New Leadership for RPI

The Republican Party of Iowa

The Republican Party of Iowa

Outgoing RPI chairman AJ Spiker’s  resignation takes effect upon the election of his successor at this Saturday’s State Central Committee meeting in Des Moines. The meeting will be held at RPI headquarters and is open to the public. The meeting starts with committee meetings at 10:00 am with the main event — the SCC meeting — beginning at 11:00 am.

While some of my colleagues on the SCC are calling for the election to be put off until after the state convention (and for Danny Carroll to act as chair but remain co-chair) it is clear to me that the same faction that elected Carroll co-chair has sufficient votes to hold an election for chair and co-chair this Saturday.

So far the only two announced candidates are: Danny Carroll for RPI Chair and Gopal Krishna for RPI Co-Chair. My prediction is that Carroll and Krishna will be the next leadership team at RPI. Even though they will likely both run unopposed — I will not cast a ballot for either one.

Outgoing RPI Chairman AJ Spiker speaks – ex cathedra

Chairman Spiker addressing the faithful

Outgoing RPI Chairman AJ Spiker addressing the faithful

Some readers may find this hard to believe but, outgoing RPI Chairman AJ Spiker and I have something in common. AJ is Catholic and knowing the man (I mean this as a compliment) most likely devout — I was raised Catholic. So, both of us know what it means to speak ex-cathedra.

Ex Cathedra literally means from the chair. In Catholicism, when a pope speaks ex cathedra, he is speaking from the chair, as the successor to Saint Peter, with the authority of the Magisterum, and in keeping with Apostolic succession. It is only when speaking thus, on matters of faith or morals that the pope is infallible. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.

This Sunday, outgoing RPI Chairman (I love the sound of that!!) AJ Spiker, had an op ed in the Des Moines Register calling for the legalization of medical marijuana. I should probably point out that though I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s — I have never smoked a joint. (I did smoke some dried banana leaves once at the urging of one of my cousins but it’s not the same.) Notice, I did not say that I did not inhale. Growing up around a bunch of hippies I have inhaled more than my share of second hand pot.

On the merits, regular readers of this blog may be surprised to learn that I am not a strong opponent of medical marijuana. I am not a proponent either, I really have not given the issue much thought. I suspect, that in my life I have taken prescription drugs with potential side effects much worse than those of weed. So, while I would not be as strident as outgoing RPI Chairman AJ Spiker, our opinions are not diametrically opposed.

The issue I have with outgoing RPI Chairman AJ Spiker, is that he thinks he is the Supreme Pontiff of the Republican Party of Iowa — not its chairman. One week before his resignation takes effect, Spiker has taken it upon himself to write an op ed piece in the largest circulation newspaper in the state extolling the virtues of medical marijuana. In addition, he has used the party’s social media persona to plug the opinion piece.

I have said before that one of the things outgoing RPI Chairman AJ Spiker has done well is focus more on issues. RPI has been very vocal on life, a gas tax, and the Second Amendment. All of these issues are prominent in our platform and the party has articulated the grassroots position as stated in the platform. The problem is that in this case (and others) he has taken a position not supported by the platform, a position contrary to that held by a majority of Iowa Republicans. It seems that Spiker believes that he is possessed of that Divine infallibility … and therefore such definitions of the RPI Chairman are of themselves … irreformable.

When outgoing RPI Chairman AJ Spiker and his faction took control of the party, they elected a chair and co-chair, they selected a finance chairman and replaced all of the RPI staff with people from their camp. He has been and continues to be absolutely tone deaf to any voices from outside his inner circle. No wonder he thinks himself infallible.

Outgoing RPI Chairman AJ Spiker … [[forgive me dear readers … I just had to say it one more time :)]]

On Delegates, Conventions and the Rules

delegatesThere is a storm brewing within the Republican Party of Iowa and over the selection of delegates to our District and State Conventions. This is nothing new, there was controversy in 2012 over District Delegates in Scott County (and others) and over National Delegates at our State Convention. In this particular case the center of the controversy is Polk County. Polk County has an unusual way of electing delegates to the District and State Convention.

