WILFONG: When The Facts Get In The Way Of A Good Story

As is often the case in politics, and in life, the person who tells their story first often makes the biggest, though not always the correct, impression. This is certainly what happened yesterday when former Deputy Chairman and current RSCC member Charlie Davis launched his much-expected attack against the leaders of the Republican Party of Louisiana.

Although Mr. Davis claims to have been a former Executive Director of the LAGOP, in fact he only briefly served as a paid Deputy Chairman who oversaw the daily operations of the party in between Executive Directors.

This stint lasted only a few months during which time Mr. Davis made a number of questionable financial decisions with the partyʼs money and was quickly replaced by current Executive Director Jason Dore. Doreʼs first actions were to deal with over $20,000 in debt that Davis had incurred while on the job. (It should be noted that Mr. Davisʼ wife Ellen Davis is a former Executive Director of the party whose rather short tenure was also marked by a less-than stellar period of fundraising and party success.) In addition to financial mismanagement, Davis, against party rules, copied the LAGOP email database and used it for his personal businesses including while serving as the state director for Ron Paulʼs presidential campaign in 2012. The LAGOP had to issue a cease and desist order to stop Davis from repeatedly accessing party
computers in 2012 presumably to gain information to help the Paul campaign.

In a blog posted earlier this week, Charlie Davis made a number of allegations regarding the leadership of the LAGOP and an attempted “power-grab” that he claims occurred at the most recent meeting of the State Central Committee on April 27. As the chairman of the partyʼs Bylaws Committee since 2004, I feel well qualified to respond to these allegations and set the record straight. The Bylaws Committee is the rule making committee of the LAGOP. This committee deals not just with changes to the partyʼs bylaws, but all rules dealing with endorsements, reapportionment of the RSCC, Presidential Primaries, Caucuses, and the election of delegates to the Republican National Convention. Most other state parties and the Republican National Committee refer to this sort of committee as the “Rules Committee.”

Mr. Davis claims that a secret plan of sorts was launched by LAGOP leaders, myself included, to completely rewrite the party rules and consolidate power in the chairman and elected officers, effectively robbing the rank and file members of any say in how the party is run. This would indeed by big news if there were any truth to it.
What Mr. Davis conveniently leaves out of his blog is that at a regular meeting of the RSCC held on August 11, 2012, the State Central Committee UNANIMOUSLY voted to authorize this revision of the party bylaws and to vote on them at the second regular meeting of 2013. I know this because I not only authored the motion and presented it for adoption to the RSCC last year, but I also spent the next eight months working with the other members of the Bylaws Committee to create the revised version of our bylaws. (To be fair, Mr. Davis was facing a resolution of censure at that August meeting last year so it is possible he might have missed the vote while lobbying members to vote “no” on his censure. The resolution came in response to a ballot that Davis had distributed at the LAGOP caucus sites in April, 2012 which claimed delegates pledged to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were actually not committed and that Ron Paul delegates were supposedly pledged to the other candidates. Had this been a public election such actions would be subject to criminal prosecution for voter fraud.)

In March of this year the Bylaws Committee held a meeting to consider the first draft of the revision. All members of the RSCC were notified of the meeting and Mr. Davis was in attendance. After the meeting, a copy of the proposed bylaws were sent to all RSCC members with the call of the April 27 meeting. By rule, the call must be sent out at least 20 days prior to the meeting. On April 26, 2013, the Bylaws Committee met again (with Davis in attendance) in Baton Rouge to discuss the revision and make final changes. Three minor changes were made and a new copy of the revision was given to all RSCC members at the time they registered for the April 27 meeting. Without getting too detailed, let me just clarify that in parliamentary terms, a bylaws revision is not the same as amending the bylaws. In order to revise an organizationʼs bylaws the organization has to first vote to authorize it, then, once complete, to consider each article separately with an opportunity for members to debate each one and, if desired, to amend them. Only after the entire document has been presented, debated, and amended to the satisfaction of the body, is a bylaws revision considered for adoption. Adoption of the revision requires a 2/3 vote. It is not common practice to present a revision in the manner in which a single amendment would be presented by showing the current language with strikeouts and underlines to show changes. The reason for this is that a revision is an entirely new document which, as much as possible, should be considered on its own merits.

