Politics

RNC to Discuss Mississippi Radio Ads

Members only discussion set for Chicago meeting.

By 7.29.14

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The Republican National Committee will take up the explosive subject of the race-card playing radio ads in the Mississippi Senate GOP run-off election between Senator Thad Cochran and Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel. The RNC is scheduled to hold its summer meeting in Chicago August 6-9 at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

The discussion, according to an RNC source, will occur on the morning of August 7 — behind closed doors — at the “Members Only” breakfast that runs between 8:00-9:30. There is no word whether RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, under pressure to investigate the ads, will then comment publicly on the discussion.

At the same time, the leading proponent of an investigation, Missouri State GOP Chair Ed Martin, was on the receiving end of an inquiry from a Priebus aide, Matt Pinnell, the RNC’s State Party Director. The question — put to the executive director of the Missouri State Party — was: When is the next election for Missouri State GOP Chair? In other words, Priebus appeared to be firing a warning shot at a duly elected RNC member that he would seek to remove that member at the next available election. Since the rules for electing state GOP chairmen are easily googled, the direct nature of the request appeared to be an unsubtle warning. Pinnell himself is a former state chairman of the Oklahoma GOP.

The uproar over the ads has continued in the conservative media and among leading conservative activists. On July 15, a number of long-time conservative activists wrote the following letter to RNC Chairman Priebus on the stationery of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, which reads, in part: 

We, the undersigned, write today to express our outrage at the actions of a member of the Republican National Committee, Mississippi National Committeeman Henry Barbour, and to respectfully insist that you create a committee to investigate questionable activities surrounding the June 24 Mississippi Republican Senate nomination runoff election; that the RNC repudiate any and all unethical and potentially illegal activities associated with the runoff election; and that you and your RNC colleagues formally censure or otherwise discipline the persons responsible for those actions. […]

According to media accounts and Federal Elections Commission reports, Mississippi Conservatives PAC, at Henry Barbour’s direction, hired both James “Scooby Doo” Warren and Mitzi Bickers, two well- known Democrat political operatives, to engage and turn out Democrats for the runoff, many of whom are believed to have voted illegally in the runoff.

This strategy is in violation of Rule 11(b) of the Rules of the Republican National Committee, which makes clear the Committee’s belief that Republican nomination contests should be decided by the votes of Republicans — and which goes so far as to declare that the Republican National Committee shall not recognize as the nominee of the Republican Party any nominee whose nomination results from a process in which voters who participated in the selection of a nominee of any other party also participated in the selection of the Republican nominee. […]

These race-baiting robo-calls, race-baiting radio ads, race-baiting fliers, allegations of blatant violations of Mississippi election law, improper financial transactions, and old-fashioned “walking around money,” all paid for by the Super PAC directed by Mississippi Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour, amount to nothing less than the character assassination of Sen. McDaniel and his supporters. It cannot be tolerated.

This is not how Republicans should run primary campaigns against other Republicans.

The Republican National Committee, as the national infrastructure of the GOP, has a responsibility to police its own. If you do not take the minimum steps necessary to investigate these dishonest activities, disavow this conduct and issue a formal censure or take other disciplinary action against those persons responsible, we will be left to conclude that you support the disregarding of RNC rules and the race-baiting smears directed at Sen. McDaniel and his supporters.

And we will act accordingly. Sincerely,

Ms. Jenny Beth Martin
Chairman, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund

Mr. Colin Hanna
President, Let Freedom Ring

Mr. L. Brent Bozell, III
Chairman, ForAmerica

Mr. Ken Blackwell
Chairman, SOS4SOS PAC
Former Ohio Secretary of State

Mr. Richard Viguerie
Chairman, ConservativeHQ.com

Mr. Tony Perkins
Chairman, FRC Action PAC

Mr. Matt Kibbe
President, FreedomWorks

Mr. Drew Ryun
Former Director of Grassroots, Republican National Committee

Whether the decision to put a discussion of all of the charges listed in this letter on the RNC agenda was a direct result of the letter itself is unclear. What is clear is that the decision follows not only the letter from these conservative activists, but a series of testy exchanges between Missouri State Chairman Martin and Mississippi’s RNC member Henry Barbour. Barbour is the chairman of Mississippi Conservatives — the group at the center of all the accusations. The group was founded by former RNC Chair Haley Barbour, Henry Barbour’s uncle, who is a former governor of Mississippi. . It received major funding from liberal outsiders including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Facebook executive Sean Parker, among others.

The exchanges between Martin and Henry Barbour included these lines:

Barbour to Martin: “Let me be clear, I disagree with the messages conveyed in those efforts. I think these types of messages and the robocalls in question were deplorable. For one more time, I had nothing to do with them and I do not know who or what entity did. End of story.”

 Martin to Barbour: “Great, Henry. So, you will support Reince when he appoints a Committee to investigate this? It will clear your name, the committees, Cochran and McDaniel ... or we will find out which Republicans were responsible…. We can put this all to rest by our August meeting.”

Barbour to Martin: “No, you don’t have my support. I thought I made that clear.”

Now, with or without Henry Barbour’s support, the controversy has at least made it to the agenda of the RNC’s Members Only breakfast. No small matter, as Barbour is a Priebus-ally.

The question? What then? Will the very same Reince Priebus who has been demanding transparency from President Obama (as here with the issue of alleged pay-offs to an Obama bundler) be transparent about the discussion of the Mississippi controversy that took place behind closed doors? 

In his recent speech to the National Urban League, Priebus said this:

We want you to know that the Republican Party is listening and fighting for you.

That’s why the RNC is in communities across this country, engaging with, listening to, and working to earn the trust of black voters.… And we can’t just be a U-haul trailer of cash for our nominee.

Suffice to say, there is considerable sentiment that what went on in Mississippi during the Senate run-off is in direct contradiction to Priebus’s words to the Urban League, among other things. At the very least, that collective outrage has now resulted in putting the subject on the RNC agenda. Will there be an investigation, as requested by Missouri’s State Chairman Martin? Will the RNC formally investigate “dishonest activities, disavow this conduct and issue a formal censure or take other disciplinary action against those persons responsible,” as those prominent conservatives have requested?

Stay tuned. August 7 is just around the corner.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.