Blackwell to Levin: 'People in Opposition Were Yelling Louder' than Supporters of GOP Rules Change

By Pete Winn | August 29, 2012 | 6:12 PM EDT

Conservative leader Morton Blackwell (Photo courtesy of Leadership Institute)

( - Grassroots conservative Morton C. Blackwell said the Republican National Committee on Tuesday accepted changes to party rules pushed by nominee Mitt Romney that, for the first time in history, put the Republican Party leadership -- not the delegates -- in charge of the Republican Party.

The convention Tuesday accepted by voice vote a report of the Rules Committee that allows the Republican National Committee to approve changes to the rules between national conventions.

Blackwell talked with conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin about the change, on his Tuesday night broadcast.

“It’s probably the worst change in the rules that I’ve seen in 40 years,” Blackwell, a member of the Republican National Committee from Virginia and a long-time member of Rules Committee, explained.

“And that is because the Republican National Committee should not be the repository of that power, it should just be the national conventions.”

If the player does not load, please check that you are running the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

Blackwell said the Republican Party has always allowed rules changes only to be made by delegates at the convention, every four years.

No more -- now the party hierarchy can set the rules anytime, he said, with a three-quarters vote.

“The reality is that the chairman of the Republican National Committee has enormous power over the members – he has the power of the purse with respect to candidates and donations to state parties. And if he wants to change the rules now, in almost all circumstances now he’s going to be able to change the rules. That is not good,” Blackwell said.

Blackwell also told Levin that the rules changes came over the objection of conservatives – in fact, their objections were actually disregarded when the measure was put to a vote on the convention floor.

Blackwell said conservatives shouted their objections to the voice vote on the floor when the motion to accept the report of the rules committee came up -- and  there were as many people objecting and booing as supporting, when House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) gavelled the vote closed.

“There was a strong conservative minority, if you were watching the convention, when the rules committee report was presented, it was voted on by a voice vote and the people in opposition really were yelling louder than those who favored the adoption of the rules. And I’m sorry that is the case, but that’s the reality,” Blackwell said.

(Boehner, who was chairing the convention during the presentation of the Rules Committee report on Tuesday, told the crowd: “Without objection, the previous question [on accepting the report of the Rules Committee] is ordered. The question is on the adoption of the resolution. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed no. In the opinion of the chair the eye of the chair, the ayes have it. The resolution is adopted. Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid on the table.”)

Conservative radio host Mark Levin

Levin questioned Blackwell further about the claim. Here’s a transcript of their exchange:

Mark Levin: Couple of points: When the vote came up, Boehner was in charge, and as I watched, you said there were as many if not more people objecting to adopting the majority rules –

-- (Blackwell tries to interrupt)

Mark Levin: He [Boehner] called it unanimous – he said, 'Hearing no objections, the report is adopted.' He saw that there were objections and he overruled you by pretending there were no objections.

Morton C. Blackwell: Well the Virginia delegation is seated almost up on the stage, we’re in the very front row. The Virginia delegation was united in opposition to these rules and as you probably saw on national television, there (were) sustained boos and negative comments out there – and it continued, and it continued and it continued, and then, as they introduced to the convention our governor, Bob McDonnell and the Virginia delegation had to stop booing about the rules and start cheering for Gov. McDonnell.

Blackwell did not address whether it would have been possible for conservatives to mount a floor fight -- a minority “report” -- challenging the report, or the rule, or Boehner's ruling.

Conservatives did manage to change one Romney-backed rule change which would have allowed the party’s presidential nominee to “disavow” – or select – delegates to the convention, Blackwell said.

“There was a proposal that was at the last minute removed – and I mean literally in the last minute of the meeting of the Rules Committee today -- they had proposed and gotten passed a rule which would allow presidential candidates, as it was stated, to disavow and remove delegates who had been duly elected under the rules of state parties or state law.

“That was one bridge too far and there was so much resistance to it we were going to – we had sufficient numbers of the committee in the minority report that would have forced a public discussion and a vote on the floor of the convention on that and so that was withdrawn and the onerous parts of that were taken away,” he added.

Blackwell said unfortunately, the all-important question of who sets the policy for the Republican party – the leaders or the people – did pass, 78-14.

Levin, who is broadcasting from the convention in Tampa, said the rules change means that the Republican National Committee has gained power at the expense of the state parties-- "meaning the state legislatures, the people who vote for delegates, the people who run for delegate, the party system in the states.”

“I try to remind people, and have, that the whole point of the convention is for the states through the delegate process, that is the people, to decide on the nominee – not people who are installed at the RNC to decide on the nominee,”  Levin said.

The conservative radio host noted that the entire rules fight – to the extent it received media coverage at all – was “was not accurately covered on cable TV.”

“It was all treated as some kind of Ron Paul 'kook' revolt when I tried to explain, including (to) some of the anchor people, ‘No it’s not, this is Tea Party, it’s the conservsative movement, it’s constitutionalists, it’s the million of grassroots people speaking through their delegates,” Levin said.