As I understand it, in Polk County there is a  slate of At-Large Delegates (county party officers, elected officials, etc.) the remainder of the delegates are elected by (or from) their precincts. The controversial part is that the proposed slate of at large delegates included around 100 names. RPI Chairman AJ Spiker wrote ex-cathedra on this saying:

Conventions belong to the delegates. I am looking into allegations that campaigns may have instructed county parties to adopt specific rules that are designed to determine the election of district and state convention delegates. None of our candidates or duly elected delegates should have to fear disenfranchisement.
A.J. Spiker
Chairman, Republican Party of Iowa

With the possibility that the 3rd District Convention could nominate a US House candidate and that the State Convention could nominate a US Senate candidate (not to mention the fact that the State Convention will nominate a Lieutenant Governor candidate) the stakes could not be higher. The allegation is that campaigns are trying to game the system by encouraging counties to adopt rules and/or slates that are favorable to their candidate.

I see that Spiker is looking into these allegations. As a member of the Republican State Central Committee, I wonder what he is planning to do if he becomes convinced that these allegations are true. If there is substance to the allegations, I believe that these actions are both and unethical and improper — but, I do not believe they are illegal or violate any state law or RPI rules. By that I mean a campaign trying to influence a county party is not a violation of rule or law.

On the other hand, I think that the root of the problem is the way Polk (and other counties) elect delegates in the first place.

The Iowa Code (§43.97.3) defines one of the duties of the County Convention as to:

Elect delegates to the next ensuing regular state convention and to all district conventions of that year

Of course many will say, this is still an election, we just have a nominating committee.

According to Roberts Rules of Order, Newly Revised (11th Edition §46 pp.434-435) the report of the nomination committee is not something that is approved or amended. It is simply to place certain names into nomination. The section further states:

After the nominating committee has presented its report and before voting for the different offices takes place the chair must call for further nominations from the floor.

A nominating committee is certainly permissible but all it can do is nominate. Any nomination from the committee carries no more or less weight than a nomination from the floor.

I really do not mean to pick on Polk County here. They are not the only county whose practices fall outside of the rules. In fact these same comments apply to the way we have chosen at-large National Convention delegates in Iowa. I find it ironic that many of those who are claiming outrage over the situation in Polk County were supportive of or even complicit in the same kind of behavior that elected a national delegate slate at the 2012 State Convention.

There is plenty of blame to go around here. The Liberty Folk were only following a long tradition that my guys had established of using the nominating committee to let a small group of insiders control who got to attend the National Convention. I have written extensively on this topic before and I am not proud to say that I have been part of the cabal that selected delegates in the past. Shenanigans like this allow a small group of people to have inordinate influence over our party.

I am currently serving on a committee with SCC members Joel Kurtinitis, Kris Thiessen, and Mark Doland. The committee is chaired by National Comitteewoman Tamara Scott. We are charged with consideration of bylaw and constitutional changes to be submitted to the next SCC meeting and the state convention regarding the Caucus-to-Convention process.

I intend to propose an amendment clarifying how elections are to be run at every level in the Republican Party of Iowa. I would love to hear your input on this topic.


I am not really an NFL fan (I prefer the college game.) But I do watch the Superbowl and I enjoy watching the ads. I thought the best ad this year was Radio Shack — ‘The 80s called and they want their store back’. It was the best because it is true. Radio Shack is an outdated version of an outdated concept and will likely soon go the way of Montgomery Wards and Blockbuster Video.

The most controversial ad this year was not from GoDaddy instead it was from an advertising giant that has created some of the iconic ads (think Polar Bears) of Superbowls past. The ad was Coca-Cola’s ‘America’.

[By way of disclaimer, I am a Pepsi guy, I only drink Coke when I am in the Atlanta airport]

In this ad a number of young girls sing America the Beautiful, each singing a portion in a different language, over a video that jumps between iconic outdoor scenes and images representing a number of ethnic groups in the United States.

One of my favorite radio personalities, Jan Mickelson of WHO referred to the ad as

A beautifully done dose of toxic sludge. This is the intentional opposite of E pluribus unum, Latin for “Out of many, one” Coke is NOT it.

