St. Charles Caucus HIJACKED - Response to The Blog Czar and Other ThingsSubmitted by brycesteinhoff on Thu, 03/22/2012 - 08:10
Available for sharing on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/notes/bryce-steinhoff/st-charles-cau...
There's a new article floating around on the interwebs that I feel should be addressed. It is my understanding that Eugene Dokes (or somebody posing as him, I suppose) endorsed this article as an accurate representation of the March 17 caucus. I feel that there are some blatant falsehoods within it that need to be countered and I'd like to address some other frivolous arguments as well.
First, I want to address a rumor I've heard that Robert's Rules of Order is merely a suggestion and that the central committee can't be held accountable based upon it. This isn't true as far as I can discern the truth to be. Here are a couple of good reasons for my conclusion:
1. The Missouri Republican State Committee bylaws (http://www.mogop.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/mrsc_bylaws_...) say that Robert's is applicable. Article XIII (Parliamentary Authority) Section 1 states "Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised, or the latest edition thereof, shall govern the MRSC in all instances where they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with these bylaws, Missouri Laws or the Constitution."
Article II (Organization and Objectives) Section 1 provides an explicit link between the state bylaws and the activities of the local committees: "The Missouri Republican State Committee, (MRSC), as established by RsMo §115.621 and 115.623, shall be the supreme governing body of the Missouri Republican Party. All other statutorily provided Republican political party organizations shall be subordinate to the MRSC."
2. The "Missouri Caucus Chairman's Guide" released on March 5, 2012 and the purpose of which is "to assist counties in planning for and carrying out the MO GOP caucus process", while it doesn't explicitly state that Robert's must be used at the local caucuses, quotes large sections of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th Edition.
3. The official agenda in the call to convention abides by Robert's Rules for Mass Meetings.
The "Robert's Rules don't apply" argument is a straw man aimed, in my opinion, at falsely exonerating the people that instigated the ruckus.
Now, on to the arguments presented in The Blog Czar's post. You can read the article here: http://theblogczar.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/the-raucous-cauc...
The Blog Czar
Contention 1: "7. No Recording Devices Allowed of Any Type"
The author of the post points out that the St. Charles County Republican Central Committee (hereinafter referred to as SCCRCC) posted on its website a list of what would and would not be allowed at the caucus. Indeed, they did do this. Number 7 was a rule that states "No Recording Devices Allowed of Any Type." The blog post makes maybe its biggest mistake when it states "...caucus organizer’s 'Caucus Information' point number 7 which was in effect automatically from the beginning of the caucus".
RONR (11th ed.), p. 543-533 describes the means by which a meeting of an unorganized group (a "mass meeting", as was our attempted caucus on March 17) may be called. Specifically, p. 546 describes the rules in place in a mass meeting. In short, there are no formal rules in the mass meeting except those which are defined by the organization's bylaws and the call to convention (published by the MO GOP). If it is desired that standing rules be adopted, the meeting may appoint a rules committee to do so in a similar manner to standing rules in a convention, described on p. 619-621.
Additionally, the Missouri Caucus Chairman's Guide, released by the MO GOP, states on p. 8 "when a caucus forms, it really has no governing authority over it (aside from the bylaws of the parent organization and that which is specified in the Call to Convention). When a caucus convenes, it is essentially its own boss and creates its own rules (within the confines of the Call to Convention).". This summarizes the effects of Robert's Rules of Order on the caucus body.
In summary, there simply are no rules governing the caucus body, save the bylaws, which define Robert's as the parliamentary authority, and the call to convention. The SCCRCC did not have the authority to impose standing rules, including the ban on recording devices, on the caucus body at any point. It is up to the caucus body to make the rules.
An interesting piece of information, to me, is the central committee's official explanation of the camera ban. They have stated that the reasoning behind it (which, by the way, was never provided prior to the caucus upon request) was that they wanted to make sure members maintained their privacy, as they do at election polls. This is farcical not only because the meeting was public to all Republicans in the county, but also because THEY PUT YOUR CANDIDATE PREFERENCE ON YOUR WRIST BAND. Pardon me while I slam my head against the wall.
