GUEST POST: Do the district conventions reflect what Oregon Republicans Want to be?

Posted on July 29, 2012 by


[5440 note: As promised, we are publishing this post from a Ron Paul supporter in response to the three part examination of the Oregon Conventions originally posted at the blog, The Whitestick Papers.]

Does what happened at the Oregon Republican Party (ORP) district conventions reflect the kind of party we can be proud to identify with? Signs that we would eventually have to even ask this question began to emerge even before these conventions convened. Allen Alley and those near him were making the rounds suggesting that too many PCPs planned to vote for a different set of people than his notion of who deserved to go to Tampa. Rumors were spread that a caucus of PCPs intended to cause chaos. Jeff Smith, has revealed what Team Alley planned to do about it: “Reports of delay tactics used in other states to manipulate the process there made us think they could happen here and a published deadline should limit any such effort by making it pointless.” This is corroborated by a July 3rd letter where Alley describes a “preparation meeting,” and he reminds his friends that in this select group they all “came to the conclusion that the Convention would in fact adjourn at 5:00 p.m.”

At 9:00am when these conventions convened, it became immediately clear that all the rumors were wrong. These PCPs did not engage in delaying tactics. These well mannered folks simply showed up to vote for like minded Republicans running for internal positions in their own party. They did not break any rules. They just turned out in what Jeff Smith claims was somewhere between 40%-45% of the credentialed voters at each convention, a controlling stake in any organizational election from a shareholders’ meeting to a school body deciding a homecoming queen.

Who are they? It would be a mistake to call them Ron Paul supporters, because they all understand that Dr. Paul’s campaign is over. Before the way they were treated at the district conventions, nearly all of them planned to vote for Mitt Romney in the general election. Was Romney their first choice? Of course not. Good luck finding a Republican that has been all Romney all the way. Because every campaign was brought to an end before Oregon held its primary, nearly everyone in that room voted for Mitt Romney in the primary, even the people being dismissively labeled “Ron Paul Supporters” by those who did not have the votes to get into Tampa legally. What they really are obviously is a new wave of Republican activists who were inspired by Ron Paul’s campaign, who are now taking this movement forward as the Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC).

The only thing they did wrong on June 23rd was win. After the first round of voting, something mysterious happened when the ORP leadership realized that none of their favored friends, donors, consultants, and power brokers had won. It suddenly became very slow and difficult for ORP officials to count the votes and report the results. For the rest of the day all the districts began repeatedly sitting, doing nothing for hours of down time, each being told that another district was the hold up, this information coming from the same folks who secretly preplanned to adjourn sharply at 5pm.
Public explanations from senior ORP officials for the delays have themselves been so easily falsifiable with the most rudimentary fact checking, that the smell of reasonable suspicion continued to get even fishier. Solomon Yue, Oregon’s RNC committeeman, has claimed the delays were caused by CD4 when publicly available video of its entire convention shows it was actually ahead of everyone else. During that long delay when ORP officials were taking stock of the first round of voting’s results, Yue claims CD4 should have voted on Electoral College candidates during the down time. The video evidence clearly shows that they not only did that, but CD4 elected their new district chair too, all before getting the results of the first round of voting. They were ahead not behind.

Jeff Smith has proffered the biggest whopper of them all. He has been claiming that CD2 delayed everyone else by three hours due to a projector bulb going out and a long lunch break. This being so very different from what actual CD2 attendees have told me, I probed Smith’s claim a bit. His final answer was that the bulb stalled them between 30 to 60 minutes, and “The lunch break was nearly 2 hours because the PCP were excused to go into local restaurants.” He was not there; he was chairing CD1 at the time. I am not saying he just made this up. Perhaps the person that did make it up was his source, but every person who actually was there that I have interviewed, including its Chair “Tiny” Robertson, has told me that CD2 had a shorter lunch than scheduled, on the premises, because its chairman was able to provide a complimentary lunch for them, financed by a local businessman. While it is the case a bulb went out at around 9:30am, Robertson skillfully had his local candidates give their live speeches while the projector was being fixed, losing no time at all. Between Fred Dayton and Tiny Robertson, it’s clear the ORP does have some effective leaders. But for Jeff Smith, who has been doing his best to defend the ORP leadership’s behavior that day, when basic fact checking gets this bad, it kind of makes one wonder. During these long mysteriously caused delays, Solomon Yue said on the Bill Post Radio show, that he was very busy taking calls from people who lost their election and in his words had their “feelings hurt.” What were these people, powerful enough to have Solomon Yue’s personal cell phone number, asking the ORP leadership to do about it?

