Steve Lonegan: Why Principle Matters

Since the Primary Election, loyal Republicans have been baffled by the behavior of the GOP establishment in New Jersey. First, operatives in the campaign of our nominee for Governor, Chris Christie, monkeyed around with the social issues page on his website, gaining the attention of the media before resolving what they caused.

Then, at the meeting of the Republican State Committee – the men and women elected from each county to formulate and advance the party’s principles – the party leadership blocked a move to formally adopt the platform of the national Republican Party, as well as blocking a resolution condemning Governor Corzine’s tax hikes. At least one major newspaper, the Star-Ledger, linked the leadership’s refusal to adopt our Party’s platform to the fact it contains Pro-Life and Pro-Traditional Marriage planks.

The impact of not adopting the platform – a set of principles to guide the party and its elected officials – would soon manifest itself. Just days later, Tom Keen Jr., the Republican leader in the New Jersey State Senate, led a small group of Republicans in voting with liberal Democrats in support of the life-time confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Barry Albin to the state’s highest court.

Albin has been the state’s most liberal activist judge, authoring the radical Lewis vs. Harris decision in support of civil unions-a decision that drastically alters the meaning of marriage and changes the course of our culture without voter input. Albin is the architect of the left wing social engineering scheme known as COAH and the failed Abbott education funding mandates that have given New Jersey the highest property taxes in America. The action of these Republicans was a slap in the face to their own nominee for Governor, who has promised to appoint “conservative judges who will uphold the Constitution”.

That same day, Senate Republican Leader Kean and his allies would rise alongside Jon Corzine to support another liberal scheme – the bonding of $400 million for “open space”. No one opposes open space, but at a time when the state’s debt has reached crushing levels more debt simply isn’t rational. Lacking any platform, Republicans like Senator Kean have left themselves increasingly vulnerable to emotional, feel-good appeals.

Meanwhile, over at the Assembly, Republican Leader Alex DeCroce lobbied to pass a destructive COAH bill. This legislation gives central planners in Trenton the power to override local mayors and councils and planning boards, forcing them to convert projects approved as “over-aged-55 housing” to open housing as long as there is a 20% low income housing component. This bill shifts power to Trenton bureaucrats and developers’ lobbyists. Republicans should be united behind defending home rule, but instead, without a guiding set of principles, they are lost.

But just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, along comes the vote on the largest tax increase in America’s history — Barack Obama’s “Cap & Trade” scheme.

Only ten days after the failure of the New Jersey Republican State Committee to adopt the platform of the Republican Party, this tragic bill passed the House of Representatives by a narrow 219 to 212, with eight Republicans joining 211 Democrats. Our state had the dubious distinction of seeing three of those prosperity destroying votes cast by New Jersey Republican Congressmen Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo, and Chris Smith. No other state in America saw so many Republicans vote with President Obama and the Democrats. In New Jersey, three of our five Republican congressmen did.

To make matters worse, the Atlantic County Republican Committee sent out a release attacking those Republicans in Congress who stood up for taxpayers and came close to stopping President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and their destructive legislation. But it should come as no surprise that in a state where Republican leaders refuse to adopt Republican principles there is no semblance of principled leadership.

The question that haunts many of us is, “Why?”

To understand how we got here, we need to look at who controls the levers of power within the GOP establishment in New Jersey. For the most part, it’s not the elected officials. In New Jersey, most elected officials are part-timers. You must look behind the Republican “leader” – to the permanent bureaucracy who runs our legislative caucuses.

The players in this bureaucracy slide through a revolving door that takes them from legislative staffer, to lobbyist, to holder of government contracts or appointments, and then back in time to secure a fat taxpayer-funded pension. These are the hollow men who are there when a freshmen legislator arrives in Trenton – and remain twenty years after he’s gone.

Only our party – the Republican Party – can bring change to Trenton. The Democrats cannot bring the fiscal responsibility New Jersey needs. They are captive of their own base vote – of public employee unions and those dependent on government. They dare not risk their contract with these constituencies.

Republicans have a base vote who wants fiscal change. It is the hollow men who reject it, and they do so for the simple reason that it is in their financial interests to maintain the status quo. At the back of every seemingly inexplicable betrayal by a GOP “leader” sits a close personal advisor with his own personal reasons. And in a state GOP without principles – that fails to adopt its own party platform – this kind of venal corruption is rampant.

That’s why it is so important for the New Jersey Republican State Committee to take a principled stand, adopt the party platform, and then use those principles when the hollow men come round with their personal agendas.

