Illinois State GOP term limit “reform” looks like a scam

By DOUG E. IBENDAHL • August 9, 2018


“Remember folks, it’s a rigged system.” – Donald J. Trump on frequent occasions during the 2016 presidential campaign


No one has done more to wake Americans up about the rigged nature of politics than Donald Trump. He’s an expert because he’s been the prime target of a historic amount of rigging, both within the GOP and from outside.


Trump prevailed over multiple underhanded efforts by the failed GOP establishment to derail him during the Republican nominating process in 2016.


And we’re still learning the full scope of the disturbing lengths Hillary Clinton’s corrupt crew went in trying to stop Trump from capturing the White House. After rigging the Democratic Party nominating process against Bernie Sanders, Hillary’s lackeys kicked things up ten notches in their failed attempt to stop Trump.


While it may lack the intrigue and foreign collusion of the Hillary-camp-funded Russian dossier and ensuing deceiving of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in Illinois we have a situation where local yokel GOP officials have pulled a fast one on the Republican voters they are supposed to serve.


This may seem like small ball compared to other corruption out there, and it is, but it’s an example of the kind of pettiness and self-dealing that continues to keep the Republican Party from being a serious winning force in Illinois.


Seven years ago this month the Illinois Republican Party’s state central committee adopted what was purported to be a term limit reform at its quarterly meeting in Springfield. It was the meeting held on Republican Day at the State Fair.


The committee left the meeting and announced it was amending the State GOP’s bylaws to limit the term of a state central committeeman (and each deputy) to 8 consecutive years (2 terms).


Touted as a major reform, it was in truth just a tiny baby step. The true intent was clearly to try and hush the pesky rank-and-file who keep demanding real reform and accountability, such as giving Republicans back a direct vote for their representative on the state central committee.


But adopting term limits was something at least. (Each U.S. congressional district has one representative (plus one deputy) on the Illinois Republican Party’s state central committee, the State GOP’s senior governing board. Seven years ago there were 19 members but Illinois lost a congressional district since then in redistricting so now there are 18 members. If you’re a Republican voter in Illinois and you’ve never heard from your state central committeeman and have no idea who your person is, the list is here. But good luck trying to contact your state central committeeman because no phone number or even an email address is provided.)


However, it turns out State GOP officials couldn’t even be honest about the baby step.


Back in August 2011, State GOP officials told the media after their meeting that term limits would take effect in 2014, the next time all of the four-year positions would be up again. In other words, the clock on the 8-year limit wouldn’t start running until 2014, despite the fact some members had already been on the state central committee for decades.


I specifically remember thinking back then, well that’s typical, a reform that doesn’t even start for three years and long-time incumbents get a clean slate. But okay, at least it’s something.


Well if only that had been the case.


Despite what the public was promised, the clock didn’t start running in 2014. In truth the clock didn’t start running until THIS year, seven years after the “reform” was adopted!


Seriously, who does that? Who brags about a reform that doesn’t even start for seven years in the future?


Here is Article II.A.3 of the Illinois Republican Party’s bylaws (added in 2011):


Term limits. No member of the State Central Committee; deputy member of the State Central Committee; National Committeeman or Committeewoman; or State Chairman shall serve more than eight (8) consecutive years in the same office. This section is effective on January 1, 2015 but shall not apply to terms that are the result of vacancies or terms that have commenced prior to the effective date.


This is not some honest mistake or “scrivener’s error.” Someone knew exactly what they were doing. According to media reporting back in August 2011, the term limit reform only passed with 55% of the weighted vote of the committee. Obviously, some members didn’t support it and thought they would be cute by carving out an extra four years for themselves by writing the language in such a way that most Republicans in Illinois, being not so good on follow-up on anything, would never notice the dishonest game.


But you don’t have to be a lawyer to clearly see what’s going on in that bylaw section copied above. It would have been easy to make that section accurately reflect what the State GOP promised the public back in 2011, i.e. that the clock on the 8 years would start running in 2014. But instead, the provision was written to make the effective date January 1, 2015, several months after yet another term for the office had already commenced. By plugging in that effective date, someone knew it would delay the clock’s start until 2018. (Under the easily rigged system only the Illinois Republican Party uses, all members of the state central committee are chosen at county GOP conventions held 30 days after the spring GOP primary election every 4 years. In this case, that would have been April 2014, the date when the term limit clock should have started running if officials had been true to their word.)


As ridiculous as this whole thing is, there’s the potential for it to get more so. There’s actually nothing preventing the state central committee from simply amending its bylaws again and pushing the clock forward even more. In theory, the committee could keep the clock running forever by simply amending the effective date with a date further into the future any time it wants. Frankly I wouldn’t put it past some of them. No law is involved here. This term limit “reform” was all internal and totally relies on the honor system, and honor with this bunch seems to be in short supply.


Over the past few months I’ve asked around about this situation. I’ve talked to people in a position to know what happened and why, but everyone pleads ignorance. It’s obviously willful ignorance.


And that’s fine. There’s a simple resolution. The state central committee’s next quarterly meeting is next Wednesday, August 15, on Governor’s Day at the State Fair in Springfield. The right thing to do at the meeting would be to restore the term limit provision in the bylaws to reflect what the public was promised 7 years ago. The clock should have started running on term limits in April 2014, as promised. There are multiple members of the state central committee who should be serving out their final term right now, as we should be well into the fifth year of the 8-year limit where several of the members are concerned. This shouldn’t even be controversial. Not only would it correct a scam that’s been perpetuated on Republicans, but let’s face it, no one on that committee is really doing anything productive anyway.


Again, we’re only talking about a tiny baby step. But if the Illinois Republican Party and Bruce Rauner expect us all to keep pretending they aren’t headed for disaster in this state in November, it would be nice if they could at least demonstrate the competence to complete a baby step reform without the dishonest games.


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



Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.