GOP Bylaw Amendments: The Email

As I noted yesterday, Mike Collins sent out and extensive, detailed email late Monday night detailing the situation regarding some proposed amendments to the Bylaws of the Maryland Republican Party. First things first, let’s display Mike’s email. Then, in another post, I will come back with some analysis and comment (Crossposted):

Fellow Republicans:

This is a long explanation of some of the turmoil surrounding proposed changes to our By-Laws. This is important to all Republicans, and I urge you to read this email and the attached documents.

There has been a lot of chatter about proposed changes to the Maryland State Republican Party by-laws. In particular, there is some concern about a proposal to allow the party to give endorsements and material support to select candidates. In an email last week, the Executive Director characterized as ‘misleading’ comments that the changes would allow pre-primary endorsements.

In order to clarify the issues, I have attached several documents that were emailed out after the State Party convention. As you may recall, a member of the House of Delegates falsely accused me of sending confidential party information to the press. So I would like to call your attention to the Bylaws Committee Report that is marked “Confidential.” It was marked that way prior to the convention so its contents would not be shared before the convention with Republicans or others outside the Central Committee. It has subsequently been briefed in public and emailed out by John Flynn on May 21, 2007 to a large list, so privilege is no longer attached.

At present, there is no mechanism in our by-laws that allows the State Party to take sides in contested primaries. Any such support in prior elections was in violation of our policies and should have been addressed. But the proposed by-laws change does not prohibit endorsing candidates in a contested primary. It actually creates a mechanism where the Party can endorse candidates and provide material support to select candidates in contested primaries so long as .666 of the County Chairmen agree. This provision gives power to central committee chairmen outside our county to horse trade in smoke-filled rooms and decide which candidates to endorse and to whom to provide material support. Please read the proposed by-laws change and see how it can be used, not how it is being sold.

There are other by-laws proposals that are controversial as well. One would create an oath. As you will see from the by-laws, this oath is not defined, but appears in several locations in the proposed by-laws. Violation of this undefined oath carries penalties, including removal of Central Committee members. At present, our Clerk of Courts, Bob Duckworth swears in all newly elected members at the first convention. Despite this, there is a proposed by-laws change that would create an additional undefined oath. Again, chairman from outside our county would now have the authority to shape your elected Central Committee membership. Please read the proposals. Also read the comments from our Central Committee members.

There are provisions to remove members who support candidates against Republicans in contested elections. I personally like this provision, but it is getting a cool reception from folks who have supported non-Republicans over Republicans in the past.

There are other proposed changes as well which smack of a power-grab by 15 West Street. One proposal would allow the Chairman of the State Party to order up meetings of county central committees at his whim.

Another by-laws change would reduce financial oversight of the Executive Board, by allowing the Chairman to hire staff up without approval up to the highest levels done previously, regardless of changes in the financial or political climate. This is particularly sensitive, as our chairman hired five full-time staff members, with a payroll of more than a quarter million dollars, without the required prior approval of the Executive Board. The compensation of the Executive Director, who chaired the by-laws review committee, is directly effected by this change, and a conflict of interest is apparent.

One proposed by-laws change has been dubbed “The Brian Harlan Rule.” As you know, Brian Harlan owns the GOP Shoppe. He is very well thought of and was asked to stand for Second Vice Chairman of the party a couple years ago. The new by-laws change would prevent anybody from serving as an officer of the Maryland GOP if they receive remuneration for work on any campaigns. This by-laws change appears to target one person—Brian Harlan—to keep him out of the Party leadership.

There has been some muted discussion about developing a State and County party platform. This is coming from social conservatives who want to put abortion, gay marriage, and other divisive issues front and center in our party. At present, our Party stands on “I Am A Republican Because …”

I think it is appropriate that we have a party coalesced around the 90% of issues that unite us, rather than the 10% that divide us. Sadly, some would like to fight Republicans over the 10% issues where we are not in complete agreement. I think that is bad for our party. In addition to developing a social conservative party platform, there is an attempt by some to use the by-laws review to embed the social issues in the by-laws.

The Anne Arundel County Central Committee reviewed these proposed by-laws changes at our July meeting and submitted our comments to the State party. I have attached comments that Jerry Walker put in pdf format from our chatroom discussions. I have also added Debbie Belcher’s comments that she sent separately, and recently emailed to a wide audience.

The proposed by-laws changes are not some intramural game for the Central Committee. They are the rules that govern Republican Party politics, and they effect you. Please take a few moments to get acquainted with these proposals and voice your opinion. Again, if you have any questions on the by-laws, our public deliberations, or any other issue, please contact me directly.


Mike Collins
Republican State Central Committee
Of Anne Arundel County

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