The Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee is scheduled to vote on some significant changes to its bylaws on Saturday that would dramatically affect the makeup of that committee. However, with less than a week to consider the pros and cons of the amendments, there appears to be no consensus among State Central Committee members, or county chairs, co-chairs and activists around the state, regarding these new rules.
The bylaws amendments, proposed by SCC member David Cushman, would set term limits for committee members, ban them from working for campaigns or PACs, prevent them from receiving compensation or gifts from a campaign, PAC, elected official or lobbyist, and would ban registered lobbyists from serving on the SCC.
If enacted, the amendments would disqualify several current members of the SCC. Gopal Krishna is serving his seventh term on the committee. Two other members, David Chung and Monte Shaw, are in their third terms. The proposed bylaw amendment prevents members from serving three consecutive terms. It does not provide language regarding non-consecutive terms.
At least two members of the SCC would be in violation of the bylaw amendments because they work for PAC. Joel Kurtinitis and Jeff Shipley work for the Liberty Iowa PAC. In fact, Shipley blasted out a fundraising email on Wednesday from his Liberty Iowa PAC email address that repeatedly referred to his status on the SCC. He also slammed some of the very same people he is supposed to represent as “moderate squishes” and “milquetoast Republicans”.
RNC National Committeewoman Tamara Scott might be barred from the SCC because she lobbies on behalf of The Family Leader and Concerned Women for America. SCC member Bob Anderson is running for the Iowa
House Senate. There is not specific language about running for office, but they could fall under the requirement that no one works for a campaign. There are likely others who would also be affected.
Jamie Johnson, a SCC member representing the Fourth District, opposes the term limits restriction and says banning campaign operatives from the committee would hurt Republicans’ at the ballot box.
“As often as possible, we want professionals who understand how campaigns work, what it means to get people elected, and how to defeat Democrats in an organized professional manner,” Johnson said Thursday during an interview on WHO Radio. “We do not want the SCC to be, for lack of a better word, a band of amateurs in the political process.”
Johnson believes that as long as the SCC member is working on a general election campaign, not a caucus or primary, it should be acceptable.
Fellow Fourth District representative Cody Hoefert believes the SCC should take its time deciding these issues and gather more input from activists around the state.
“I have encouraged folks to move to table to our next meeting, at least,” Hoefert said. “Then we can have the chance to do what they always talk about doing, reaching out to our grassroots folks in our districts for feedback. I have done that and can tell you that the feelings out there are very mixed. So, to have time to hear from lots of folks is a good thing and prevents the SCC or its members from stepping on a land mine, like we did with the state convention date change. If it is good policy it will shine both in the light and in the darkness and time will only strengthen folks desire for it.”
Ryan Frederick, the Adair County chairman and co-chair of the Third District Executive Committee, agrees the decision should be delayed.
“These are weighty subjects that need more than a week’s consideration,” Frederick said. “I’ve heard several good counterproposals that have been made in the last couple of days. But you’ve got to have a conversation that lasts more than a week.”
RPI Chairman A.J. Spiker has repeatedly said he wants to work with the District Executive Committees. Many people believe he and the rest of the SCC should take the time to listen to them on these issues.
“It’s a good idea as conservatives, as Republicans, to put it out there, get feedback from chairs and co-chairs across all 99 counties, as well as the people who put up the yard signs, and lick the envelopes and do the work county by county by county, and then come back later on…I think that things done in haste are usually done erroneously,” Jamie Johnson said.
There is already a longstanding plank in the RPI platform that prohibits SCC members and officers of the party from taking sides in primary elections. However that plank, 24:8, is often ignored. In fact, the current leaders of RPI, who often boast of standing up for the platform, are among the most egregious violators of this plank.
A proposed amendment to the RPI Constitution that would ban SCC members from working for campaigns or endorsing candidates during primaries failed during the 2012 state convention.
The Doland Amendment
The SCC is also expected to discuss an amendment to RPI’s Constitution that would change the way the chairman and co-chair are elected. The amendment, proposed by SCC member Mark Doland, places the decision in the hands of the state convention delegates.
Iowa Republicans around the state seem unsure on this proposal as well. Harrison County GOP Chairman Kip Murphy believes replacing the chairman in June, five months before Election Day, is unwise. Murphy suggests having the Republican State Council, which is mainly comprised of the chairs and co-chairs from each county, make the decision.
“This would add another layer of grassroots involvement and would enhance accountability and transparency,” Murphy said. “This group representing each county equally is the perfect compromise. The election should be held after April 1, following the general election. This allows for county party reorganization and also gives plenty of time for reflection on how the last election cycle went and time to prepare for the next.”
A Big Liberty Plot?
There are two things Iowa Republicans interested in Saturday’s proceedings should watch closely. If the Ron Paul wing of the SCC all votes in favor of the changes to the bylaws, it could be part of a deliberate political strategy to bolster their reelection hopes. Some of them are already laying the groundwork to campaign for another term.
They know their chances of getting reelected are growing dimmer due to extensive backlash of the manner in which they took over the party and some of their questionable decision-making.
It is possible the Ron Paul wing will vote as a bloc, as they almost always do. They could all vote in favor of these amendments, believing there is not enough support for them to pass. The amendments require support from 2/3 of the committee, meaning at least 12 votes.
There are seven voting members who backed Ron Paul. Chad Steenhoek, who says he supported Newt Gingrich in the caucus, consistently votes with the group, as does Mark Doland, who supported Michele Bachmann. That makes nine.
David Cushman, who suggested the bylaws changes, is part of that bloc. If the Paul wing all votes in favor of the changes, but the amendments fail, they could try to claim they were trying to do what was right, while others on the committee did not, and use that to win over activists in next year’s SCC elections.
Also, if there is a rush to vote on these proposed changes and a refusal to table the vote until a later date, we will know the fix is in.
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