Dirty Tricks at the Maine GOP Convention
Controversy continues from the Maine GOP Convention which occurred last weekend, including questions about whether the results – a massive delegate victory for Ron Paul – will be challenged by the Romney campaign.
I think the delegates elected will be the ones seated in Tampa. I haven’t yet seen any clear evidence (despite many rumors and claims) of any procedural problems significant enough to overturn the Results and if Mitt Romney or national Republicans make a challenge, it will only lead to less unity, not more, going into their premiere pre-election event. I expect Romney and Paul will make a quiet deal and that Paul, now having won pluralities in enough states to have his name entered into contention, will extract some significant considerations, including a prime speaking spot.
For the most part, what I saw in the convention coverage was the Ron Paul folks following the rules in a disciplined way and using party regulations and parliamentary procedures to their advantage. I’m not sure why anyone was surprised at their strength or their commitment, and I’m not sure why the result was considered a “take-over.” It was clear on caucus night, several months ago, that they had likely won a majority of convention delegates (despite their small margin of defeat on the presidential preference straw poll) and Paul himself talked openly about how they would use that advantage to elect their preferred national delegates.
It’s not like the Paul people in Maine are some kind of alien army. In fact, they are basically the same group that has had control of the Republican Party in Maine since the Tea Party takeover and the election of Paul LePage two years ago. Their delegate slate was headed by LePage himself, along with Tea Party leader and LePage advisor Pete “The Carpenter” Harring.
As for the legitimacy of the proceedings, even Maine GOP Chair Charlie Webster, lately the leading antagonists of the Ron Paul supporters, said that the votes were conducted properly and that the delegates should be seated. (Webster has his own problems following the convention, however, but those will have to be the subject of a separate post.)
There was some evidence of what could be considered dirty tricks at the convention, but not conducted by the Paul supporters.
According to a number of delegates who have posted videos and personal accounts online, certain individuals at the convention distributed stickers meant to mimic ones printed by the Paul camp which were meant to allow supporters of the Texas Congressman to vote for all their candidates at once. The imitation stickers swapped out the Paul delegates for a slate backing Romney. Gerald Weinand has some good background here.
At the same time, another slate list was also distributed which included a number of high-profile Paul supporters who were not running to be national delegates. These people were also nominated, against their wishes, on the convention floor.
The obvious intention of these two moves was to divide the Paul vote by introducing more pro-Paul candidates while at the same time attempting to trick some Paul supporters into voting for Romney’s people.
Two individuals have been identified as participating in this attempt to sow convention confusion. One is Maine House Majority Office Policy Aide David Sorensen, who reportedly nominated the fake Paul slate from the floor. Before and during the convention, Sorensen mocked the Paul people, who he termed “Ronulans,” on Twitter and implied that they believe conspiracy theories about the United Nations and black helicopters (which, to be fair, many of them do).
Paul supporters fault Sorensen both for engaging in a dirty trick and for taking precious convention time with his actions and making the entire event take longer, possibly costing the state party extra money in rental fees for the Civic Center.
“A lot of Republicans are making a fuss out of this, at least in Androscoggin County,” said Chris Dixon, a convention delegate who witnessed some of Sorensen’s actions and has written about them on Twitter and on a Ron Paul forum. “A bunch of us really want clarification on it, because here’s someone who’s directly employed by the party who’s doing a deliberate sabotage effort. He’s causing disarray for whatever reason and putting the Party on the hook for $20,000.”
Sorensen, reached for comment, repeatedly and pointedly refused to discuss any aspect of the convention, including the actions of which he is accused.
Another individual who was reportedly involved in what I will now call “Fake Slate Gate” is known only by what may be his first name – Charlie. This person, who was reportedly witnessed by multiple Paul supporters distributing the counterfeit Ron Paul slates while wearing a Paul sticker, hid his convention credentials and refused to reveal his identity despite being questioned multiple times, including on video. Maine Republicans who support Paul are still attempting to figure out who he is and have started a Twitter hashtag (#CharlieCheater) and distributed images (like the one attached to this post) looking for tips and even offering a monetary reward for information on his identity.