to go with her. She told me I had to come, too. I asked why, and was told that I couldn’t be here, that my guest credential had been issued in error. She said that Credentials Committee members couldn’t have guests (contradicting what they’d been told in their orientation briefing), and that only RNC members could have guests.
I made a fuss about retrieving my property from the meeting room before getting the bum’s rush, and another staffer escorted me in so I could get my hat. (It’s my special hat.) Inside, I met a Ron Paul-friendly Credentials Committee member who was hanging out in the guest area during the break. I explained the situation to him, and he got nearly as upset as I was, and followed me up to the security checkpoint where I was told to wait while the first staffer straightened things out.
To understand how absurd this all was, there were nearly two dozen guests of Credentials Committee members in the guest area of the meeting room. Yet only I and the Arkansas delegate were being asked to leave. Neither of us had been the least bit disruptive, although he looked “out of place” (hair dyed red and casual clothes). I was in a suit and tie.
The first staffer and my friend on the Credentials Committee went down the hall toward the meeting room while I was left to stew at security. A few minutes later, she came back, told me it was all a big misunderstanding, apologized, told me she hoped I hadn’t thought I was singled out because that was not the case. I was willing to let it all go at that.
EXCEPT that a few hours later, I got the other half of the story. The Credentials Committee member lost track of her for a few seconds, and when he found her again, she was talking to a couple of RNC types, asking them what to do about me. He heard one of them say, “Is he a Paul guy?” At which point the Committee member inserted himself into the conversation, and was told he was intruding on a private conversation. He begged to differ, expressed his outrage at the whole thing, and so I was allowed back in. The red-haired Arkansas delegate was allowed in, too.
Moral of the story…apparently, you can get thrown out of an RNC committee meeting just for talking to someone who looks like an obvious Ron Paul supporter. And you can get right back in if you have friends on that particular committee…but possibly not if you don’t have those friends. I’m not interested in running the experiment.
Next up was Oklahoma. The Challengers (the good guys) claimed the establishment slow-rolled the convention until taking roll-call votes was an issue, blew voice votes where delegate seats were at stake, and refused the roll-call votes that would have exposed the lie. The Respondents (the bad guys) claimed they bent over backwards to give the Paul people several breaks that weren’t in Robert’s Rules, put on a fair convention, and are the victim of sour grapes as the Paul folks lost several delegate votes 75-25 or so.
My take on it is that regardless of the merits of the Challenger’s case, the presentation of that case was very weak. My understanding is that Challenger’s counsel was not a trained attorney, and it seemed to show. In all the other challenges, everyone used the full 25+5 or 30 minutes allotted to them. After 15 minutes, Challenger’s counsel rested. The Chair asked him if he had anything else, any witnesses, anything. He passed. The other side used every minute of the time allotted to them, called one of the convention officials as a witness, and creamed them.
The case by Oklahoma Challenger’s counsel boiled down to, “They didn’t follow the rules! They didn’t follow the rules! They didn’t follow the rules!” In my opinion, a glaring omission was any explanation of why not following the rules thwarted the will of the Oklahoma convention. This is especially so in light of the Respondent’s counsel’s claim that the votes went against the Paul people by 75-25.
A Credentials Committee member from California moved to adopt the report of the Committee on Contests, which would seat the Romney delegates elected at the convention, and not seat the Paul delegates elected at the rump convention. Eric Opiela from Texas seconded the motion.
The voice vote was a massacre. I only heard one voice, possibly a second, vote nay. Even the Ron Paul Credentials Committee members who had fought so hard for Maine didn’t vote nay on adopting the Committee on Contests report…they’d have just looked foolish if they had because the case for Oklahoma was so weak. By that, I don’t mean that bad things didn’t happen at the Oklahoma convention, just that if all you’d heard was what was presented at the Credentials Committee meeting, you’d never believe anything was wrong.
The Credentials Committee stood at ease for a few minutes after considering the Oklahoma case. This is when I learned from the Credentials Committee member who had saved me from getting kicked out of the meeting about the conversation between the staffer and the RNC member, and how the Credentials Committee member had intervened on my behalf.
