GOP Rules Change 'Spits in the Face of Grassroots Conservatives,' Opponents Say

Penny Starr | August 30, 2012 | 9:59pm EDT
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House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) presides at GOP Convention in Tampa. (AP photo)

( – In the span of 42 seconds, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) gaveled in new rules covering the GOP convention and election process, including one that – for the first time ever -- allows Republican party leaders to change the party’s rules without the consent of elected delegates.

Grassroots conservatives are still livid.

The vote on the report of the GOP Rules Committee at the GOP National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday added controversial new rules opposed by grassroots conservatives, including Rule No. 12, which allows the Republican National Committee to change any rule between party conventions if a supermajority -- three-quarters -- of its members vote in favor of the change.

Julianne Thompson, a Romney delegate from Georgia and state coordinator for the Georgia Tea Party Patriots, told that the rules change “spits in the face of grassroots conservatives across the country.”

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But conservatives also say that those who opposed the Romney-backed changes had issued a minority report that called for a roll-call vote challenging the rules – but that it never got to the convention floor for consideration.

They say Boehner, who served as chairman of the convention during the vote, chose to call for a voice vote on the rules report, and dismissed their voiced opposition.

Just ahead of the vote, John Sununu, chairman of the GOP Rules Committee, introduced Boehner as convention chairman, and then introduced the proposed rules.

“These rules will provide a strong governing framework for our convention and for our party,” Sununu said.

“Without objection the previous question is ordered,” Boehner said to mark the end of debate and the start of a voice vote. “The question is on the adoption of the resolution.

“All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed no.

“In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it,” Boehner said as he gaveled in the new rules.

‘The resolution’s adopted,” Boehner said. “Without objection the motion to reconsider is laid on the table.”

Longtime conservative activist Morton Blackwell, who has served on the rules committee for more than two decades, called the voice vote “very close” and told that Boehner could have recognized state delegations opposed to the rules package. If six states objected, a recorded roll-call vote would have been required, according to Morton.

But Boehner, as the chair, ruled that the “ayes” won and declared that the rules resolution had “passed.”

Why did the RNC and Boehner not call for a roll-call vote on the rules change?

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the RNC, told that a roll-call vote would have required that a delegation be recognized by the chair, which would have then had to "formally submit" a roll call vote request by six state delegations to move forward.

Smith said no one asked to be recognized and that “proper procedure was followed.”

A spokesman from Boehner’s office provided only with a comment the House speaker made to radio talk show host Laura Ingraham about the convention:

“We had a very open process," Boehner said. "The committees did their work. There wasn't sufficient support for a recorded vote and an overwhelming majority of the convention supported the nomination of Mitt Romney.

“We're very excited about Mitt Romney becoming the next president of the United States," Boehner said.

Blackwell, meanwhile, blamed the controversial changes and vote on the Romney campaign.

He said the rule changes that were put in place when Boehner gavelled an end to the vote, were “the worst in 40 years” and said Romney’s legal counsel, Ben Ginsberg, had actually led the effort to add a worse rule -- Rule 15 – which would have given the GOP presidential candidate the unprecedented power of rejecting state-elected delegates.

That rule was later amended to become Rule 16, which stopped short of giving candidates the power to name delegates.

“[Ginsberg] was carrying the force of the Romney campaign to centralize the party’s power,” Blackwell said.

Kathy Hildebrand, a former Santorum delegate who voted for Romney in the Georgia delegation, agreed that the change in rules was misguided.

“It is very discouraging to me that at such a time there would be such a slap in the face of the grassroots,” Hildebrand told, adding that the survival of Rule 12 makes the future of delegates uncertain.

“The very fact that they can go back between conventions and change rules without our delegation’s input or vote means that as soon as our backs are turned they can plug that old No. 16 back in,” Hildebrand said.

Julianne Thompson called the push for a rules change “skullduggery” and criticized the “firestorm” the move had caused.

“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,” Thompson said in a letter  she sent to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus in opposition to the rules changes.

“The GOP is the political party of the grassroots,” Thompson said in the letter. “Our national delegates are the boots-on-the-ground that get Republicans elected.

“We are the worker bees and we are the heart and soul of the Republican Party,” Thompson said.

Thompson told that delegates should have the say at the convention, not the candidates or the party leaders.

“There are always going to be those in the Republican Party that would like to use our delegates’ and alternates’ seats to reward for donating large checks and for their own political operative friends and that is not what these seats are for,” Thompson said.

“Those seats are for the people who have spent years working for the Republican Party; donating their time and effort and money – they’ve donated their money.

“They may not be wealthy,” Thompson said. “They might have small amounts to donate, but they donate their time and they give of themselves.”

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