With all of these obvious questions leading to an obvious answer, Allen Alley himself managed to boast live on the Bill Post Radio Show about what really happened in not so veiled terms. I have come to learn that Bill Post is probably the most important radio host in this state. While admittedly offering mostly commentary, his talented interviewing skills have a way of bringing out facts from his guests that they would never have offered to the main stream media. If you are not tuning in to his show, you are missing a lot of info that the major broadcasters miss. On July 10th, Post offered Alley a chance to explain what happened, and this is what he said: “We have a process that was designed many, many, many years ago um to select our delegates to the national convention. Usually rewarding the people that have really been good ah people who have supported the party and the party candidates um there’s some people that spent some time trying to figure out how that process works. Uh this has been something that has happened nationally you know in some cases electing people that were not loyal to the person they were pledged to. The way this works is that you pledge yourself to Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, or Paul and ah what I think happened is we went through our process and the process has integrity. Maybe some of the people who were trying to do some mischief with the process ah where not successful in doing that and ah they made a lot of noise but the bottom line was we followed our process, we got our delegates selected, we’re going to Tampa as a unified delegation. That’s what’s important. We’re going to vote our votes for the people the State of Oregon told us to vote for.”

Notice that Alley never mentions the delays. For him everything was executed properly; the “process” worked like it was supposed to in his view. These seats at the national convention are for “rewarding people” as if they are the Lincoln bedroom or something. What he dismisses as “people who were trying to do some mischief with the process” is of course really just PCPs electing someone other than whom Alley would like to reward, people whom, when they lost, had their feelings hurt. So after the delegate positions were voted on without his slate winning, somehow they managed to run out of time by 5pm, and Alley tried to shut these conventions down before the PCPs could vote on the alternates. But don’t worry, ORP officials chimed, the state executive committee has the power to fill them for you – “the process has integrity” indeed.

Opinion leaders with ties to Alley then tried to spin this event as the RLC trying to change the outcome of Oregon’s primary, but notice how that issue is an afterthought to Alley. He is fully confident that they are all “going to vote our votes for the people the State of Oregon told us to vote for” when it will be mostly RLC members doing the voting. The ORP executive committee appointed alternates, not delegates. Alternates don’t vote; the delegates do. Of course Alley should be confident all the delegates will honor their pledge, since those very people he claims sought mischief have been planning to vote for the candidate they are pledged to support all along. Indeed it has been nothing short of slander to suggest otherwise. The controversy surrounding these conventions has never really been about how the delegates will vote; it has been the question of whether or not some people are entitled to go to Tampa regardless of their ability to earn the PCP votes necessary to do so.

Let’s examine the “integrity” of this process a bit further. Under the rules, Alley did not have the power to order these conventions to adjourn at 5pm as he planned to do the day before they convened. Under the rules, he is only given the power to set the time and place they will convene not adjourn. Indeed he is given no power to set their agenda either. So Roberts Rules of Order requires the conventions to pass an agenda for it to be binding. Otherwise there is no agenda to which a motion calling for the orders of the day could be made. No convention passed the agenda that ORP officials handed out, so it was not binding in a way that would require a 2/3rds vote to extend past 5pm.

Let’s pretend for a moment they did. The agenda that was handed out did not even have a hard deadline. There was an asterisk next to 5pm reminding all PCPs that it was an approximate time. This oversight on Team Alley’s part was probably due to the use of a template from previous years where the ORP leadership had yet to contemplate the idea of shutting down the voting so they could appoint their friends instead.

