Rule changes pushed through by the Romney campaign that appear designed to prevent an insurgent candidacy like that of Ron Paul from mounting any meaningful challenge to the party establishment in the future are provoking a strong grassroots reaction.
One blogger at the website of the pro-Tea Party organization FreedomWorks complained on Sunday, "As you may know the Romney camp is pushing new rules that would strip grassroots activists of any meaningful ability to participate in presidential politics. The process has always been bottom-up, but Romney officials have rewritten the rules so that the nominee can stifle any dissent on the platform committee and even unseat delegates."
As described by Business Insider, the trouble began at a meeting of the Rules Committee on Friday, when leaders of the Romney campaign, led by lawyer Ben Ginsberg, forced through a series of changes designed to make it more difficult for insurgent candidates to win convention delegates..
"Make no mistake," the FreedomWorks piece complains, "this will weaken the process by which Republicans chose their candidate for president and push the grassroots out of the party process. ... Please locate the phone number of your State Republican Party Headquarters below, call them immediately, and tell them to oppose Romney's new rules."
According to Buzzfeed, Ginsberg had spent six hours successfully putting through his amendments, but when he proposed raising the threshold required for minority reports from 25% of a committee to 40%, the members rebelled.
"He is systematically trying to prevent minorities from having even any remote opportunity of being heard," longtime GOP operative Morton Blackwell objected. "This is wrong, it’s gonna hurt us, it’s gonna hurt our presidential candidate."
That particular amendment was withdrawn, to cheers from the committee, but the others stood. According to a source who described the meeting to Business Insider, "the saga ended with former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, the committee chair, hightailing it out of the building before committee members could submit dissenting minority opinions, or 'minority reports.'"
Maine state committeewoman Ashley Ryan told Business Insider that committee members had immediately drafted two minority reports objecting to the changes, but that Sununu's disappearance made it impossible to know whether they had reached him within the one-hour time limit needed for them to be accepted.
Ginsberg has had a bad reputation on the left for years, stemming from his role in the 2000 Florida recount, his service as legal counsel to the Swiftboat Veterans in 2004, and similar episodes. Now he may have made himself just as cordially disliked by the right.
Photo of Ben Ginsberg during the 2009 Norm Coleman recount by Chuck Olsen via Flickr