Choice of Martinez sparks GOP rebellion
By Ralph Z. Hallow
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
January 16, 2007
Rebellion is brewing among conservatives on the
Republican National Committee over President's Bush's
attempt to "impose" Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida as
"general chairman" of the party, who favors "amnesty"
for illegal aliens.
"I will be voting against Senator Martinez if he
is nominated for any chairmanship of the RNC," Tina
Benkiser, Texas Republican Party chairman, told The
Washington Times yesterday.
Bill Crocker, the elected national committeeman
from Texas, says that when the RNC convenes here
tomorrow, "Absolutely, I will vote against Martinez."
The conservatives -- one of whom accused the Bush
White House of "outsourcing" party leadership -- say
the general-chairman post does not exist under RNC
rules, which can be changed only at the party's
presidential nominating convention.
Unhappy committee members say that, in the past,
Republican presidents and RNC leaders have
successfully run roughshod over the rules, because the
RNC officer presiding over votes at committee meetings
have simply overruled points of order and other
objections from the floor, with no accredited
professional parliamentarians to exercise a check.
This time, the organizers of the rebellion say,
their strategy will rely in part on having a
parliamentarian present. And violations of Robert's
Rules of Order and of the RNC's written rules --
adopted at the 2004 Republican National Convention in
New York -- could result in legal challenges.
"I have also requested that the RNC employ the
services of an independent certified parliamentarian
to assure that breaches of the rules are avoided,"
North Dakota RNC member Curly Haugland said in a
letter sent to all RNC members yesterday. "And I trust
that my request will be honored due to the potential
need for numerous interpretations of the rules."
Mr. Bush has said he hopes the RNC will elect Mr.
Martinez as "honorary chairman" but that title has
changed, in Republican Party press releases and
conversations with RNC officials, to "general
Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, a Kentucky RNC member and
RNC treasurer, is expected to be elected as the
national chairman, with the responsibility of
day-to-day management of the committee.
"Every president has the prerogative of naming who
runs the national committee," Mr. Duncan told The
Washington Times. "The choice is determined by the
needs of the party at the time the selection is made."
Arguing precedent, proponents of the arrangement
point out that the RNC members went along with
President Reagan's desire in 1983 to have his friend,
Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt, voted in as general chairman,
even though the rules provided for no such office. The
RNC members at the same time elected Frank J.
Fahrenkopf Jr. -- an RNC member and chairman of the
Nevada Republican Party at the time -- as chairman.
But opponents say that 1983 precedent does not
justify another violation of the party's rules.
"I have a hard time understanding the logic," said RNC
member Randy Pullen, who is running for Arizona
Republican Party chairman in an election at the end of
this month. "Just because the RNC did something wrong
once before, somehow that justifies doing it again?"
Mr. Pullen pointed out that Mr. Martinez, who
served as Mr. Bush's secretary of Housing and Urban
Development before winning a Senate seat, is not an
RNC member. RNC rebels say the rules are clear that
the person who heads the committee must be a member of
"Outsourcing our leadership at this critical time
is not an option," Mr. Haugland said.
Organizers of the rebellion against the White
House domination of the RNC -- as well as other
members who haven't decided yet to join the planned
public showdown at the RNC's annual three-day winter
meeting -- say even before Mr. Martinez became an
issue, they expected difficulty in fundraising by the
national committee for the 2008 election cycle.
"Martinez aside, the simple fact that the GOP no
longer is in the majority in Congress is going to make
it more difficult to raise money," said Louisiana RNC
member Ross Little.
National committeemen willing to buck the White
House on the RNC chairmanship also cite as fundraising
obstacles the president's unpopularity, the conduct of
the Iraq war, as well as disillusionment caused by the
scandals, big spending and ineptitude of Republican
leadership in Washington.
The rebels say that electing Mr. Martinez as head
of the RNC would make raising money even more
difficult because of resentment by the party's
rank-and-file small donors over Mr. Martinez's
co-sponsorship of legislation to allow millions of
illegal aliens to become citizens.
"Martinez's support of [Arizona Sen. John]
McCain's immigration bill on amnesty for illegal
aliens is causing a lot of concern among our base,"
said Mr. Pullen. "I happen to know that people -- our
$25 and $35 donors -- are writing on the back of our
RNC solicitations for donations: 'When you close the
border to illegal aliens, we'll open our checkbooks.'
The Central Committee of the Republican Party in
the president's own state of Texas has passed a
resolution strongly urging the Texas Republican Party
chairman, Mrs. Benkiser, and the two other Texas RNC
members to vote against Mr. Martinez.