A number of my conservative friends and colleagues expressed outrage at the ad on their Facebook walls and Twitter feeds.

Unfortunately, I think that many of my conservative friends have let their anti illegal immigration zeal be mis-interpreted (or actually become) anti-immigrant. Before anyone accuses me of pulling a Chad Brown I am very much an immigration hawk. Had his campaign made it to the caucus, I would have voted for Tom Tancredo. I continue to oppose any form of amnesty for illegal aliens especially a path to citizenship. I believe that English must be the official language of the United States and the State of Iowa. However, I really like the ad. It is beautifully done as Jan Mickelson said, but I disagree that it is a dose of toxic sludge.

In fairness, I should probably point out that I am a child of immigrants. My mother is from Guam, a US territory. She is a US Citizen by birth but was not a US Citizen at birth. When she was born, before World War II, Guam was a Naval Protectorate of the United States and natives of Guam were without country. Unless they were naturalized, they did not hold United States (or any other citizenship.) The Guam Organic Act of 1950 made Guam a US territory. It also conferred US citizenship upon those born on the island after April 11, 1899. (BTW, that means my mother cannot run for president since she is not a natural-born citizen of the United States.

My father was not a US citizen. He was a permanent resident alien, here legally. He came to this country legally from Jamaica to attend the University of Wisconsin and retired after over forty years as a professor at UNI. I am not sure why he never bothered to become a US citizen. As an aside, I was born just over a year before Jamaica became independent. At the time of my birth my father was a British subject. He later became a Jamaican citizen and held a Jamaican passport. I guess that means if I run for president I might have a Ted Cruz problem. I wonder if I could claim dual citizenship (subjectship?) in the US and Great Britian? Having an EU passport would speed my time through the immigration lines when I work in Europe 🙂 Or, perhaps I can claim Jamaican citizenship. Unfortunately it is too late for me to try out for the Jamaican Bobsled Team for Sochi 🙁  It could’ve been me and Usain Bolt!

Both John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan referred to America as a city on a hill. Even in these difficult economic times, America, the land of freedom and opportunity, continues to attract immigrants from all over the world. As a nation, we need to embrace those who come here through the front door, those who obey our laws and want to become a part of America. One of the ways that America is special is the way we treat immigrants. Anyone can become an American. People like WHO’s Simon Conway, who come here legally and are naturalized, are Americans. By contrast, a foreigner can become a French citizen, but they will never be French.

[Aside: I know there will be some reading this who will immediately say, that it is arrogant to refer to ourselves as Americans — America is a continent, not a country. But America is a nickname for the United States of America, like calling a beloved grandmother ‘Nana’.]

So why am I not offended about hearing America the beautiful sung in different languages? Because we are out of many one (E pluribus unum). We ask immigrants to this country to adopt our language and culture but that does not mean that they completely give up theirs. Most of our great American cities have little Italy’s and Chinatowns. Last year I visited the three largest Polish cities in the world, Warsaw, Chicago and New York. Here in the upper Midwest you see the influence in food, culture and architecture of Czech, German and Scandinavian immigrants. I spend a lot of time on the West Coast with large Asian immigrant communities. Initially these communities have retained much of their native heritage including their language. Many of the old-timers, understandably, never became truly fluent in English. Subsequent generations typically assimilate very well. English is eventually their first language and over time many lose their ancestral languages all together.

I thought it was interesting to see the videos of the individual girls who did the singing on the video. All of them spoke perfect unaccented English (as perfect as any teen or tween girl’s English can be). What I saw was a group of American teenagers with beautiful voices who just happened to be a generation or so removed from their immigrant heritage singing respectfully of their homeland in the languages of their ancestors.

As an American, a conservative and a patriot, I am an immigration hawk, I believe that English must be our national language, I believe in American Exceptionalism, and I still believe that immigrants should be welcomed into our city on a hill.

A Brown Man reflects on White Santa

Brown Santa

The Author as ‘Brown Santa’

Last week Megyn Kelly of Fox News stepped into a controversy of her own making buy declaring that both Santa (Claus) and Jesus (Christ) were white. Kelly was referring to a column in Slate by Aisha Harris suggesting that Santa should be represented by a Penguin.

