By DOUG IBENDAHL • August 30, 2011
Blogger/gadfly Andrew Breitbart had a particularly foul piece of rubbish posted on his blog yesterday, purporting to weigh in on the Illinois Republican Party’s plan to change the way Presidential delegates are chosen in our state.
I’m quite certain Breitbart didn’t write the thing himself. But the buck stops with him because it’s on his site.
In fact there is no author listed, it was posted anonymously. I can certainly understand why no one would attach their name. I can’t remember the last time I read anything full of so much misinformation or so many inaccurate representations. The author should be embarrassed and so should Mr. Breitbart.
Guys, this isn’t a game. We’re talking about the way we’ll choose the person who might well become the next President of the United States.
Breitbart doesn’t even live in Illinois and to my knowledge has no real connection, beyond periodic pop-ins when he can collect a big speaking fee from individuals who apparently don’t get enough free exposure to his attention craving mug via television.
To weigh-in responsibly on this matter, one has to have reviewed, at a minimum, three documents: the Illinois Election Code; the RNC’s Rules; and the proposal considered by the Illinois GOP’s State Central Committee in secret, behind closed doors at their meeting on August 18th.
I’ve done all that. The article I published yesterday – IL GOP bosses push Presidential Delegate power grab – was my honest assessment of the law, the rules, and the politics.
The Breitbart blog piece reads like a clumsy attempt to muddy the waters, done on the fly after our Republican News Watch piece was published early yesterday. If the author studied even one of the required documents, I would be surprised.
It’s not my job to parse through gibberish written by an anonymous person with an obvious agenda, who clearly hasn’t done their homework. But I will point out a couple of glaring absurdities.
The Breitbart blog piece floats the notion that somehow delegates selected by our undemocratically selected State Central Committee – utilizing a plan discussed and adopted in secret behind closed doors – will somehow produce delegates more committed to the Presidential candidate(s).
Also, somehow Illinois is supposed to become a bigger player in the Presidential race because we take power away from the campaigns and supporters of the candidates – and hand it over to a committee of mostly failed insiders that 99.99% of Republican voters had zero say in choosing, and which usually meets in complete secrecy to conduct material business. And oh yeah, multiple members of that committee that will now be picking your Presidential delegates regularly contribute to liberal Chicago Democrats.
Gee, what could go wrong?
It’s all absurd on its face and it shows a complete lack of experience in politics, as well as total ignorance of the law and our party’s structure. The reason there is no energy for the Presidential race in Illinois right now is because all of the “leaders” are sitting around waiting to see who wins Illinois in March. The proposed change encourages that.
What the old guard wants is to take something nearly sacred like the selection of our Presidential nominee – and make it just another old school patronage play.
Here’s the way it will work if this change is adopted. Each of the 19 State Central Committeemen (actually there are only 18 right now because the controversy-plagued Craig Pesek still hasn’t been replaced after over four months) will each be allowed to pick half-a-dozen or so delegates and alternates. These will go to pals and to people the Central Committeeman wants to curry favor with. Most will almost certainly pick themselves for their first delegate slot.
This is what passes for “power” in our Illinois GOP. Very little has changed from the days of George Ryan.
It’s important to remember we’re talking about two separate proposed changes. The first requires the Illinois GOP to adopt proportionate allocation of delegates. The RNC is requiring every state to do that, so that’s not even an issue to quibble about. But it should be noted that the RNC allows each state some flexibility on the allocation rules. It should come as no surprise that our State Party is talking about adopting the most restrictive plan allowed by the RNC. Specifically, no candidate will qualify for any delegates from Illinois unless a minimum threshold of 20% of the vote is reached. Under the RNC’s rules, 20% is the highest that limit could be set. Our State GOP could have chosen a lower cut-off.
So we’ve got some bad news for you Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain. If you only get 19% of the vote in Illinois, you’ll be sending no delegates from Illinois to the big show in Tampa next August.
The other change – the bad one – is what I’ve been trying to sound the alarm about. Despite all of the misinformation and confusion that’s being deliberately sown, it’s actually easy to understand.
It’s simple: the Illinois GOP wants to get rid of the ability of the campaigns to select and run their own delegates that would be chosen by Republican voters. That power will now be transferred to the State Central Committee who will assign the delegates after the Illinois winner is determined in March. Oh sure, the proposal promises that the committee will “confer” or seek the advice of the applicable Presidential candidate regarding who he or she wants as representatives.
But at the end of the day, the choices would legally belong to the State Central Committee and no one else.
There’s one other major slimy thing in that Breitbart posting that I want to highlight. It’s the attempt to portray opposition to the power grab as some kind of Dan Rutherford lone conspiracy on behalf of Mitt Romney.
It’s incredibly insulting to anyone with more than two brain cells. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of Dan Rutherford, not at all. And I can’t stand Romney. In fact I think I’m one of the few people in this state who has gone on record that Perry is my candidate.
But I also give credit where credit is due, and Rutherford is right on this one. Granted he probably comes at it from a different angle than I do. He likely sees this Presidential race as a way to build his network for a 2014 race for Governor (which I would personally be opposed to by the way).
But that’s legitimate, even healthy politics. I think Rutherford is nearly as much of a shameless self-promoter as Andrew Breitbart. But Rutherford does know something about retail politics. No doubt he’s got a slate of Romney delegates ready to go. Supporters of the other candidates need to stop the whining and get up to speed. Putting delegate candidates on the street gathering signatures would be the single best way to help your candidate right now.
I also don’t like the liberal Democrat-style trick where one person is singled-out and tagged as the mastermind of a conspiracy, when you can’t argue on the merits.
It’s absurd to suggest that Rutherford is the only opponent of this power grab. I’ve been hearing from many, many Republicans, including County Chairmen, and they all see right through the scheme. Republicans who know the facts are outraged about what’s about to happen.
The only people I know who support taking the choice away from Republican voters and giving it to the undemocratically selected State Central Committee are the usual suspects. That would be certain members of the State Central itself and their most loyal lackeys who know their best chance of being a delegate and going to the big party in Tampa is via the power grab. Heaven forbid someone would be asked to take a chance by committing to a candidate and doing the work before the winner is declared.
Finally, I’ve noticed a couple of tea party types have fallen for the con. Well I’ve got news for you folks. Illinois is allocated a total of 69 delegates and 66 alternates for the Republican National Convention. If any tea partier honestly thinks the State Central Committee will have any of those spots reserved for you – then I’ve got a bridge to show you.
Sure, maybe there will be a couple of spots (count on them being alternate slots) given to the chief enablers – thirty pieces of silver given to a tea partier for betraying everything a tea partier supposedly represents.
My assumption is the change passes overwhelmingly when the State Central Committee next meets in secret (rumor is the teleconference is Thursday night). That’s based on the fact the State Central Committee will be voting to give themselves something extra, combined with each member’s knowledge they aren’t accountable to Republican voters in a real election.
Here’s the bottom line. Anyone who really thinks that this boss-picked State Central Committee is going to get together in secret behind closed doors and emerge with anything that is even remotely good for Republicans or our Party, I have just two more words for you: Alan Keyes.
Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.