It has often been said that Ron Paul’s supporters are the biggest detriment to his image. That perception gained steam this past weekend thanks to the unruly behavior of many Paul supporters during Iowa’s county GOP conventions. There were numerous attempts by non-delegates to crash conventions, usurp the authority of the chairs, and instigate battles over which delegates get selected to the district and state conventions.
Much of this behavior was inspired and encouraged by Ron Paul’s Iowa campaign, led by State Central Committee members Drew Ivers and David Fischer. Here is a portion of an email Ivers penned this week on behalf of the Paul campaign that was sent to activists all over the state:
“Remember, to get elected, the first key is to be aggressive so make sure you jump up as soon as nominations are open. If there are any votes, make sure you vote ONLY for Ron Paul supporters. A vote for anyone who is not a Ron Paul supporter could cost us seats at the District and State Conventions.”
While this strategy is perfectly acceptable for a campaign staffer to relay to supporters, it illustrates the clear conflict of interest for a State Central Committee member who is also employed by a campaign. Drew Ivers, who was elected by party activists, conspired against many of those same people to prevent them from becoming delegates based solely on the fact they did not support Ron Paul. This violation of Ivers’ duties to serve the Republican Party as a whole highlights the reasons campaign staffers should not be allowed to serve on the State Central Committee.
The most egregious examples of the Paul supporters usurping the process happened in Polk County. More than 20 of them made numerous attempts throughout the day to illegally become delegates. Iowa State Law is clear. Delegates are elected at precinct caucuses. Period. Despite being told numerous times that they were not allowed to become delegates because they were not elected, the attempts to crash the convention continued. Several of the Paul supporters argued their case with every Polk GOP official they could find.
“I think there was a coordinated effort to see if they could get somebody to tell them that they could be an alternate or delegate,” said Polk GOP Executive Director Ryan Keller. “We stayed consistent and told them the rules do not allow it. The credentials people had to turn the same people away two or three times. They would get denied, go to the back of the line and try again.”
These unelected attendees had substantial assistance in arguing their case, in the form of State Central Committee member David Fischer and state representative Kim Pearson. Fischer is the vice-chair for Ron Paul’s Iowa campaign. Pearson endorsed Paul for president. Several sources tell TheIowaRepublican.com that both Fischer and Pearson were openly advocating to Polk GOP officials that everyone who showed up at the convention be allowed to become delegates. Fischer should have been aware that is against the rules. He sits on the Polk GOP rules committee. Once again, a State Central Committee member blatantly displays the conflict of interest involved with working on a campaign.
But the attempts to crash the convention did not end with arguing their case. At least two Paul supporters tried to sneak in the back doors to get on the convention floor. More than one was caught rifling through the box of delegate packets, trying to find empty precincts where people did not show up so they could claim those seats. There were several attempts to sneak into the delegate seating area. Some used the packets and badges that were given to actual delegates earlier in the day, but left before the convention concluded.
Other issues included ballots disappearing out of delegates’ packets. Two different Polk GOP officials tell TheIowaRepublican.com they had to personally escort two or three people out of the building because of the repeated disruptions they caused. Most of this went unnoticed by the delegates inside the convention hall.
Some of the Paul supporters mistakenly believed that since they were elected to the Polk County GOP central committee that meant there were also delegates. They also claimed SCC member and Paul staffer David Fischer told them that was the case. Still, after being turned away, the protestations continued.
One Paul supporter who is on the central committee but was not an elected delegate interrupted the entire convention from the floor during the afternoon session. He also claimed he was an elected delegate, though the paperwork exists from each precinct caucus and his name is not on it. This disruption caused a delay of approximately 30 minutes as Polk GOP officials discussed the situation. Finally, he was rebuked. RNC National Committeewoman Kim Lehman spoke against seating any non-elected delegates.
“I think this is a very dangerous precedent to set,” Lehman said in opposition to allowing non-elected delegates. “Anybody can walk off the street and become a Republican delegate. We’ve already had these problems with same day election.”
Later, Lehman read the law verbatim from the Iowa State Code.
(Watch the saga play out in the three videos below this article)
The irony of the situation is that it is easier to become a delegate than it is to become a county central committee member. For all of the Paul campaign’s caucus trainings and braggadocious comments about their organization, some of their key supporters in Polk County apparently did not understand the process.
Several others simply did not care about the process and were determined to become delegates any way they could. Ryan Keller estimates that the attempts from Paul’s people to infiltrate the convention slowed the proceedings down by at least a couple of hours. The disruptions were part of the reason Polk County’s convention lasted a grueling 9 ½ hours, almost twice the time of similarly sized conventions such as Linn County.
Polk County was not the only GOP county convention that had problems with Ron Paul supporters. Pottawattamie, Johnson, Story, Scott and several other counties dealt with numerous disruptions. The Paul backers’ main bone of contention was the delegate slates for district and state conventions were not stacked in their favor.
One Scott County backer of the Texas congressman is threatening legal action against the party. Here is a portion of a mass email sent by Michael D. Elliott and obtained by TheIowaRepublican.com:
“I will be contacting the State Party regarding this matter, and if I feel like they will not move properly to address this matter in a timely fashion, I will be filing a lawsuit and injunction in our local district court against the local party. As I am also a Central Committeeman, in April, I will also be moving to enforce disciplinary actions against both the Chair of the local party and the chair of the nomination committee by having them removed from office for public misconduct of party and parliamentary rules and procedures.”
Elsewhere, the Paul backers led a revolt against one of the co-chairs in Story County, resulting in a vote of no confidence. Even worse was the behavior of a Paul supporter who interrupted Congressman Steve King’s speech at the beginning of the convention. The disrupter said it was “the peoples’ convention” and King and “all of these so-called dignitaries” should wait until the end of the convention to speak. Congressman King was likely trying to attend several county conventions on Saturday.
Ron Paul’s entire strategy for the presidential race is to secure the majority of delegates in states like Iowa that do not reward delegates until state conventions. Unable to win a single contest by an actual vote of the people, Paul hopes his ardent supporters will win the battle on the convention floor. In some cases, the strategy is to do this by any means necessary. Even in violation of state law. The drama resumes at the district conventions on April 21.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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