The blog post also goes on to say that a set of proposed standing rules were disseminated prior to the caucus convening which stated that recording devices would be allowed and that this was the source of confusion. We (by we I mean body members representing multiple candidates) distributed these rules, which were clearly marked proposed, because we had reason to believe that we would be able to elect our chairman, Brent Stafford, who would then appoint a rules committee which would propose these rules to the body. We wanted to disseminate the information so that it could be reviewed by the body in advance. Regardless of our intentions or estimations, passing out our proposed rules was in no way breaking any rule. I do not doubt that it may have added to the confusion, but, well, this simply wasn't our fault (they were marked "proposed") nor our intention.
The blog post also points out that the ban on cameras should not have been a "big deal" since the rules committee appointed by a duly elected chairman could have proposed rules to overturn it. While it was our full intention to explicitly allow recording devices, the proposed rules, upon adoption, would have in no way overturned that rule since it simply did not already exist.
The points of order called at the outset of the caucus were indeed valid and necessary to prevent the temporary chairman, Eugene Dokes, from enforcing a rule which it had no authority to put in effect over the caucus body.
The Blog Czar
Contention 2: "The Caucus Agenda"
This one baffles my brain to pieces. The idea is posited that a false agenda was distributed along with the rules before the meeting began.
First, "the same caucus-goers" (i.e. myself and others) were not distributing any agenda whatsoever. The Blog Czar's images of the MO GOP agenda did indeed originate from the Ron Paul camp (as indicated by the highlighted key votes - I made those highlights myself), but the only time to my knowledge (I'm one of the campaign's county coordinators, FYI) that it was distributed was at a caucus training held weeks prior. If it was being distributed at the caucus, it was done so without our knowledge and not on a large scale.
Furthermore, the Paul camp-originating agenda posted on The Blog Czar is not a false agenda. That agenda is a template provided directly by the MO GOP for recording the outcome of votes. It is functionally identical to the formal agenda listed on p. 3 of the official call to convention (which, remember, is binding over the caucus body). This point is quite frankly insane.
Beyond all of that, the "official" agenda provided to the blog post's author by the caucus organizers is itself incorrect - it is inconsistent with that official agenda published in the call to convention. Specifically, it lists the platform business before the delegate/alternate selection, which is wrong, and makes no mention of delegates/alternates being selected to the state convention, but instead lists the selection of delegates/alternates to the congressional district conventions twice (the latter may be an oversight, but still).
Even if the agenda originating from the Paul camp did get circulated, which I have my doubts about, it would have only served to correctly guide the body back to the governing authority of the call to convention.
The Blog Czar
Contention 3: "The Rump Caucus"
This one is complicated, but I'll try to keep it brief. First, the term "rump" may not even well apply to what we did at any point, although I know that I personally along with others used the term in the midst of chaos. In reality, we were simply trying to reconvene a caucus which had not been properly adjourned.
In order to fully understand what went on, we must first look at why the caucus never ended properly. After the temporary chair fiasco involving appointments of parliamentarians and committees, then the illegal "election" (de-facto appointment if you ask me) of a chair, the room went haywire. The newly "elected" chairman, Matt Ehlen, entertained a motion to adjourn and a second, then proceeded with a voice vote, and immediately stated that the meeting was adjourned.
There is some discussion that this was in order because the motion to adjourn is a privileged motion which requires no second, is not debatable, and may be moved at any time. In my estimation, this is not the case in this scenario. According to RONR (11th ed.), p. 551-553, the motion to adjourn is not in order while business is pending if a previous motion to Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn had not been adopted. This is different for mass meetings than it is for ordinary societies, which is key to note. Only when there is no pending business can somebody call for this motion and even then it is not privileged because its adoption dissolves the assembly (i.e. there are no regularly scheduled meetings). It would be a main motion that can be debated and amended just as any other main motion. Robert's further substantiates that this is the case on p. 234 where it states that a motion to adjourn is privileged unless it meets one of three qualifications. The third of those qualifications says "When the effect of the motion to adjourn, if adopted, would be to dissolve the assembly with no provision for another meeting, as it usually the case in a mass meeting or the last meeting of a convention." This redundancy is cause to love and hate Robert's in my opinion, but I digress.
