A growing movement of anti-Donald Trump delegates to the Republican National Convention in July announced their plan to raise funds to mount an anti-Trump campaign during the convention.
The group began with just a dozen delegates who oppose Trump but now boasts several hundred, according to the Washington Post. They hope to block Trump's nomination next month in Cleveland by changing party rules so delegates can vote however they want on the first ballot.
There had been previous fears that Trump wouldn't make it as the nominee if he didn't win on the first ballot because delegates aren't bound by their state's vote on the second ballot. Thus far, the effort is stacking up to be the most organized anti-Trump campaign yet. The last effort to dethrone the presumptive GOP nominee was the #NeverTrump attack, begun by online conservative activists. While it quickly gained support from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the campaign never took off and had little focus.
"As we carefully consider not only the presidential nominee but the rules of the convention, the platform of the Republican Party and the vice presidential nominee, remember that this is true reality TV – it is not entertainment," Regina Thomson, co-founder of the group now calling itself "Free the Delegates," said Sunday.
Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, however, insists that the delegates are bound by their party's primaries and caucuses on the first ballot.
"Mr. Priebus needs to understand that leadership has not answered the call of the most important people in the Republican Party and that’s the conservatives. We have always been there, we’ve endured a lot of one-way loyalty," said Dallas-based businessman Chris Eckstrom on a "Free the Delegates" conference call Sunday night. Eckstrom is a previous supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) but is now backing the efforts to disable Trump's candidacy at the convention.
"It’s now our time and our duty to say that this is a conservative platform in the Republican Party and we simply will not abandon it," Eckstrom continued.
A co-founder of the group said that she plans to propose adding the "conscience clause" to the convention's rules. Her hope is that there won't be any confusion about what delegates can and can't do, effectively ending any disputes.
Trump called any attempts to strip him of the nomination "totally illegal but also a rebuke of the millions of people who feel so strongly about what I am saying." Saturday, he even accused former challengers Jeb Bush and Cruz of leading the effort to undermine his legitimacy.
"I'm not sure I've ever been this disappointed," Cecil Stinemetz, a delegate from Iowa, said after receiving a strongly worded email from party leaders.
"I cannot in good conscience vote for him," Talmage Pearce, a GOP delegate from Arizona's Fifth Congressional District, said in an interview.