Kelly said:

For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white …

For the record, Kelly is white (and blond) and the author of this blog has occasionally referred to himself as:

One part yellow, two parts brown and on part black — which makes me at least as black as Barack

Our culture has become hypersensitive about race. One of the side-effects is that for white people (including white Hispanics) race has become the third rail of public discourse. Yet minorities are free to say whatever they want about race with almost no repercussions. So, while my cracker friend Steve can’t blog about this topic, for fear of being called racist — I can.

As I have mentioned in other posts, I grew up with out any really strong racial identity. My neighborhood was as integrated as any in Cedar Falls. Most of my neighbors were educated professionals like my parents, primarily engineers and college professors. I hate to admit it but I always thought of myself as being just like all my friends — white. It was interesting when in middle school my father took a sabbatical and we lived for three years on the island of Guam. My mother is from Guam and I am half Chammoro (2 parts brown). On Guam I was no longer a minority, I was now in the majority. Interestingly almost all of my friends were haoles (a sometimes derogative term for white people)  probably because of shared experiences.

As for Santa Claus, it is understandable that people want to adopt the mythology of their culture to fit their own ethnic identity. Santa Claus has a convoluted past. The Santa that we recognize in the United States seems to be an admixture of the Greek St Nicholas, and the German/Norse Wodin/Odin. Since Greece is a Mediterranean country St Nicholas would logically be Greek with Greek/Mediterranean features — probably dark skin and brown hair. So, Santa Claus looks like me — he’s probably my size as well!

However, as a brown-skinned person who has lived in a tropical climate I have trouble believing that any of my brown homies would voluntarily leave a Mediterranean climate and move to the North Pole. So even though I have more trouble identifying with the big guy I am absolutely sure that Santa must be white!

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) — Proposed RPI Rule Changes

rpiMost people in the computer industry are familiar with the acronym FUD. FUD stand for fear, uncertainty and doubt. It describes people’s natural reaction to change. Sometimes this reaction is justified other times it is not.

At this weekend’s quarterly State Central Committee meeting, there are two proposed rule changes that could have a significant effect on the operation of the Republican Party of Iowa in the future. The first is a proposed amendment to the RPI Constitution that would allow delegates to the state convention to elect the RPI chairman. The second is a proposed amendment to the RPI Bylaws that would place term limits on SCC members and prevent members from working on campaigns, being employed by PAC, or registering as lobbyists. Given the current climate withing our state party — I prefer to call it a family feud not a civil war — my phone is ringing off the hook and my inbox is filling up with different people explaining to me the real reason for these proposals. So far the most popular conspiracy theories seem to be (in no particular order):

  • This is an attempt by the Ron Paul faction to wrest control at the convention
  • This is an attempt to remove Tamara Scott and Monte Shaw who are both registered lobbyists
  • This is an attempt to force the establishment members of the SCC to vote against a proposal that is supported by the grassroots thus making them vulnerable to defeat at the district conventions
  • This is a racist attempt to remove the only non-white SCC members — Gopal Krishna and me. [OK, you got me — nobody actually suggested this, but since we would be the only two affected by the term limits — I thought I would use the opportunity to play the race card and the victim card!]

Setting the conspiracy theories aside, in this post I will discuss the merits of these proposals and I will share with you how I intend to vote on them (at least at this time). The full text of the proposals are online at

First I will address the Constitutional amendment. It was proposed by SCC member Mark Doland. The proposal has the following key points:

  1. The chair and co-chair will be elected by the delegates at the state convention
  2. The chair and co-chair will take office at the close of the state convention (SCC members already do)
  3. The chair or co-chair can only be removed by a 2/3 vote of the SCC for cause

Currently the chair and co-chair are elected by the SCC. I really like the idea of the convention electing these two officers. I am always in favor of more grassroots involvement. The main concern I have heard is that the grassroots would lack the requisite knowledge to select a chair and co-chair. While there may be some  merit to the argument — the SCC has  chosen both good and bad chairs and co-chairs in the past even with inside knowledge. I am sure the grassroots would do the same.

