Amending the Bylaws — Fourth in a Series on the Republican Party of Iowa

There is an amendment to the bylaws of the Republican Party of Iowa up for consideration at the Dec 8th meeting of the State Central Committee. The current constitution and bylaws are available on the party’s website. The bylaw change is being proposed by 2nd District SCC member Marcus Fedler.

The change is in response to some events that occurred during the 2012 primary campaign. During the primary, the House Majority Fund sent out some mailings in support of incumbents who had Republican primary challengers.

The problem that many people had (myself included) is that the House Majority Fund is run through RPI and the mailing said, Paid for by the Republican Party of Iowa. It certainly gave the appearance that the RPI, the state party, was picking sides in the primary.

To put in perspective, the House Majority Fund, and its sibling, the Senate Majority Fund, consist of monies raised by the House and Senate caucuses under their respective leaders. RPI comes into the picture because neither caucus is an independent political entity. RPI provides numerous services to the caucuses. Both funds have employees and these employees are employees of RPI. RPI handles all the paperwork and payroll for them. RPI provides office space, equipment, utilities, etc. The controversy occurred because the caucuses also use RPI’s mailing permit and mailings must include the disclaimer,Paid for by the Republican Party of Iowa. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen came to an SCC meeting to address the issue this summer. He and I spoke beforehand and I assured him that I did not want to hinder his ability to raise money and spend it as he saw fit to benefit his caucus. I reiterated that one of the tangible benefits that RPI provides is handling the paperwork, being the employer of record and managing the bank accounts, mailing and ethics filing for the caucuses. Significantly, we wanted to continue supporting the caucuses in these ways. The only stipulation would be that the caucuses could no longer use RPI’s disclaimer in support of a particular candidate in a contested primary.

Here is Fedler’s proposed amendment:

The Republican Party of Iowa shall not use any resources for the benefit of any Republican candidate in contested primary races. “Resources” includes but is not limited to; the use of Party funds obtained in any way; the use of the name “The Republican Party of Iowa” on mailers, emails, press releases, or any campaign materials of any kind; the use of nonprofit mail status; lists; or staff. This section shall not preclude any member of The Republican Party of Iowa from individually supporting candidates in Primary races.

I am in favor of the principle. The principle that RPI remain officially neutral in primaries. My view on SCC members publicly endorsing or working for primary candidates is well known. But I believe that the last sentence of this amendment is redundant. There is indeed nothing in this section that could be construed as preventing individual members from supporting or even accepting paid positions with candidates in primaries.

As a rules guy, I believe in simple clear language. When this amendment comes up for debate, I will be a supporter, but I will suggest the following alternative language:

The resources of the Republican Party of Iowa shall not be used to benefit any individual candidate in a contested primary.

In the current climate, I suspect that there will be some who believe that my proposal is an effort to weaken the amendment. That I am trying to set up a rule that would force the SCC to remove members who support candidates in primaries. There is no conspiracy here, I am on board with this amendment. I just believe in simple concise wording.

RPI Chairman — Third in a Series on the Republican Party of Iowa

During my tenure on the State Central Committee, I have come to understand that the single most important job an SCC member has is to elect a chairman for the Republican Party of Iowa. The party chairman appoints the Executive Director with the approval of the SCC. In the day to day life of the party, the SCC acts primarily as a board of directors, leaving the operation to the chairman and staff. The SCC is not typically involved in event planning, selecting speakers, press releases or other staff hires. In a year when we do not hold Terrace Hill, the chairman’s role is even more important, being viewed by those in the party and those outside as the public face of the Iowa GOP. The chairman is also our third representative to the Republican National Committee and plays an important role in maintaining Iowa’s First in the Nation Caucus.

Historically, the election of an RPI chairman has been conducted in secret, in smokey back rooms. It used to be done in such a way that no one outside the SCC knew who was running and even SCC members did not really know the result of the vote. Before I was on the SCC, the vote was taken in secret and the Vauditor (State Auditor David Vaudt) was asked to count the votes and announce the winner. The SCC would then move to declare the vote unanimous after the fact. When I ran for SCC I vowed that all of that would change, and it did. The 2008 Chairman’s race was unlike any other. At one point there were as many as eight declared candidates. Several candidates made direct appeals to the GOP rank and file. RPI held a public forum for candidates and a large number of supporters turned out for the vote. The vote was still by secret ballot but the results were made public immediately.

When Matt Strawn resigned, the SCC felt that it was important to select his replacement and get the new team up and running quickly. It was a unique situation and I hope it does not become a precedent. I hope we once again have an open and robust process with input from the grassroots of our party. So, if you want to have input in this process, lobby your SCC members (contact information here) or attend the December 8th or January 5th SCC meetings at RPI headquarters. We need to hear from you.

I just received official notice of the January 5th State Central meeting and the election of officers. (Chairman, Cochairman, Treasurer and Secretary) As of now, current chairman A.J. Spiker has not declared whether he will be seeking re-election. Cochairman Bill Schickel has indicated that he is a candidate for chairman. I have been on the receiving end of some quiet inquiries but no one else has made an announcement.

The Gods, the Mods, the Pauls and the Straw Poll — Second in a Series on the Republican Party of Iowa

I love the Iowa Straw Poll. For those of you who have never been, it is a great party-like atmosphere. Every time I go I run into political friends that I have not seen in some time. I almost always use the opportunity to bring some of my less politically active friends out for a fun day to talk politics and get to hear the candidates. I often describe the atmosphere as State Fair North. Unfortunately this week two of the top Republican leaders in the state, RPI Chaiman A.J. Spiker and Governor Terry Branstad have been in an all too public quarrel over the future of the Straw Poll.