Since the motion to adjourn was out of order, it would have required a 2/3 vote to adopt. The adoption viva-voce by Ehlen was also met with calls for division. These calls are perfectly acceptable even on a motion to adjourn. RONR (11th ed.), p. 239-240 states that chair should pause before declaring the meeting adjourned. "The pause affords time for members to demand a division on the vote to adjourn..." This seems pretty dang clear to me now.
(Side note: I'm not sure that I described the adjournment problems correctly the day of in various interviews. Please pardon my temporary ignorance and, if I'm still incorrect, correct me.)
So, since the motion to adjourn entertained and adopted viva-voce by Ehlen was out of order, the caucus never did adjourn. At this point, Brent attempted to call the meeting back to order as is proper procedure. The Missouri Caucus Chairman's Guide even summarizes what to do in the event that the "Chairman Walks Out":
"Should the chairman walk out or otherwise vacate his duties with no intention of returning (e.g., declaring the meeting adjourned without the support of the assembly and leaving the premises), the body should proceed with declaring the chair vacant, as above, and—if the caucus secretary has not left—the secretary should preside during the election of the new chairman as previously outlined."
Hmm, that sure does sound a lot like what Brent attempted to do both in the gym (before we were threatened with arrest) and outside at the certified location (before Brent was actually arrested).
The blog post is so bold as to say: "More interesting is the fact that the assembly of a rump caucus was a contingency that certain parties had already planned for. This premeditation also seems to lend credibility to the suppositions of some that a minority of caucus-goers intentionally disrupted the caucus once it was determined by this minority group that it could not successfully commandeer the main caucus by other means. The range of possibilities seems to be that this minority group were well-practiced (scripted) or just very knowledgeable of the caucus process. It is apparent that they came modestly prepared (although they weren’t ready with pens and paper to record the attendees of the rump caucus) but, based on the outcome, were either thwarted by bad-luck, by the counter-measures of other parties, or by over-playing their hand or miscalculating the variables. Once again, this is an area in which you will have to draw your own conclusions."
I, for one, don't need to draw my own conclusion; I know exactly what happened: the chair vacated and we twice attempted to reconvene the caucus as defined by Robert's and the MO GOP-endorsed Missouri Caucus Chairman's Guide. There was no premeditation other than being familiar with what to do in the event that we got railroaded. There was no intention whatsoever for this to happen and that assertion is, quite honestly, offensive. We intended to play by the rules and what we got instead was a grand hijacking perpetrated by the ones trusted to run the caucus fairly.
There are other points of contention I hold that were not addressed by the blog post. Chief among these are the illegal "election" of Matt Ehlen as chair (nominations from the floor were ignored as were demands for divison) and the appointments made out of order by Eugene Dokes prior to the farcical chair election.
Given the evidence to support the hijacking, there are almost too many conclusions to draw while remaining sane. I'll try anyway:
1. We must hold another caucus by the rules and the central committee cannot organize or preside over it, even temporarily. Furthermore, the caucus on March 17 never adopted a credentials committee report, so restricting the body of the rescheduled caucus to those that attended on March 17 is not an option. On top of that logistical problem, it is unsure where the green sign-in sheets are or who could have manipulated them in the time that's passed.
2. Dokes and Spencer specifically must be held accountable, but we knew that already. We have substantial evidence from both Dokes and Spencer that they were working intentionally to permit only a pre-determined outcome to come to fruition - that delegates would be awarded proportionally. They must at the very least face immense public pressure and maybe even a federal investigation.
3. Given that the police were used to threaten a rightfully-convened caucus, I think that the police forces involved need to be investigated. Their actions had no concrete connection to keeping the peace, especially the two illegal arrests, and had a chilling effect on free political speech (on public property at that). The body was convened on property specifically rented and/or available for the very purpose it was - to hold a caucus in accordance with the call to convention. Force and unfounded charges aimed at specific people were used to prohibit this from happening. Pardon my abbreviated French, but WTF?
That's all I have for now. Party on my liberty-loving, rule-abiding friends.