Let’s also assume, for the sake of argument, that the variable time on the agenda was indeed a binding hard deadline. Even then it would not be a rule the way Allen Alley asserts, mandating each convention to adjourn. That is why Solomon Yue has distanced himself from Alley’s absurd position. On the Bill Post Radio Show when asked if Chairman Alley “had the right to adjourn the meeting at five o’clock.” Yue responded: “Actually Roberts Rules of Order governed this portion regarding a published deadline and it works like this: when you reach a published deadline every chairman in the Congressional District can adjourn the meeting. However, if you want the meeting to continue, a PCP, a participant in the meeting must move to extend, that’s the proper motion, move to extend. The presiding chairman must recognize the person that makes that motion and without hesitation and also without debate and call for a vote. It takes two-thirds of the body present to vote affirmative to count the motion.” This is exactly what happened in CD2 and CD4. The motion to extend was recognized and passed with well over 2/3rds of the vote. There was not enough interest to do so in CD1 and CD3.

In CD5 things got more interesting. Jeff Kubler, its chair, did not recognize any motions to extend. He simply declared his convention adjourned and left the building. His ORP liaison left soon thereafter in the confusion with the ballots. Under Roberts Rules of Order, which ORP convention rules make binding, the chair has to recognize a motion to extend or the adjournment is not valid. He is even required to pause and wait for it. Indeed Roberts is so adamant about this point, that it explicitly says if the chair simply failed to hear someone make the motion, he must reconvene the body: “If the chair learns, immediately after declaring the assembly adjourned, that a member seeking the floor for one of these purposes had risen and addressed the chair before the adjournment was declared, then, since the adjournment was improper and this breech was promptly noted, the chair must call the meeting back to order.” Jeff Kubler did no such thing, but since his convention was improperly adjourned and he left the building, his vice chair Marilyn Shannon, who saw the motions that Kubler did not recognize, became the chair and recognized one which passed overwhelmingly.

Supermajorities refused to adjourn, disregarding Alley’s unlawful orders to do so. Given that the RLC made up at most 45% of the PCPs, on their own they would not have even been able to vote down a simple motion to adjourn. But in three conventions more that 2/3rds voted to extend! In CD3 it was 42 to extend to 22 not to extend (two votes short of 2/3). This goes to show it was far more than the RLC whose votes were suppressed. There were Tea Party folks who smelled wrong doing and had their own slate. There were social conservatives who care very deeply about voting in a slate of delegates who will preserve the party’s pro-life plank. Given the role that Allen Alley played in watering down the social conservative language in our ORP platform, they were outraged at his coup too. This was not only about the RLC; this was Allen Alley’s blatant disregard for his own activist base, and probably the worst thing he could have possibly done during an election year.

The three districts that legally extended met the quorum necessary to cast valid votes for at large alternates. Neither the ORP bylaws nor the convention rules explicitly establish a quorum, thus Robert’s Rules of Order governs this matter too. Thankfully it is very clear: “In meetings of a convention, unless the bylaws of the organization provide otherwise, the quorum is a majority of the delegates who have been registered at the convention as in attendance, irrespective of whether some may have departed.” CD2, CD4, and CD5 as the registered PCPs “in attendance” cast legal votes for the at large alternates “irrespective of whether some may have departed.” Their votes needed to be counted. The at large alternates were not vacant positions to fill. The executive committee only had six vacancies to fill, the district alternates for CD1 and CD3.

These rules regarding adjournment and quorum are so clear that two new arguments have emerged to assert the invalidation of the legal votes that were cast on alternates. The very fact the ORP leadership has to make them further reveals what it has become under Allen Alley. First, it is now contended that since the votes cast for at large alternates, however valid, were done without knowing the results of the previous round of voting so as to take the winners’ names out, they cannot be counted. To assess the significant of this fact we must first ask, who broke this rule? It was the ORP leadership that failed to share the returns of the district delegate round of voting. The way in which the ORP state staff went on strike well before 5pm presents a glaring indication of the intentionality of all this. They had been “counting” the previous round for several hours. No reasonable person believes they did not have the tallies finished well before five. Then at five it was not like “awe shucks, sorry it’s taking so long guys but we’ll stay if you stay.”

Given Alley’s behavior before and after the conventions, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where every convention voted unanimously to finish their business but Team Alley still would have run for the hills with the hopes that the failure to remove winners’ names would invalidate the vote. Do Oregon Republicans want their party to be an organization where its staff cannot be relied on to do simply things like tally votes?

