Support for Romney by party leader before primary causes concern within NC GOP

by Eric Ginsburg

Guilford County Republican Party Chairman Al Bouldin has come under fire from some local party members for working on Mitt Romney’s behalf before the candidate received the official party nomination, a move some say breaks the Republican National Committee’s rules. Bouldin posted in the Facebook groups for the Republican Party organizations in Guilford and Rockingham counties inviting people to make calls on Romney’s behalf three days before the primary.

Kevin Smith, a Rockingham Republican Party delegate, said the rules are clear that since Bouldin knowingly violated them, he should step down as chair.

Brad Davis, who lives in Rockingham and whose business operates in Guilford County, said he just wanted the campaigning for Romney to stop.

“It’s frustrating that people within the party with a leadership position are using that to pull for a specific candidate when we haven’t nominated someone,” Davis said. “It’s pretty plainly stated, and for it to be otherwise I would expect some sort of an amendment or exception to be clearly stated. There isn’t a lot of room for interpretation.”

The rule bans financial and in-kind contributions from the national committee unless a candidate is unopposed or the state party provides formal approval.

“The Republican National Committee shall not, without the prior written and filed approval of all members of the Republican National Committee from the state involved, contribute money or in-kind aid to any candidate for any public or party office except the nominee of the Republican Party or a candidate who is unopposed in the Republican primary after the filing deadline for that office,” the rule reads.

Nobody at the state GOP would not say if there had been a written or filed approval. Bouldin admitted to the calls on Romney’s behalf but said he was acting on direction from the state Republican Party and the national committee. State party spokesman Rob Lockwood, however, said no calls were made on Romney’s behalf.

“The RNC has basically declared that Romney is the presumptive nominee,” Bouldin said.

“They are starting to move forward with the message of promoting Mitt Romney to defeat Barack Obama.”

Matt Connelly, another spokesman with the state party, said the rule only applies to state elections.

“The rule is clear and it doesn’t apply to the presidential race — those are the facts,” Connelly said, adding that it was commonly understood. When asked where the rules specified that presidential campaigns were exempt, Connelly was unable to point to any provision supporting that statement.

The “victory center” where the calls were made is one of several in the state, and is funded by the state GOP, which in turn received the money from the national committee.

Despite frustration from Ron Paul supporters in the local party, the Paul campaign released a statement May 13 saying it consented to the victory center operations nationally, adding that, “the RNC offered to set up a joint fund raising committee with the Paul campaign.”

Regardless of whether Paul can win the nomination, Davis said the issue is still important.

“I do see it as a critical thing in terms of setting a precedent of not following our own rules,” he said. “It gives the feeling of chaos or that there’s kind of an illusion of order.”