The last case considered was Oregon. The Challenger’s counsel (the good guys) claimed that the establishment deliberately slow rolled the conventions once they saw votes going against them, in hopes that a special Oregon rule for selecting delegates by an executive committee when the conventions fail to elect them would be invoked. Respondent’s counsel (the bad guys) claimed that there was only one convention in 5 locations, that all 5 locations had to adjourn at once, and that they couldn’t have foreseen that the day’s business would have taken so long.
The arguments were very technical at times. There was extensive questioning over whether there was one convention at 5 sites, or 5 different conventions, and the two sides disagreed on that issue. One “site” adjourned promptly at 5pm, and the other 4 “sites” continued on. The establishment considered everything the other “sites” did after 5pm to be null and void. I was amused when Respondent’s counsel (who was claiming that there was 1 convention at 5 locations, not 5 conventions) slipped a couple of times and referred to “conventions” instead of a “convention”. Challenger’s counsel pointed out that Oregon has 2 rules about holding conventions, one for conventions held in odd numbered years, and one for holding them in even numbered years, and that the Respondent’s kept referring to the wrong rule to justify their actions.
Only the at-large Alternates were in play in the Oregon challenge, but due to numerous factors, that actually made a difference with regard to Presidential nominations and voting. Someone on the Credentials Committee moved to adopt the report of the Committee on Contests, which would seat the at-large Alternates chosen by the Oregon star chamber and toss the at-large Alternates elected at the 4 Oregon conventions that did not adjourn at 5 pm. Mandy Tschoepkes (sp?) from Texas seconded that motion.
The female Virgina Credentials Committee member moved to amend the Committee on Contests report to seat the elected (Ron Paul) Alternates instead of the appointed (Romney) ones. One of the committee members from Iowa seconded the motion.
Stavros Mendros gave a speech asking why the contested Alternates from Oregon weren’t split between elected Paul supporters and appointed Romney supporters, just like the Maine delegation was. This got him applause for the 3rd time of the day. There was also an emotional speech by Mike from Virginia urging the Committee to “not reward bad behavior” (on the part of the Oregon establishment that denied the elected delegates). This was followed by a motion to call the question (stop debate and vote on the amendment to seat the Ron Paul Alternates), which passed.
The voice vote to seat the Ron Paul alternates failed by a large margin. I suspect the only “ayes” were the same 12 people who stood for Maine on the earlier vote.
Kelly from Iowa moved to amend the Committee on Contests report to throw out all the contested at-large Alternates, and to allow the uncontested Oregon Delegates to vote for replacements, as provided for by the Oregon State GOP rules. The Chair ruled her motion out of order. Mike from Virginia appealed the decision of the Chair (giving the Credentials Committee an opportunity to overrule the Chair). He needed a 2/3 majority, and the voice vote sounded like he got less than 1/3.
Stavros Mendros from Maine proposed an ammendement to the Committee on Contests report to have the Credentials Committee select half elected Ron Paul Alternates and half Romney replacements, just like the Committee on Contests did for the Maine delegation. Robert (“Max”) from the Virgin Islands seconded the motion. The voice vote failed, again by a large margin.
Someone moved the previous question (again, “let’s quit making new amendments and decided this once and for all”). This passed unanimously, as the Ron Paul Credentials Committee members were just about out of ammunition. There was a final voice vote to adopt the Committee on Contests report, tossing the elected Ron Paul at-large Alternates in favor of the star chamber-selected Romney at-large Alternates. It passed, with the usual 12 or so members dissenting.
Summary: We lost Maine, Oklahoma, and Oregon.
The Credentials Committee took one final vote. The motion was to have only one vote as a permanent committee when they reconvene after the start of the Convention. That vote will be to approve all the decisions made so far (Maine, Oklahoma, and Oregon). I expect it to pass handily.
My most recent information is that the permanent Credentials Committee will meet sometime tomorrow (Tuesday, 8/28/2012).