The controversy started when Governor Brastad said to the Wall Street Journal:

I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness … it has been a great fundraiser for the party but I think its days are over.

In response, RPI Chairman A.J. Spiker described the move to The Daily Beast as:

… a continued effort to make sure that the political industry selects candidates rather than the grassroots …

In my previous post I noted that many viewed RPI’s donating money to every GOP legislative candidate as a way to funnel money to Ron Paul leaning candidates. In the case of the Straw Poll, many Ron Paul supporters (like Chairman Spiker who was a paid Ron Paul staffer) see this as a move to prevent Rand Paul from organizing effectively in Iowa for 2016 and letting the GOP establishment handpick the eventual nominee.

In both issues, funding legislative campaigns and the Straw Poll, I believe the rhetoric has gotten out of hand. Of course, this sort of factionalism within the Iowa GOP is nothing new — only the players have changed. Several years ago, I referred to the factions as the gods and the mods. You might say today that we still have the gods and the mods but now a third group, the pauls, are in the driver’s seat at RPI.

As an SCC member, I have been asked numerous times in the past few days where I stand on this issue. I think the fact that the past two GOP nominees skipped the straw poll is probably a good indicator that RPI should at least consider the viability of the Straw Poll going forward. Add to that the huge disconnect between both Michelle Bachmann’s 2011 Straw Poll win and her dismal performance in the Iowa Caucuses and one must really question whether the Straw Poll is relevant today.

When you look at the arguments for the Straw Poll in the media and on the blogs, mentally replace Straw Poll with Iowa Caucus and you will see they are exactly the same arguments. Yet, as the pauls constantly remind us, the Iowa Caucus is just a Straw Poll as well and their candidate worked for and ultimately won Iowa’s delegates. So why should Iowa have two straw polls? Historically both have served to narrow the field and other states have cried foul.

The Straw Poll has been a very effective fundraiser for the party, but as TheIowaRepublican points out the majority of those funds have been corporate funds that RPI could not use in campaigns. Back in the day, when every candidate showed up, the Straw Poll was an awesome event. I would still like to see some sort of statewide event that would put the GOP field in front of a wide cross section of Iowa Republicans, I just don’t know if the Staw Poll is till the right way to make this happen. I am not ready to get rid of the Straw Poll just yet, but I believe that all options should be on the table.

To put it in perspective, the Straw Poll won’t really be on the agenda until after the 2014 elections. This SCC may choose to weigh in on the issue but it will be the nexr SCC that ultimately decided the future of the Iowa Straw Poll.

In Defense of RPI — First in a Series on the Republican Party of Iowa

Even the most casual observer of Iowa GOP politics knows that the Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) is going through a time of turmoil. Anytime a party suffers defeat the way we did on November 6th, the soul-searching begins immediately and the finger-pointing soon follows. This process is natural and necessary and I hope our party will emerge stronger from it.

I was elected to a third term on the RPI State Central Committee by the newly formed 1st Congressional District. Therefore I am a party insider. Over the years I have been called many things but I would self-identify as a Christian conservative with libertarian leanings (I know some readers may disagree). But I can say, without argument, that I am not a part of the ruling coalition at RPI since I ran against the Liberty Slate for SCC and National Committeeman.

My good friends over at The Iowa Republican and Under The Golden Gnome

have been extremely critical of RPI and its leadership. I will be the first to admit that some of the criticism is valid (and applies to me as a member of the SCC) but some of it is not. In this first post in a series on RPI I will take a contrarian position and defend a much maligned action of RPI that I supported and would support again if given the opportunity.

When I received the agenda for the September SCC meeting, I read item 13 on the agenda:

At first I was opposed to this proposal. With an Iowa Senate majority seemingly within reach didn’t it make more sense to target this money to districts where a pickup was possible or the at very least where a struggling GOP incumbent might us it to retain their  seat? To say the least, I was skeptical. And if my recollection is correct, when this item came up for discussion, it was National Committeeman Scheffler who articulated the position that strategic targeting would be a wiser course of action.

Now, in this series of posts, I may distance myself from some RPI actions, but in this case I can not. I believe that many SCC members came to the meeting undecided on the issue, as did I. But in the end I spoke out strongly in favor of this expenditure and <modesty-off>I like to think that I persuaded a few people to vote for it.</modesty-off>

The reason I supported the proposal is that I have been a candidate (albeit for the non-partisan office of School Board) and I know what it is like to try and raise money, to get out and meet the public to knock on doors and make phone calls. And most of all I know what it is like to feel like you are in the fight alone. Now to the Iowa Legislature, I am a lifelong Iowan but have only lived in Cedar Rapids for about twenty years. For the majority of those twenty years and through three re-districtings, I have been represented by the same two Democrats, Rep. Todd Taylor and Sen. Wally Horn. My district is strongly Democrat but every election we try to fill the roster and challenge every seat and I have seen numerous Republicans run in my district only to be soundly defeated. Over the years I have tried to help these GOP challengers to one degree or another but each of us understanding that it was a Quixotic

battle.

I supported this proposal  as a  way to encourage every legislative candidate who made the effort to run under the GOP flag, realize that their party values and supports their effort. That they are doing a good work even if ultimately they do not prevail.

There are enough legitimate reasons to criticize RPI (and by that I mean us — I cannot exclude myself) but to suggest this was a stealth effort to funnel party money to Liberty candidates I believe misses the point. As I have stated publicly on this site, I did not support AJ for RPI chairman, but I like AJ personally and IMHO the poor fellow is damned if he do and damned if he don’t.