Help Donald Trump Un-Rig The Always Rigged Illinois GOP Convention

By DOUG IBENDAHL • April 24, 2016


Donald Trump has been doing a masterful job exposing the corrupt games being played by entrenched party insiders to thwart the will of Republican voters in multiple states.


I explained a few weeks ago that while most in the media spend all of their time echoing the same blind speculation about what will happen in July at the National Republican Convention in Cleveland, the real fight for delegates is going on right now in local and state conventions around the country. See: Why Local Conventions Are A Must Attend For Trump Backers.


The good news is Trump totally gets it. Owing in no small part I’m sure to his decades as a successful businessman, Trump understands transparency and organizational governance issues – such as the crucial importance of accountability to stakeholders – like no candidate I’ve ever seen.


You can see how appalled Trump is by the level of dishonesty and incompetence displayed in politics these days. He often mentions how it’s far worse than anything he witnessed from even the sleaziest Manhattan real estate players. You don’t realize how filthy the water truly is until you’re immersed in it. I well remember getting exactly the same wake-up call when I started volunteering in the party trenches two decades ago.


“Lyin’ Ted Cruz” isn’t just political shtick – it’s a name Trump coined out of genuine disgust at the unique level of shadiness you only find exhibited in career politicians and their lackeys.


Trump has been hitting the rigged system theme hard at all of his massive rallies this month. It’s a theme that resonates because he’s absolutely right, and voters know he’s right.



I can’t think of another Republican candidate in our lifetime who has been willing to take on the crooked Boss Hoggs like Trump. The Republican rank-and-file have never had a champion like him.


Trump’s backbone and willingness to speak truth to power is incredibly refreshing, so needed, and it’s easy to understand why Trump is winning most states by landslide margins across the country. Voters are sick-and-tired of milquetoast politicians (yes, I’m looking at you John “One State” Kasich) and the smartest voters are rewarding the only candidate in either party who is standing-up for the issues they care about.


Donald Trump is giving a voice not just to Republicans – but to all Americans who have never been listened to before.


Meanwhile it’s springtime in a presidential election year, and that means it’s also rigged convention season. And nowhere can you expect to find cronyism and corruption in full bloom like here in Illinois.


I’ve been attending Illinois Republican State Conventions since 2000. They’ve all been unbelievably rigged. And I say that as someone who was the State GOP’s lawyer at the time of my first one. No doubt I viewed things with rose-colored glasses back then, but I do think the rigging has gotten progressively worse. Much worse. Compared to the serious State GOP Chairman I served under many years ago, subsequent Chairs had zero interest in respecting the rank-and-file. I’m talking about Judy Baar Topinka, Andy McKenna – and perhaps the most notorious rigger of all, Pat Brady.


Tim Schneider is the current State GOP Chairman. I haven’t seen him in action enough to form an opinion. But I will say the lack of transparency thus far for this upcoming State Convention remains as shocking as ever. The State Party website doesn’t have a peep about how to become a state delegate to Peoria for example. Only the most basic logistical information is posted, plus a way for you to pay the $50 registration fee if you attend as a guest. You also have to pay the $50 registration fee if you’re there as a state delegate (unless your local GOP organization picks up the tab, which a few might). But this is another point that has some folks confused, judging by the emails I get.


The details I’ve shared come from my own experience and digging, and courtesy of a couple of good party officials who are on the inside. Yes, there are a few good ones out there.


So if the whole thing is always rigged, why do I still urge people to go and spend their hard earned money and precious time?


For the simple reason that we finally have a Republican at the national level who is standing-up for party reform and openness. Honest Republicans who want something better finally have an ally who is willing to fight for what’s right. Good Republicans have been fighting for reform in Illinois for years. But by and large the politicians and party officials who could easily have made overdue changes have slunk away – or they simply sold us out.


Trump and his supporters get it. This convention in Peoria CAN be different. It has the potential to be historic. But it depends entirely on good people getting there as delegates.


Donald Trump is standing up for us and for a better Republican Party. We can’t expect him to sort-out the nitty-gritty of our State Convention. That’s our job.


The least we can do is join ranks with the one candidate who is standing-up for us. Trump has done an outstanding job exposing the crookedness and rigging at the local level in other states. He’s brilliantly articulated the key theme of protecting real democracy and actual votes. Trump supporters now need to step-up and implement those themes here at home in Illinois.


In Illinois the single most important thing you can do right now is to become a delegate to the upcoming Republican State Convention in Peoria.


We all need to get to Peoria to defend Trump’s big win in Illinois last month. There is much we can all do to prevent the poaching of National Convention delegates which has occurred in other states.


At stake in Peoria are 12 At-Large Delegates to the National Convention in Cleveland. Most of the national delegates were chosen in a real election as part of the Primary last month. Trump of course won a majority of those statewide. It’s safe to say those folks aren’t going anywhere. People elected as Trump national delegates will stay with Trump no matter what.


It’s those remaining 12 At-Large Delegates we have to worry about. The State Party adopted a rule in September which says that ALL 12 HAVE TO vote in Cleveland for the candidate who received the most votes statewide. No doubt when that rule was adopted some of the bosses were assuming that person would be Jeb Bush. But fortunately it turned out to be Donald Trump and now the party has to respect that rule. That much is in stone.


But the rule only binds those 12 to Trump on the first ballot in Cleveland.


Trump supporters need to get to Peoria to demand that the 12 persons chosen be TRUE Trump supporters. Trump deserves delegates who will be as strongly for him on the tenth ballot as the first, if it came to that. That’s not only reasonable, it’s exactly consistent with the rules adopted by our State Party. The mucky-mucks are the ones who decided Illinois would be winner-take-all for the At-Large Delegates. They shouldn’t be permitted to back-track now.


We all know that if Jeb Bush had won the statewide vote they would all be saying “well of course all 12 should be hard-core Jeb supporters.”


Donald Trump and his campaign should name all 12 from Illinois. That’s my unsolicited advice. Assuming Trump does name a slate, those are the folks we need to be in Peoria to fight for.


I recently provided a lot of detail on the State Convention and how to be a state delegate there next month. See: How To Be A Delegate At The Illinois Republican STATE Convention.


The only update from that article is the county party conventions are now past. But even in counties where state law was followed and delegates were signed-up at the county convention, there are likely still state delegate spots left to be filled in your county. The linked article has contact information – but you may still have to do some digging on your own. Some county parties, like our state party, are poor on transparency. Trump supporters have to be persistent. Some officials are going to be less than helpful especially if they don’t know you personally. But this is too important to leave to the whims of local bosses. Donald Trump certainly wouldn’t be deterred by stonewalling.


Also keep in mind, each county can also send an equal number of ALTERNATE delegates to the State Convention. So as a fallback, ask about those. Some county chairmen may not volunteer that information.


If your county chairman (or in Cook, ward or township committeeman) says all of the spots are filled, then ask for the list of names of all of the state delegates AND alternates she or he slated for your county. Every Republican in your county has a right to those names.


If you vote Republican, you have a right to know who will be representing you at the Illinois Republican State Convention. That’s another fact many officials may not volunteer.


Donald Trump has broken the political mold for the better. A lot of local bosses need to get used to the fact that their worn-out habits have to change too.


Good luck and feel free to email me if you run into problems at:


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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