 

Letters from State Committee officials Rob Eichmann and Donna Ward:

LETTER 1

Hon. Jay Webber,
Chairman
New Jersey Republican State Committee
150 W State St # 230
Trenton, NJ 08608-1105

By Certified Mail and Electronic Mail

Dear Chairman Webber:

First, please allow us to offer our sincere congratulations on your election, by the Republican State Committee, as its new Chairman. We hope that the Committee is open to all points of view in the Republican family, and that it conducts itself as a model of open administration and transparency.

The meeting that was held on Wednesday, June 17th, was our first as elected members of the State Committee, but we came away from it with some concerns. At this meeting, there were a number of motions made from the floor and acted upon by the Committee. These motions involved nominations for officers and adopting the minutes from the last meeting (September 11, 2008).

After the nominations were made and officers selected, one of us – State Committeeman Rob Eichmann – made a motion from the floor to have the New Jersey Republican State Committee adopt the platform of the Republican National Committee (RNC). We had read that the New Jersey GOP was one of just two State Committees that hadn’t got around to doing so and we wanted to provide our State Committee with the opportunity to correct this oversight.

The State Committee’s legal counsel was called to the podium and he stated that the outgoing State Committee had already done this. He is misinformed. A review of the minutes suggests that the past Committee never even discussed, much less voted on, any similar motion.

When the legal counsel was asked if he was sure of what he had just said, he indicated that he was not, but then changed tactics and said it didn’t matter because the Committee needed fifteen (15) days notice for the motion.

When asked to cite a source for this ruling, he claimed that it is stated in the by-laws of the New Jersey Republican State Committee. A review of those by-laws suggests that this is also not true.

After this exchange, another of us – State Committeewoman Donna Ward – made a motion to pass a resolution condemning Democrat Governor Jon Corzine’s budget, its confiscatory tax hikes, and woefully inadequate spending cuts. Once again, the legal counsel claimed that this motion needed fifteen (15) days notice according to the by-laws.

It appears to us and to other members of the Republican Party that the legal counsel deliberately misled those in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting of the New Jersey Republican State Committee. Just as important is the question, “Why?”

We understand from individuals conversant with the ways of State Committee – including a former GOP State Chairman – that the legal counsel involved, a Mr. Mark Sheridan, is a kind of failsafe for the GOP establishment. We understand why such a person would hold a position like that, but we don’t understand why that person – or the establishment he works for – would oppose a resolution embracing the platform of the national Republican Party.

Failing to adopt this resolution is tantamount to saying that the New Jersey GOP really isn’t Republican at all. That it is just borrowing the name for convenience – while passively rejecting the values and policies of the Republican Party. If that is the case, maybe someone should just have the honesty to tell us so. If not, then the State Committee should waste no time in adopting this resolution.

Adding to our concern is the failure of the State Committee to adopt the second resolution, condemning the Corzine budget and tax increases. Is this a controversial issue within the New Jersey GOP? Don’t we oppose the fiscal policies of Governor Corzine? We think the State Committee should quickly clear-up the confusion caused at last Wednesday’s meeting by passing said resolution.

Accordingly, we think it would be prudent of you to call a new meeting of the New Jersey Republican State Committee within the next two weeks to adopt the two resolutions proposed at last Wednesday’s meeting. The mixed messages and confusion that came out of that meeting will only serve to undermine the efforts of our Party and its nominees.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Hard Copy Signed By:

Donna Ward and Rob Eichmann
Elected Republican State Committee Members

CC: RNC Chairman Michael Steele
RNC Platform Committeeman Keith Davis
RNC Platform Committeewoman Alison Littell McHose

LETTER 2

Hon. Jay Webber,
Chairman
New Jersey Republican State Committee
150 W State St # 230
Trenton, NJ 08608-1105

By Certified Mail and Electronic Mail

June 29, 2009

Dear Chairman Webber:

We appreciate your acknowledgement of our June 22nd letter. Like many Republicans in New Jersey we were excited that for the first time in many years there was an individual (you) who could articulate Republican principles to the citizens of New Jersey, and would do so.

We are, however, extremely disappointed that you have permitted an employee of State Committee, the legal counsel, to correspond with us rather than providing your own thoughts on the issue. You are the chairman and with all due respect, you should be taking the lead on this issue.

We will grant you that that is your choice to make. We will not, however, sit idly by while our party continues to operate in a state of impotence. In the three pages it took to respond to our letter, your counsel never got around to addressing our simple request for a meeting to allow the state committee to vote on the two issues that were summarily dismissed by him at the June 17th meeting. These are: (1) a motion to have the New Jersey Republican State Committee support the platform of the Republican National Committee (RNC); and (2) a motion condemning Democrat Governor Jon Corzine’s budget and its confiscatory tax hikes.