One of the issues I have with the proposal is that the chair and co-chair would take office at the end of the state convention. This would mean that every single election year we would replace the entire leadership of the party right when we should be preparing for the general election. On the other hand, given the contentious nature of our party — I am not sure that electing the leadership at convention in June then having the election cycle run by a lame duck is a good idea either. I like the idea — I could probably be persuaded on this point.

The biggest issue I have is the requirement for a 2/3 vote of the SCC to remove the chair or co-chair. At first I was OK with this but after hearing from a number of people I have flip-flopped. In my opinion requiring a super majority to remove the chair and co-chair puts too much unchecked power in the hands of the leadership. While I do not recall an SCC actually removing an officer. A few have resigned before the SCC had the chance to act. This accountability has served the party well over the years. I would be more supportive if the SCC could still remove officers by a majority vote

I also dislike the phrase for cause. It is even less clear than the phrase from the US Constitution — high crimes and misdemeanors. Now, I would hope that any time an SCC moved to remove an officer it would be for cause but unlike the constitution, this is a simple vote to remove not an impeachment or trial.

The bylaws proposal comes from SCC member David Cushman. Cushman’s proposal has several parts:

  1. Term limit of 3 consecutive terms for SCC members
  2. SCC members may not be employed by a PAC or campaign
  3. SCC members may not accept compensation or gifts from a PAC, campaign, elected office holder or registered lobbyist
  4. SCC members may not be registered lobbyists

I have never been a supporter of term limits on any level. The fact that only two of us on the SCC have served three or more consecutive terms, is proof that the will of grassroots is the most effective form of term limits. While I am not a supporter of term limits, I do not have really strong opposition either.

My position on the conflict of interest proposal is a little more nuanced. As an SCC member, I have campaigned on a platform of not endorsing candidates in a primary or caucus, not accepting any form of remuneration from any candidate or PAC, and not serving on the board of any organization whose primary purpose is to influence the government.  My reason is that I do not want even the appearance of conflict of interest in my service. On the other hand I have not really publicly advocated to hold others on the SCC to the same standard. Yes, I was involved in the failed constitutional amendment at the 2012 convention but it was put together by a large group of individuals and in my opinion over reached.

As a practical matter, the conflict of interest rule that I would heartily support is this:

No officer of the Republican Party of Iowa (including the Finance Chair and Legal Counsel) or member of the State Central Committee (including Iowa’s National Committeeman and National Committeewoman) shall be employed by a campaign during a primary or caucus

The restriction on compensation or gifts is fine but impractical without a little wordsmithing. I agree in principle, but I have a collection of hats, t-shirts, pens and notepads that I have received over the years and you would be hard pressed to suggest that they represent a conflict of interest. I could support a limit on gifts but I think that prohibiting campaign schwag is impractical and unnecessary.

The PACs and lobbyist restrictions are a little bit more complicated. I like the idea, but many of these organization also have 501(c)3’s as well as PACs and it would be in many cases simple to take an SCC member who is an employee of a PAC and make them instead an employee of the related 501(c)3. I agree with Cushman that there is potential for conflict of interest here.

Historically we have had examples of some who have navigated these waters gracefully and others who did not. For example I did not have a problem with former chair Kayne Robinson serving as NRA president. However, even though I was a Matt Strawn supporter, I felt his association with Strong America Now was unwise and hurt the party.

I am rambling again. I have been around long enough and spoken to enough activists in the Iowa GOP to believe that on Saturday, we could and should pass the much narrower, trimmed down alternative to the Cushman amendment that I propose above.

Even though I have pledged to hold myself to a much higher standard — I believe that such a decision should be made by the broadest cross section of our party’s grassroots — as a constitutional amendment at the state convention.





Ted Cruz, two legs and a wobbly stool

Ted Cruz at the Iowa GOP Reagan Dinner

Ted Cruz at the Iowa GOP Reagan Dinner

Last Friday, I had the chance to go to Des Moines and hear Texas Senator Ted Cruz speak at the Iowa GOP Reagan Dinner. I thought it was a good event overall. Kevin Hall over at had some commentary on the event in general and while I agree with much of what he wrote, I won’t repeat it here. My focus is on the keynote address and the featured speaker, Ted Cruz.

