Abuse of Power – RPT Style

The Republican Party of Texas (RPT) 2008 Convention was a study in the abuse of power by the chairman of our party. Unfortunately, this is a pattern.

The tendency first became apparent when she was the Rules Committee Chairman in 2002. A controversial rule was proposed by delegates who argued that the RPT had authority to, by rule, move the party to a closed primary. The delegates were frustrated with Democrats who were voting in our primary to influence the choice of our nominees. (Many will recognize this tactic with the tables turned as “Operation Chaos” promoted by Rush Limbaugh this year in the Democratic Primaries.) In spite of legal opinions supporting the right of political parties to take this action and two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Chairman Benkiser, after hours of discussion, ruled that the committee would not be allowed to vote on this issue. Her stated reason was that the proposal would be a violation of the Texas Election Code (TEC). When a motion to appeal the ruling of the chair was offered and seconded, the chair ruled that motion dilatory and refused to allow the will of the committee to be expressed by a vote.

Benkiser was later heard saying that she had just accomplished the “dirty work of the chairman.” Many believe the reason that a vote was not allowed to be taken was that there would have been at least twenty percent of the committee who supported the proposal – which would have resulted in a minority report to the convention floor for debate and final decision by the convention delegates. The Chairman of the RPT at that time did not want that to happen and therefore directed the committee chairman (Benkiser) along with the legal counsel and parlimentarian not to allow it.

Fast-forward to 2008. RPT Chairman Benkiser had Judge Rene Diaz do her “dirty work” in the credentials committee. Regarding the Nueces County debacle (See blog entries, Thrown Under the Bus and The Inconvenience of the Rule of Law.), RPT Chairman Benkiser defended the Nueces County Chairman (NCC) before the Thirteenth Court of Appeals in his bid to illegally withhold the minutes of the precinct conventions from those who held a rump convention.

Also, Diaz’ Credentials Committee (actually Diaz himself) ruled that the minority report of the committee concerning the Nueces County delegation was not really a minority report. Thus Chairman Benkiser, as the temporary chairman of the convention, ruled it out of order in the general sessions. Repeated attempts to allow the convention delegates to hear the issue from the temporary credentials committee and make the final determination were rejected on Thursday and again on Friday. Just as in 2002, although the delegates at the RPT State Convention are supposed to be the final authority for the establishing the rules, positions and officers of the party, Benkiser denied the delegates an opportunity to hear and make the decision for themselves. Judge Diaz, therefore, also did not present the Nueces County issue to the SREC. It had been “resolved,” he told them. In the end, the delegates of the Convention were neither allowed to hear the facts of that case nor to voice their opinion by voting on it.

Paul Perry lost his last minute bid to unseat Benkiser but gained a third of the vote (in spite of attempts by Benkiser forces to paint him as a liberal because of his support for Ron Paul in the Republican Primary, in spite of his 20 years as a conservative Republican party activist). There appeared to be a clear understanding by most of the delegates that an abuse of power had taken place with regard to the Nueces County delegation at the hands of the credentials committee, but perhaps many did not perceive this to be the “dirty work” of Benkiser that it was.


  1. Anonymous says

    In this darkest hour for the Republican Party, there seems to be unique people with unique qualities popping up like Ron Paul and Tim Lambert to fill the gap.

    This reminds me so much like the Republican Party in 1976. If so, once we clean out the corruption, we will take off.

  2. Danya says

    We have no choice but to turn this Party around! I am baffled by how many times people cheered at the talk of getting rid of the TTC, how they cheered at Deb Medina’s work to rid the state of the ludicrous mandatory HPV vaccinations for 11 year old girls and yet they gave a standing ovation to the Governor who brought and pushed both ridiculous pieces of legislation to the state!

    Do we really forget that quickly that the HPV vaccine came from Executive Order of the Governor? Or that the state legislature passed a bill placing a moratorium on the TTC only to have this Governor veto it?

    If we are truly known by our fruit we need to be able to tell when it’s rotten instead of being mesmerized by the flash and pageantry.

    I believe this speaks to the outcome of the leadership elections. The majority of delegates were outraged at what they’ve been given but after enough choruses of the Theme from Rocky, they placidly held out their plates and asked for another serving!

    The redeeming lesson in all of this is in 2010 when we have strong leaders with moral fortitude, we can be assured of a win! These people will be led by the nose and follow along peacefully never asking themselves the hard questions that might cause them to have to think long enough to be 10 minutes late for dinner.

  3. timthsc says

    A fellow member of the rules committee in 2004 sent this correction and I post it here for clarification. I think this shows an additional abuse of power by Benkiser the Brutal.


    One bit of info you need to recall to be accurate is that in the 2002 Rules Committee, the big brouhaha with Tina was not over our closed primary rule # 44, but rather, over toughening language for Rule # 43. We never got to your/my proposed Rule 44 on the closed primary, because the ruling on legality of any rule conflicting with a state law had been made on the previous Rule 43.

    The temporary rules committee was so incensed by the action that the permanent rules committee subsequently passed rule changes stripping the state chairman of the right to appoint many of the temporary committee convention chairmen, and granting that power to the SREC. Ken Leonard (via Jeff Fisher) placed a letter on the chairs of all the delegates Saturday, referring to the proponents of those changes as the “Gang of Rule 44″, and the convention reversed all those changes.

    At least, that’s how I remember it.

  4. Anonymous says

    If someone would have taken the time to convey some of this problem with SD7, setting front and center, perhaps some support could have been had. Everyone sitting around me had no idea what was going on. The general thinking was that it was sour grapes from Ron Paul supporters. Generally speaking most of the group was 1st timers, or so it seemed.

    I agree with danya, we have not choice by to turn this Party around. Communication outside of the convention is a great place to start as in this blog.

    Thanks Tim.

  5. Grandma says

    I attended the State conv for the lst time this year.

    My first day (wed afternoon)there I was excited and hopeful (although dumbfounded about unnecessary police action that had just occurred.) I was proud to wear my red follow the rules shirt and happy to donate a few to others and promote them thru conversation. I tried to be helpful by placing some fliers on chairs in the main convention hall…being generally cheerful, polite, and enthusiastic…_

    I hated the corruption….absolutely. And that is discouraging.
    But the opportunities to serve and change our party give me hope. Many red shirts, many who want an inclusive, responsible leadership and party…….

    During the 2008 convention,there was a time on Friday, I believe, when our floor leaders and people who support of rule of law and principle were busy at the mikes.
    (And I am grateful for those brave attempts to expose the right and the truth!!) However, That left us (some of us) newbys alone and with Benkiser’s fasttalking style, and the general complexity of the issues, we didnt know what was going on, or how to vote (yell). It would have possibly made little difference , as we were WAY in the back, (SD12)and hard to hear from up front…if indeed Benkiser had “ears to hear” the truth of the vote or anything else, anyway.

    I say we keep working at turning this party around and dont give up no matter how bleak or corrupt. We have hope as long as we stay united in purpose and action.

    Speaking of which—-How many are going to “March” july 12, and Sept nat convention/RonPaul Rally???

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