More than 60 conservative leaders urged the Republican National Committee to undo party rules made last year at the national convention, charging the action was a power grab by the party elite at the expense of the grassroots.
The letter to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus cautioned against “allowing political consultants and other elite minorities to shed our principles in the name of political expediency.”
Signed by numerous well-known conservative activists such as Edwin Meese III, Gary Bauer, and Phyllis Schlafly, the letter urged the chairman to “undo the rules power grab done in Tampa.”
RNC officials disputed that the rule changes disenfranchised the grassroots.
“The chairman started in grassroots politics when he was 16 years old and believes grassroots conservatives are the center of our party,” RNC spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski told Newsmax.
“The RNC rule changes that were made at the convention strengthen the role of state parties and grassroots Republicans while allowing candidates to spend their time and energy campaigning for votes in the field,” Kukowski said.
Julie Borowski, policy analyst at FreedomWorks, told Newsmax that the RNC “used dirty tactics to pass a number of shameful rules changes at the Tampa convention.”
“All of these rules were designed to shut millions of grassroots activists out of the party process. We encourage the RNC to realize its past mistakes and reverse the power grab as soon as possible,” said Borowski. “The Republican Party should be a big tent that empowers delegates to choose the party’s nominee — not insiders in Washington.”
FreedomWorks — whose president, Matt Kibbe, is one of the letter’s signatories — warned conservatives about the rules last summer after the RNC announced the changes during the party’s presidential nominating convention in August.
Saying the Romney campaign and Republican Party leaders pulled off an “audacious coup,” FreedomWorks warned the new rules “could greatly reduce the influence of grassroots conservatives and libertarians within the party in 2016 and beyond.”
The rules move the “Republican Party away from being a party that is decentralized and bottom-up toward becoming one that is centralized and top-down,” FreedomWorks reported at the time, saying the changes “represent a blow to the Tea Party and the Ron Paul insurgency.”
The changes adopted by the RNC at the convention would empower its members to change rules between conventions, which the signers of the letter say would unfairly allow party insiders to play a greater role in the nominating process, while discouraging grassroots activists from participating.
The rules stripped state parties of their control over convention delegates and centralized control over the presidential nominating process, Breitbart’s Big Government reported.
“Many of the changes to the RNC rules adopted in Tampa may seem innocuous, but their effect would shorten the presidential primary and strengthen the position of any front-runner at the beginning of the contest,” Breitbart reported. “They would eliminate the proportional allocation of delegates in early primaries and limit the candidates whose names could be offered at the convention for the nomination.”
The group of conservatives are concerned the rules could open the door for campaigns to assert control over the delegate-selection process, and special interests could game the system to shape the national platform.
The group said the change centrally consolidates power in Washington, D.C., and alienates “the very people who have been the most loyal foot soldiers in support of Republican candidates,” they wrote to Priebus.
Craig Shirley, president and CEO of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs and one of the more than 60 signatories to the letter, said that the national Republican Party operates best when it takes a hands-off approach and allows states to determine their nominees.
“They get into trouble when they start to dictate policy,” Shirley told Newsmax.
Other signatories to the letter include Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; Erick Erickson, editor of RedState; and Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.
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