Monday, January 14, 2013

The Oklahoma Republican Rules You Thought You Knew...

Updated - 9:20pm, 1/14/13 (see bottom of post)
   Oklahoma GOP Chairman, Matt Pinnell has lent his support to a long-needed initiative for improving the GOP Party Rules for the Sooner State. His committee selections are:

  • Lynn Windel
  • Richard Engle

The members are:

  • Sharon Burgin
  • Steve Byas
  • Steve Curry
  • Richard Engle
  • Steve Fair
  • Carolyn McLarty
  • Matt Pinnell
  • Pam Pollard
  • Lynn Windel
  • Michael McCutchin

  Several well known party members were hand-picked for this effort. Only one known Tulsa area representative was selected to join Pinnell for this ad-hoc committee. Many rural and OKC metro counties are well represented.

  The meetings are all held at the OKC state office and while they haven't been publicized in any meaningful way, they seem to be open to any state party member. There is even a mechanism for addressing the committee (at least they say they can).
  The committee has met monthly and started working thru 60+ ideas. Some of the ideas clearly contradict each other, and some are really minor issues. But some are very significant and may radically change how our state party operates. 
  The list of guiding principles that the committee hopes to be guided by are:
  1. Rules should reflect actual practice.
  2. Rules should be practical in application.
  3. Rules should avoid favoritism.
  4.  Rules should be enforceable and have consequences for violations thereof.
  5. Rules should avoid vagueness.
  6. Rules should be suited for the party as it is and in the desired majority status.
  7. Rules should create a positive framework for county and district organization for the greatest positive effect.
  8. Rules should respect the rights of minorities within the party.
  9. Rules should empower the average Republican.
  10. Rules must conform to National GOP rules as well as state and federal law.
  11. Rules should create a vision for the party’s future success.

   One of the most troubling proposals is an effort to make it harder to change bad rules in the future.  Currently, in order to even bring up a proposed change to the permanent State rules, a well-worded amendment must be successfully brought up for a vote of a county or district Republican convention. If a majority passes the amendment, it must be announced to all county chairmen, letting them know that the state convention will possibly vote on the amendment.
   In 1996, State Chairman Quinita Wiley just ignored an amendment of the 1st District. She received the certified letter 3 weeks before the convention, but said she didn't have time to notify the county chairmen, thereby defeating the amendment. As a result, the party continued to practice it's own affirmative-action quota system, for gender-specific party offices. It took 15 more years before the Oklahoma Republicans finally enacted part of the necessary reforms on party job quotas.
   In 2012, Matt Pinnell placed a Tulsa amendment proposal at the end of the convention agenda, then had the convention adjourn without recognizing the matter. Earlier in the day he added an unscheduled, unofficial  speaker who took up several precious minutes.
  Both times, the chairmen promised a future date for a full consideration of amendments, but nothing ever happened and the authors weren't even notified of and invited to speak for the initiatives.
  A new proposal will now require at least 4 separate counties all enacting the same call for a specific amendment with identical wording, in order for the State Central Committee to be required to cooperate with the rank & file initiative.
  I am outraged that this is even being proposed! What they are saying is that even if the three county conventions of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Cleveland  (which make up over half of all the Republicans in the state) all magically pass the exact same wording on the exact  same calendar year; it still wouldn't be enough to get even a hearing at the state convention.

    Another troubling initiative is an effort to give new powers to County Chairmen, to unilaterally grant delegate credentials to selected individuals who were not selected by their precinct committee at the precinct caucus.
    The potential for corruption is greatly enhanced by this idea, and the autonomy of the precinct is greatly diminished. Not only is this a violation of several current party rules, It effectively gives the County Chairman the power to throw the current precinct committee out of the party! 
   During the 2007 ice storms, the Tulsa County Chairman promised to give delegate status to anyone who sent her an email request. Precinct 110 was very troubled by this and chose to be represented by a Delegate/Alternate representation for the first time in modern history, just because they didn't want to make it any easier for the County Chairman to impose delegates on them that they didn't choose.