This was my first opportunity to hear Cruz speak in person. I have to say that I was impressed! Cruz was articulate, passionate and right on the issues. He is after all white hispanic and these days his people could use some love 🙂

I thought that Cruz did an admirable job addressing the elephant in the room. (Can I say that about a Republican event?) That is, he defended his epic 21 hour filibuster that resulted in the government shutdown. While many in the party have portrayed his actions as a failure, he argued that by motivating people and making them aware of the debacle that is Obamacare, we as a party won a victory. I am not sure that I fully agree, I think the truth is somewhere in between. I admire Cruz for taking a stand and leading in the fight, but if this was a victory I am not sure how many more victories we can stand. I still think it was a fight worth fighting, but as Napoleon said,

I may have lost the battle, but not the war.

Cruz is a very good speaker, he spoke clearly and passionately without notes. He wore a lapel mike so he could move about the platform and it made him seem closer to his audience — very effective. He managed to work some Texas street cred into his speech, even though his background is Harvard Law via Princeton, he managed to twice say a y’all. Though he couldn’t get too far away from his Ivy League education because in the same sentence he used the phrases: y’all’s help and fait accompli.

Cruz spoke passionately on two issues, growth and liberty. He suggested — and I agree! — that these are winning issues for Republicans. He even referred to Ronald Reagan’ three legged stool. My problem with Cruz is not what he said, rather it is what he did not say.

Growth and Liberty are only two legs of the stool. The third leg is Traditional Values, while I am not questioning the senators bona fides in this area, it was a notable omission in his remarks. Especially given that he was speaking to an Iowa GOP audience

In the Iowa GOP even many of the Liberty Folk especially those in positions of party leadership are doctrinaire social conservatives. One of the things that I think the party has done right under current leadership, is take a stand on the issues identified in the platform. Issues like life, marriage, educational choice and Second Amendment.  I find it puzzling that in a State where Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum were the previous caucus winners, that Cruz would not even mention social issues. I like Cruz, I like what he had to say about liberty and growth — I also want to hear about the third leg lest the stool topple over.

The thing I hate most about Politics

SCC Member Wes Enos

SCC Member Wes Enos

The thing I hate most about politics is that sometimes, you find yourself aligned with your adversaries and against your friends. I wish it were the case that the people I personally like were always on the same side of issues as me — unfortunately that is not the case.

I have watched the on-going saga of Kent Sorenson and the Bachmann campaign, the Paul campaign and the NICHE list from a distance. I really don’t know Sorenson, but as the evidence mounted, it began to look (at least to me) more and more like he had in fact at they very least violated Senate rules. So, when Sorenson resigned yesterday, I thought it was the right thing to do for the Senate caucus and the GOP. But, I still don’t know the man and I don’t really have a personal stake in his actions.

On the other hand I have served two terms on the State Central Committee with Wes Enos. Even though Wes and I have been on different sides of some battles at RPI (he voted for AJ’s first term) we have been on the same side (he voted against AJ’s current term) more often than not.

Today I learned that Wes resigned from his position as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Senate Republican Caucus under Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix. Wes had been a staffer on he Bachmann campaign and had publicly defended Sorenson against claims that he was paid to jump ship from the Bachmann campaign to the Paul campaign. I don’t have any insider information on whether Wes volunteered to resign or he was encouraged to resign but in the end I think it was a good move. The Senate Republican Caucus needs to be able to put this incident behind them and move on in preparation for the 2014 legislative session and the crucial 2014 midterm elections.

During the 2012 caucuses, Wes served simultaneously as a Bachmann staffer and SCC member. He was not the only one, RPI Chairman AJ Spiker, RPI Co-Chairman David Fischer and  RPI Finance Chairman Drew Ivers were all paid Ron Paul staffers while serving on the SCC. After 2012, Wes saw the light and pledged to not serve concurrently on the SCC and a primary or caucus campaign again.

I believe that current events have made it impossible for Wes to continue to effectively serve on the RPI State Central Committee. The appearance of impropriety in the Sorenson pay to play scandal and Wes’ proximity to the parties involved has become yet one more impediment to RPI doing it’s job and working to elect Republicans.