Since the rules do not even explicitly state that the votes will become invalid if the previous round’s winners’ names are not removed, perhaps a better question to ask is on what grounds does the ORP leadership have to even argue that the failure to remove these names hurt its slate’s chance to win? The only people penalized by the failure to remove these names is the caucus with THE WINNERS, and who was winning? The liberty slate. Who stood to benefit from not removing these names? The people who were losing, Alley’s “rewards” slate.

The other argument is similar but only regards CD5: since the ORP staff confiscated the ballot box, the votes were not sealed in it the way the rules require. So again the question is who broke the rule? And again it is not the PCPs at the convention. The ORP staff at CD5 had to violate a rule to create the condition where CD5 did not have its ballot box – that rule being 7.3: “At the time of adjournment, all ballot envelopes shall be placed in a box provided by the Oregon Republican Party, sealed and signed by both the outgoing and newly elected district chairman and delivered by the newly elected chairman to the Oregon Republican Party Chairman within seven (7) days.” The ballot box was taken from this convention before it adjourned. If this behavior is allowed to stand, there are all kinds of rules the ORP leadership can violate to invalidate the votes of its PCPs for the opportunity to appoint its own slate.
The greatest tragedy is that the ORP leadership even has to stoop to the level of arguing these last two points. Allen Alley has turned it into an organization that argues it can throw out its own PCPs’ votes if it itself taints those votes by violating a rule. My fellow Republicans with ties to Alley need to look themselves in the mirror and ask if that is what they want their party to be.

Since openly or privately everyone in the ORP knows what Alley did that day, he seems to have recently realized that his best defense to save his political future is to continue dividing the activist base, bringing up the same slander they were spreading before the conventions convened. Last Friday he doubled down on division, sending out an email with several documents attached to it, demonstrating what a low priority uniting his party to win state wide elections is to him compared to saving his own liberal skin.

In that email he tries to rhetorically ask: “Who benefits from messing with our process?” That’s a good question. Since Alley defined this process as a system that distributes rewards, I suppose he cannot even fathom how idealistic activists would value participation in national platform writing over rubbing shoulders with the powerful. Alley forgets it was the RLC and the other factions of activists who followed the rules that day. It was Mr. Alley that messed this convention up. How does he benefit? Just look at who was appointed. Alley could be leading a united party right now, but for something as trivial as distributing convention seats as a reward, he was willing to intentionally undermine his own party’s cohesion in the worst of all possible times.

Attached to Alley’s email is a forged message purporting to be from Ron Paul supporters in Alaska written in a way to make them sound like barbarians at the gate. The RLC in Oregon is so open sourced, why no intercepted messages from them? Let’s pretend they actually are barbarians in Alaska, given the fact that was not the case here in Oregon from 9am to 5pm on June 23rd, why continue warning about the Alaskans? Of course things have gotten rowdy since June 23rd, but that just begs the question why did Allen Alley go out of his way hit this beehive? Why did he pick a fight with his own party’s base?
The email also includes a memo addressed to “All Oregon Republican PCPs,” but in the ORP that Alley has created, it was not sent out to the more than 2,000 Republican PCPs in Oregon. Rather, just a couple hundred of those closest to Alley got this message written by Tim Smith that libelously claims the RLC candidates running for the office of bound delegate and alternate did so with the intent of not honoring their pledge. He goes further to continue spreading the rumor that they are being funded by George Soros and a Democratic PAC. Given the circles in which Smith and Alley float, perhaps it could be understood that it remains completely outside their imagination to grasp that people might passionately volunteer their time for a cause they actually believe in. They’re not in this for the money, the status, or the power. The Oregon Chapter of the RLC has about $140 in its bank account. They are not running TV ads; they are not an astroturf organization. This is the very grassroots energy the ORP has been in need of for a long time, and Team Alley is trying to paint them as the enemy to cover up the fact he made a terrible mistake. Republicans in Oregon need to take a good look at what Alley has done to their party and decide if that is what they want to be.

Eric Shierman lives in southwest Portland and is the author of A Brief History of Political Cultural Change.

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