    Some want candidates for party  offices to have to declare their candidacy several days in advance. this can have some good reasons, but given the poor communications of most county and district organizations, it seems contrary to the ideals that are listed as guiding principles of the ad-hoc committee.

    I don't want to be all negative about this group, but they don't seem to be acting on the issues most needed. They do have calls for more openness, but they don't require that reports be posted on County, District, or State Websites. This ought to be considered the official publication process! 
    They do call for specific punishments for specific violations of party rules, but nothing has been specified yet.
    They do recommend doing away with the additional delegates to the state convention from Young Republicans Club; But they call for retaining the current additional delegates to the state convention from College Republicans Club.

     This committee's goals are lofty and admirable, but I have serious concerns that their actions may become an insult to those "guiding principles".
    The Next Scheduled meeting of this ad-hoc committee is 5pm, Feb. 5th, at the state GOP office. Call ahead to let them know you're planning to attend.
State Chairman, Matt Pinnell
    Chairman Matt Pinnell gave gave me a courtesy call to discuss the nature of some of the committee's work and purpose.
  •   He assured me that the language of the proposed amendment regarding becoming a delegate from a precinct will still require the precinct voting to include an absent member who previously contacted a precinct member and asked to have his name considered as a potential delegate.
       The intent was to allow a process of letting absent members stay in the party process at the will of the precinct's body.
    Only a precinct should be allowed to select it's own representation. He said some of the adopted language could be misleading, but he is trying to clear up the intent.
  •   Regarding the state amendment process, we still have some concerns. He fully understands that Tulsa is very under-represented in the standing state committee (only 1/77th of the delegation), but one day out of the year we and Oklahoma County have proportional voting power.
       He insists that allowing some rural county of 5 Republicans, meeting at a Pizza Hut and calling it a County Republican Convention, should not be allowed to take up 45 minutes of a state convention by themselves.
       I reminded him that the original proposal someone made was to require a percentage of the state's Republicans advancing an amendment to the state convention, not 4 counties of any size.
       Also, a district Convention would loose reform powers under the committee's adopted wording. A 10% threshold may be a much better bar to set for advancing reform ideas to the state convention.
    Matt said the original idea was that the ad-hoc committee was to circulate through the state and solicit reform ideas. He's not sure how well that is happening, but he was enthused that I had expressed so much  passion for reforming the organization.
    He personally invited me to come to the meeting on the 5th and said that anyone with a commitment to find better ideas is welcome to attend. On that matter, I'd recommend that if your idea is sent to them ahead of the meeting in an email, they will be better prepared to study your innovations and collaborate with you.
    On a side note; Matt said that state amendments that weren't properly considered at last May's state convention will automatically be added to this year's state convention agenda.
     The members of this committee are mostly from the OKC area and the I-35 South Corridor.
2 of he ad-hoc members currently serve no official county or state role.
Here's the map of their listed cities of residence:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. He fully understands that Tulsa is very under-represented in the standing state committee (only 1/77th of the delegation), but one day out of the year we and Oklahoma County have proportional voting power.

    This isn't entirely accurate. According to (current) state party rules, the State Committee is comprised of at least four members from each county (SCM, SCW, Chair, VC, for a total of 308 members from 77 counties), State Chair and VC, Chairs of the auxiliary clubs (OFRW, YRs, CRs, TARs, Minority Republican Coalition), NCM and NCW, GOP legislators (108 members), GOP statewide elected officials (11), GOP members of Congress (7), immediate past state chairman, and Congressional District chairs/VCs (10). This makes for a grand total of 454 possible members, unless I missed someone.

    I believe Tulsa has about 32 eligible members on the state committee (SCM, SCW, county chair/VC, CD1 VC, 22 state legislators, 2 statewide officials, 1 U.S. Rep, 1 U.S. Sen, state chairman) - about 7% of the committee, or roughly 5.5/77ths. Which I'm sure makes you Tulsans feel so much better. ;-)

    By the way, welcome to the blogosphere!