In light of these events I believe that it is time for Wes to step down from the SCC — not because I believe that he did anything wrong, but because I think his presence will become more and more of a distraction in the days ahead.

Wes, it has been a pleasure to serve with you and I wish you and yours the best. I hope you can put this unfortunate chapter behind you and move forward.

I Join a Battle I Fully Expect to Lose in a War I Can No Longer Ignore

Don Quixote de la Mancha

Picasso’s Don Quixote de la Mancha

On Friday, I called into the Simon Conway Show on WHO Radio and called for the resignation of RPI chairman AJ Spiker. Shortly after, during his guest spot on the show, fellow SCC member Jamie Johnson also called for AJ’s resignation.

As I suggest in the title of this post, I do not expect AJ to actually resign and I am certain that there are not enough votes to remove him from office. Even so, I can no longer sit by and ignore the damage being done to this party.

The Republican Party of Iowa is experiencing a crisis — a crisis of confidence. The current hot button  issue is the scheduling of the 2014 Republican State Convention and the potential for that convention to nominate the Republican candidate for US Senate.  The convention debacle is just the tip of the iceberg, my call for AJ’s resignation goes much deeper than the timing of the convention. Kevin Hall at the Iowa asked me for a quote on this for his weekly column and I said;

My call for AJ’s resignation or removal is not based on the moving of the convention date. Rather it is a general leadership style that is absolutely tone-deaf to any input from outside his inner circle. The convention date is just the latest in a string of such incidents.

Ultimately, we are going into 2014 with the rare opportunity to pick up a US Senate seat and the level of distrust between the leadership of RPI and the grassroots has never been higher. The convention date is just another example of AJ squandering an opportunity to at least consult with the governor, our senate candidates, or the newly formed District Executive Committees and get buy-in or form a consensus. Instead, by making the decision and doubling down in response to criticism, he has managed to further weaken our party and thus our candidates. AJ is not the only one to blame here but the stakes are too high to continue down this path. He needs to go.

RPI has always struggled to find a way to be relevant to the county central committees and activists across the state so this problem is not new. However, as I said in the quote above, the current administration has been absolutely tone-deaf to any input from outside its inner circle. As much as this current administration talks about the grassroots of the party, and we the people — at the end of the day it is really  all talk.

The convention date issue is a perfect example of the way AJ runs the party. Now, I have received some criticism for commenting on this issue because I did not attend the last SCC meeting. But even that is an example of AJ listening only to his inner circle. In July, an SCC member asked AJ, in an electronic forum for SCC members (OK, I admit it,  it was on Facebook) when the next SCC meeting was. Traditionally SCC meetings are scheduled a year in advance, but AJ had not done so. AJ replied that the meeting would be in September. I cleared my weekends in September waiting for the announcement. In mid August we were told to expect a meeting in two weeks. By that time, I had already scheduled to be on site at a client facility in California and I could not make it back in time for the meeting. In his note to the SCC, AJ said they were trying to make a September date work but there were conflicts. Maybe I’m not part of the inner circle on the SCC [and even if I were, I am pretty sure that I am not now :)] but AJ didn’t ask me if the August date had any conflicts. In fact it looks like he didn’t ask a lot of people because four SCC members could not attend due to longstanding prior commitments (one additional member did not attend due to a family emergency). Ultimately, what has turned out to be the most controversial SCC meeting in recent times was also the most poorly attended.

When AJ brought the date issue up to the SCC he brought it to the Organization Committee. The Organization Committee, headed up by Gopal Krishna, had not been given the proposal in advance but quickly agreed and sent it on to the full SCC. There has been some debate (and unfortunately some name-calling) about the SCC vote on the date, but the SCC passed the measure with no dissenting votes. Instead of informing the committee in advance and giving the SCC time to examine the proposal and perhaps seek input from the counties, AJ waited to the last minute and the committee went along with it. Now, I don’t think AJ did anything wrong here, he didn’t violate any rules — he just failed to give the SCC opportunity for any meaningful input in this decision — and it has come back to bite all of us.