As Republicans, we are flabbergasted that we do not support the RNC platform. As Republicans, we are befuddled as to why we would not condemn Jon Corzine’s budget, tax hikes, and woefully inadequate spending cuts.

We welcome your leadership to deliver us from a party of irrelevance to a party that can win elections, and return our state to one of prosperity. That prosperity we long for must start with articulating certain principles.

Both of us made motions on June 17th to address these principles, and were summarily dismissed as if we were the enemy. In his letter to us, your counsel admitted that the by-laws do not relate to the specific language he cited in dismissing our motions on June 17th – namely, that a motion requires 15 days advance notice. Adopting an activist interpretation of the by-laws, your counsel admitted that he was applying the written rules covering the section that reads “Amendments” to motions from the floor. When the lawyers get involved it would appear that it is a case of avoiding making a difficult decision because someone wants something else to be the case.

We have several questions following the response we received from the committee counsel.

First and foremost, where in the by-laws does it state that a motion needs 15 days advance notice? In an effort to make this easy on our counsel, we are not talking about amending the Party constitution or by-laws, just a simple motion, you know, like condemning Jon Corzine’s budget, or supporting the RNC platform. (Hint, last paragraph of Article VIII (Which doesn’t appear on our website) states quite emphatically: Roberts’ Revised Rules of Order shall be the official parliamentary guide of the State Committee in all matters not covered by the provisions of this Constitution and By-Laws.

We have additional questions as well. When were the by-laws adopted for our committee? We don’t remember any motions regarding them at our meeting. Under Roberts Rules of Order, shouldn’t the by-laws be adopted at each reorganization?

When was our counsel hired? Again, we realize you have the authority to appoint counsel, but we don’t remember any discussion regarding counsel’s appointment. Don’t you think, just as a matter of courtesy it would have been appropriate to let the committee know of your decision or at least discuss it with the committee?

Which by-law specifically states that we cannot, by motion from the floor, vote on either of these items? Why wouldn’t we want to vote on either of these items? Are we not Republicans?

When will you call a meeting to vote on these two issues? Why wasn’t this addressed by your counsel? Does the Republican State Committee, for some reason, fear bringing a motion to the floor to condemn Jon Corzine’s budget in its entirety? Why does the Republican State Committee not want to call ourselves Republican, and support the platform of the Republican National Committee?

You have an opportunity to exhibit leadership, leadership that has been missing for quite some time. We urge you to do so. We urge you to do so publicly, quickly, without reservation, and without conditions.

The balance of your counsel’s letter was accusatory and threatening. We were surprised at its defensive tone. We believe that the State Committee counsel’s assertion that we are trying to gain political points is absurd on its face. We want Republicans, first and foremost the New Jersey Republican State Committee, to proudly and loudly proclaim that we are Republicans! What better way to do that than act on a motion to support the RNC Platform! We want anyone and everyone to know that we unequivocally oppose Jon Corzine’s budget! Why would a vote on a motion condemning that be out of order?

Mr. Chairman, our party faces a long climb back. It must start with your leadership and with the committee voting on the RNC platform, and being very clear on where we stand on anything Corzine proposes as far as a budget.

We were elected to help you, Mr. Chairman, and all of us across the state restore some semblance of sanity to our electoral process and healthy debate over what our government should and should not be able to do.

We submit that your leadership is critical to accomplishing this, and absent your leadership we, as a party, will once again be relegated to an irrelevant sideshow. Our impotence has gone on for far too long, and any attempt to hide behind by-laws that don’t exist will only prolong our agony.

We asked in our last letter that you would call for another meeting so that we could address these concerns and vote on these motions. We find it quite telling, and disconcerting, that in counsel’s response, on your behalf, that we never got an answer to when the meeting would be.

The leadership that is so needed has been lacking for far too long. It is why we are impotent. We, as a party, as are the citizens of New Jersey, are angry. We will no longer accept the status quo. We will no longer accept Republican Party leadership that is unresponsive to us, and is unwilling to stand up and articulate a message against big government, big spenders, and confiscatory tax collectors. Both of us enjoyed meeting you on the evening of the 17th and are confident in your ability to provide the leadership needed.

You are lauded as the new face of the party, a conservative who can lead. We urge you to lead the committee in voting for the RNC platform and in opposing anything Corzine proposes as far as a budget.

We look forward to your response to the specific questions posed, and to how quickly you can get a meeting called in order to allow us to show our support for the RNC and opposition to Jon Corzine.

Sincerely,

Hard Copy Signed By:

Donna Ward and Rob Eichmann
Elected Republican State Committee Members

CC: RNC Chairman Michael Steele
RNC Platform Committeeman Keith Davis
RNC Platform Committeewoman Alison Littell McHose

Steve Lonegan: Why Principle Matters