Blackwell to RNC: reverse the Romney rule changes

Virginia Republican Committeeman Morton Blackwell has issued a letter to his fellow RNC members in which he lays out the case for repealing the rules changes made at the 2012 RNC convention in Tampa. At the time, these rule changes were viewed as a nefarious power grab on the part of the Romney campaign and the move was vigorously, if unsuccessfully, opposed by Virginia’s convention delegation. Here’s the text of Blackwell’s most recent letter:

Dear RNC Colleague,

On January 13, I submitted to our Chairman and our Secretary the below motion to amend The Rules of the Republican Party.

In the years before our 2012 Republican National Convention, the RNC’s Standing Committee on Rules (one member per state and territory) met to consider possible changes to The Rules of the Republican Party each time the RNC met. That Committee, one third of our RNC members, worked diligently, debated carefully every proposed amendment, reviewed its years of work at its meeting in Tampa, and adopted a report to send to the whole RNC for its consideration.

Some of the proposed rules changes incorporated in the report of the Standing Committee on Rules were intended to open additional channels by which power in the RNC could flow more easily from the bottom up. The deliberations of the Standing Committee were productive. Acting independently, members of the Standing Committee generally agreed that it’s a good idea to increase the opportunities for power at the RNC to flow from the bottom up.

The report of the Standing Committee on Rules was presented to the full RNC, which frequently in the past has exercised its right to amend its Standing Committee’s report before sending it on to the Convention Rules Committee for consideration. Then the Convention Rules Committee’s report is submitted to the national convention for its consideration.

In 2012, the RNC opted not to amend the report of its Standing Committee on Rules, which was not considered very controversial in the Standing Committee or in the full RNC. So the Republican National Committee unanimously approved its Standing Committee report and forwarded that report to the Convention Rules Committee.

The next day, in the Convention Rules Committee, Ben Ginsberg, a Convention Rules Committee member from D.C., representing himself as the spokesman for the Romney campaign, began to propose amendments to the report from the RNC. First, he systematically submitted amendments to reverse the few and useful changes adopted by the Standing Committee and the full RNC to open up slightly the flow of power from the bottom up in the RNC. Then he supported a number of brand new amendments to increase the centralization of power in the RNC.

Although some members of the Convention Rules Committee strongly objected to Ben Ginsberg’s obviously centralizing power grabs, most members of that committee went along with everything he wanted. After all, he was presumed to be speaking for the candidate we were about to nominate for President.

You will recall, however, the immense, immediate outrage at the convention and from the grassroots against the Ginsberg power grabs. The national convention’s consideration of the Convention Rules Committee report was a uniquely ugly scene. What Ben Ginsberg did was particularly foolish because none of the changes he pushed would in any way help us win the coming presidential election. All he accomplished regarding the 2012 election was to make grassroots conservatives fiercely angry at the Romney campaign. Of course, if Mitt Romney had been elected in November, there was no chance at all that he would have trouble with the Republican National Committee. No Republican President fails to get exactly what he wants from the RNC. In sum, the power grabs were a stupid move, and our Party is still suffering the consequences.

Grassroots conservatives and libertarians have and use many social media networks. They can communicate instantly and for free. Since the national convention and to this day, there is vigorous condemnation of our national Party for Ginsberg’s power grabs, which eliminated non-controversial reforms and deliberately (and unnecessarily) centralized our party even more. A lot of this criticism is directed personally at Reince Priebus.

This criticism of our party and our chairman makes it much harder to do what we have to do, which is to attract more newcomers and build a superior grassroots election organization for 2014 and beyond.

Instead of further centralizing the Republican Party, we should welcome newcomers and treat them fairly, politely, and cordially. What good is it to centralize power if doing so prevents us from recruiting new grassroots activists to our Party and building an organization which can win future elections?

I happen to train thousands of conservative newcomers every year for success in politics. I know that, if passed, my motion to “de-Ginsberg” our party rules will be greeted enthusiastically by newcomers we want to join us in our efforts to defeat the plans President Obama and his leftist allies are wreaking on our country.

A record vote on my motion would let everyone know where each of us stands on this matter.


Morton Blackwell
Virginia Republican National Committeeman

For folks outside the party tent, this all seems rather arcane. But aside from Clint Eastwood’s speech at the convention, and the possibility that a hurricane might cancel the whole show, the rules change was really the only other event that caused a stir in Tampa.

Whether Blackwell is able to rally the rest of the Republican committee members to his side remains an open question. However, he stands a good chance of doing so, if for no other reason than it will represent a cleansing of Mitt Romney from the Republican script.

  • Pete Snyder

    Agreed. Bravo, Morton (And Norm for shining a light on this)! On a dark day for democracy, I was very pleased this summer that the ENTIRE VA Delegation stood together against this odious, anti-grassroots back-room power grab. That rule needs to be changed – and NOW.

    • Did you say anything to the Romney folks about this? Not ribbing you Pete, just curious.. The establishment (nationally) was silent and watched as Virginia arrived as the sole unified state, something remarkable. Pat Mullins showed true courage and chose integrity while across the country GOP leaders from other states excoriated him for doing it the Virginia way and getting it right by unifying EVERY faction in our state GOP. Supporters of every primary challenger had an ally for fair elections that day in our chairman.

      Pat Mullins for RNC Chairman 2013 would be fine with me.

  • DJRippert

    The Republicans in Virginia are a running joke (and a bad one, at that).

    “Some of the proposed rules changes incorporated in the report of the Standing Committee on Rules were intended to open additional channels by which power in the RNC could flow more easily from the bottom up.”.


    However, in the state:

    1. Republicans effectively shut out any “bottoms up” debate over the better candidate for governor by instituting a convention instead of a primary. Now, those same Republicans must deal with the distinct possibility that Bill Bolling will run as an independent. Not only was this contrary to letting power flow “from the bottom up” it was politically stupid.