Of course, If you have read this far, you probably now that when the decision was made to move the convention date, the governor, Senator Grassley and all of the declared US Senate candidates said that it was a bad idea. Apparently AJ had not gotten their input either. In fact even though the date change was in response to an interpretation of Iowa election law, he had not sought the advice of the Secretary of State’s office either.

As pressure began to mount from all sides to move the convention back to the June date, SCC member Joel Kurtinitis (an AJ supporter) requested that AJ call a meeting of the SCC, by teleconference, to discuss the matter. AJ told the SCC that he would be meeting with the Governor’s office and all the senate campaigns to discuss the issue. I thought that this was a good idea, better late than never. After a week passed, I seconded Joel’s request. In the end, AJ met with the interested parties, and RPI Legal Counsel William Talbot. Based on an opinion from Talbot, AJ ignored the wishes of the governor’s office and the candidates and unilaterally decided not to call and SCC meeting. Of course, he also ignored the requests that Joel and I had made for such a meeting. In the face of criticism, AJ’s response was to double down and become more entrenched in his position — even ignoring requests for input from the SCC.

After AJ’s announcement that he would not change the date, it became apparent that there were enough SCC members willing to sign on to a call for a meeting that it was going to happen with or without AJs blessing. And then Secretary of State Matt Schultz dropped a bombshell. Saying that,

no political party should use the excuse of the final date of the statewide canvass to determine the date of its special nominating convention. Furthermore, to state that it is necessary to hold a special nominating convention after the conclusion of the state canvass is not only misleading, it is false.

Finally, AJ called for a meeting of the SCC by teleconference scheduled for  Monday, September 23.

We have an historic opportunity to pick up a US Senate seat, we have an open US House seat and we need to win back a majority in the Iowa Senate. During these crucial times, instead of leading the party forward and preparing us for victory in 2014 — we find ourselves more divided than at any time in my memory. AJ has ignored any input from outside his inner circle. Rather than embrace the newly formed District Executive Committees and use them as an opportunity to build the party, he pushed back against their formation and challenged their legitimacy.

To be fair, the ills of the party, are not all AJ’s fault. But, as Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, he has not been part of the solution — he is a part of the problem. It is time for him to go.

It’s not about Valedictorians (or Drug Mules)

Ivaledictorian probably need to start this post with a disclaimer, I really am a conservative Republican. While it is well known that I was not a Ron Paul supporter, I have always had libertarian leanings (I opposed the Patriot Act, I think it is wrong for the NSA to spy on US citizens without cause, I believe we should not go to war without an explicit congressional declaration and I believe that Federal government lacks the authority to over rule state medicinal or recreational marijuana laws.) Like Congressman Steve King, I am also an immigration hawk — so much so that in 2008 I was a Tom Tancredo supporter (before he got tangled up in the National Popular Vote) In my previous post,

I expressed my displeasure with Congressman Steve King’s choice of words in opposing the Gang of Eight amnesty bill and the Dream Act. While I share his opposition, I believe that a side-effect of his use of such obviously loaded language is to take the focus off of the what both the congressman and I believe is the primary issue. The territorial integrity of the United States and the rule of law.

After talking about 130 pound drug mules with calves the size of cantaloupes, he said,

… until the folks that want to open the borders and grant this amnesty can define the difference between the innocent ones who have deep ties with American and those that have been … undermining our culture and civilization and profiting from criminal acts, until they can define that difference they should not advocate for amnesty for both good and evil …

When I heard the above statement from King, I was shocked!!! Did he really say that if you could separate the sheep from the goats that he would support amnesty? The interviewer then asked,

And how would you recommend separating the good from the bad

King’s response,

I suggested it can’t be done. But you can protect and preserve the rule of law. It is an essential pillar of American Exceptionalism and if we grant amnesty, to even a smaller component of this population of 11 million then what we have done is, we have set aside and destroyed the the rule of law …

At the end of the day, I agree with Steve King (at least on immigration — not on the NSA). This talk of drug mules and valedictorians is simply a red herring. I suspect that most illegals who entered as children are neither. Some will take advantage of the situation and become valedictorians, others will squander it and end up in our prisons. But these outliers do not form the basis of a rational argument.

I oppose any plan that under any circumstances grants citizenship to those who enter the country illegally.