    2. Yesterday, Virginia’s Republicans used the absence of a state senator to railroad a redistricting bill through the senate without any adequate level of citizen input or political debate. Their own lieutenant governor did not support the bill and would have voted against it in the event of a tie. This is hardly an example of “bottoms up” governance.

    3. Earlier in the General Assembly session a group of Republicans used the power of their committee to block further discussion of a measure to implement somewhat stricter gun control laws in Virginia. These Republicans apparently weren’t interested in having the full senate debate and vote on the measure. Why? Because Virginians from Northern Virginia might have had some very terse questions for any representatives from NoVa who think civilians should have unfettered access to unlimited round magazines. Forced to vote on the measure, Northern Virginia Republicans would have to decide between allegiance to their constituents and allegiance to their party. Better that they not vote. That’s not exactly transparent or “bottoms up” empowerment.

    4. Also in the GA session to date, a group of Republicans blocked a bill that would allow localities to adopt laws limiting the use of large magazines in guns. Once again, the measure was killed in committee rather than brought forward for a full vote. This time, the rural Republicans on the committee decided that the full GA should not vote on whether localities should have the right to limit things like large magazines. Not exactly “bottoms up” there either.

    Don’t get me wrong. I campaigned for Reagan and voted for Romney. I am a reliable Republican at the national level. I used to be a Republican at the state level as well. However, the disgusting and disgraceful behavior of Virginia’s Republican state legislators have turned me into an independent leaning toward Democrats when it comes to state elections.

    This latest swimming pool of hogwash only proves that Virginia’s Republicans will say anything to get their way. The same people who demand “bottoms up” power at the national level do everything in their power to deny that same benefit in their home state.


    • Kevin Allen

      It is much easier for candidates to participate in conventions than primaries. Conventions cost less, are easier to get on the “ballot” and can be limited to only Republicans. Primaries tend to be dominated by the establishment. It is much easier for a grassroots, bottom-up effort to make a difference in a convention.

      Points 2-4 have nothing to do with the Republican Party — it has to do with General Assembly. There are all kinds of legislation that is defeated in committees and that is how the legislative process works. Do you really expect the legislature to vote on every single piece of legislation introduced?

      Sounds to me like you are just upset the Virginia legislature didn’t violate our 2nd amendment rights for self-defense.

      • DJRippert

        Your ever-so-clever convention will result in the Republicans nominating a candidate beloved by activists but scorned by “normal” Republicans who are sick and tired of right wing reactionaries addicted to ultra-conservative social policy. How many more elections do you have to lose before you figure that out?

        If the Republicans really want grassroot politics they should be willing to let critical legislation like gun control go to the full General Assembly for a vote. That way, every citizen would get to see how their representatives voted. Why is this hard? I could certainly accept the General Assembly’s committees blocking frivolous legislation in the name of efficiency. However, the gun control legislation was not frivolous. It was blocked in an anti-democratic move by a party that claims it wants transparency and a “bottoms up” flow of power. I call BS on both of those claims. Yes, the Democrats do the same thing. That’s not the point, Virginia’s Republicans want a “bottoms up” flow of power at the national level but can’t muster the courage to do the same at the state level.

        As for violating your “2nd amendment rights”, perhaps you should go back and re-read the Scalia opinion from the Heller case.

        “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. [United States v.] Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.”.

        It seems to me that Antonin Scalia left open the possibility or regulating “dangerous and unusual weapons” within the second amendment, Are semi-automatic rifles with 30 round magazines “dangerous and unusual weapons”? I don’t know. It would have been nice to hear the matter debated in the full Senate. What about 100 round magazines? You can order a 100 round C-Mag from the Beta Company for your AR-15 over the internet right now –

        Of course, to the five Virginia Senators who lacked the respect for Democracy required to pass this critical legislation onto the full chamber, Justice Scalia is just another wild eyed liberal.

    • Only responding to #1 here. You are mistaken to assume that a move to a convention from the previous choice of a primary was not in fact a boost to the grassroots and ordinary Republican voters. I concede that it appears counterintuitive that a convention is more “open” than a primary, but the fact is that the barriers to success in a primary are much, much higher than in a convention. This is why incumbents and designated “establishment candidates” (using that term loosely) almost always prefer a primary, and fear the accountability that might be exercised by the thousands of delegates from around the Commonwealth in attendance at a big statewide convention.

      A primary featuring one big name/big money candidate is a means of deterring opponents and depriving voters of meaningful choice. This is why Bolling pulled his strings to get a primary, and did it at an unprecedentedly early date (about 2 years in advance of the election). Many GOP activists (myself included) resent this kind of self-serving manipulation of the party apparatus, even when designed to benefit candidates we like. The fact that in Bolling’s case it was overturned is a testament to the kind of “bottom up” control the grassroots can have over RPV.

      • DJRippert

        I watched the Democrats hold a three way primary in 2009. No “big money candidate” dominated that primary. It was open, fair and accessible to all the voters in Virginia that cared to vote. I don’t want to be represented by delegates, I want to vote. Your explanation is great for insiders and activists but weak for the common man and woman. Of course, that’s a problem in perspective that plagues the Republican Party these days. Many, many independent minded Republicans would have voted for Bolling and not Cuccinelli. I know. I am one of them. But now I don’t have that chance.

        But just to be sure I understand – Creigh Deeds can successfully run in a competitive primary but Ken Cuccinelli cannot? Enough said. I’ll be voting for McAuliffe this fall unless Bolling decides to run as an independent.

        The RPV seems determined to commit suicide.

  • Thank you for fighting for the grassroots, Morton!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.