Nonetheless, all RSCC members were given a copy of the current bylaws along with the proposed revision to compare if they so desired. In addition, any article or section of the revision that contained changes from the current bylaws was highlighted in bright yellow. This was done to call attention to the major changes that were being made. However, every word of the revision was capable of being amended by the members. In fact a motion was made during the meeting to amend one section of the revision which was identical to the current bylaws. The motion failed but was in order from a parliamentary standpoint.

At the April 27 meeting, the members were considering the revision in an orderly fashion and had in fact amended one section already when Mr. Davis began moving about the room having conversations with various members who were aligned with him. Mr. Davis asked other members to object to certain sections, and, when it became apparent that the membersʼ primary desire was to continue debate for another 30 minutes, Mr. Davis had an ally on the committee suggest the absence of a quorum. At this point a quorum call was made and the meeting was forced to adjourn due to lack of a quorum.

What Mr. Davis claims is an attempt to consolidate power in the Chairman and officers sounds scary to many observers. However, as with most of his claims, the facts just donʼt support it.

The changes he refers to involve moving from a supervisory role of the Executive Committee to one of oversight. The changes proposed by the revision allow for the Executive Committee to reject any appointment by the Chairman with a 2/3 vote. In past administrations, there were times of conflict and distrust between the chairman and the other officers. This led to a prior administration pushing through rules which require every move of the chairman to be okʼd by the Executive Committee. This leads to many wasted staff hours setting up meetings, sending notices, and dealing with issues not at all central to what a state party is supposed to do – helping republican candidates win elections. (Currently, if the chairman wishes to appoint a member to the Voter Outreach Committee, for example, a meeting of the Executive Committee must be called, notices given at least 24 hours in advance, a conference call line secured, and at least one staff member must facilitate the meeting. All this so one appointment to a minor committee can be made.) As far as removing power from the RSCC as a whole, again, the facts just donʼt support the claim. Currently, there is no clear way for members to be removed if they do something as blatant as move out of Louisiana or change their voter registration to democrat. The revised bylaws would allow for the RSCC to have final say on removal of
members, financial audits, creation of standing committees, and dozens of other duties. In all matters, the RSCC would have the final say. It should be noted that the current party bylaws and the revision both contain a provision that states all officers are subject to the orders of the State Central Committee. There is virtually nothing that the chairman or any other officer is empowered to do that cannot be changed by a vote of the RSCC. This is true now and it would be true if the revision were to pass.

Finally, in fairness to Mr. Davis, I cannot deny that he may have arrived at the April 27 meeting unprepared for the discussion. In fact, a number of members told me that day that they had not read all of the revision and wanted to know what the changes were. This is not uncommon in organizations with large numbers of members. However, what seems most peculiar to me is that Mr. Davis had a copy of the revision for OVER A MONTH before the meeting, attended two meetings of the Bylaws Committee, and yet still claimed he had no idea of what was being done until over two weeks after the meeting. In a personal email to me, Mr. Davis claims that on the morning of the meeting he was still attempting to read the revision side by side with the current bylaws in order to figure out the changes. I understand that everyone is busy and that life obligations often take priority over our best intentions but Mr. Davis was clearly unprepared and not ready to intelligently debate the revision at the April 27 meeting. He is now attempting to attack our Chairman and other party leaders for what is really his failure to understand and communicate his desire for change. There were over a hundred RSCC members at the meeting on April 27 and the vast majority were engaged and actively debating the proposed revision. Only a handful, led by Mr. Davis, attempted to thwart the process and rob members of the chance to discuss a critically important part of how we do business as an organization. I can only offer that, though we as a party have certainly made mistakes over the past nine years, this administration, led by Chairman Roger Villere, has been by far the most successful the history of our state. Republicans now control both houses of the legislature, all statewide offices, 5 of 6 congressional seats, a U.S. Senate seat, and a majority on the State Supreme Court. Tactics like those of Mr. Davis, who seeks only to divide and discourage, have no place in our party.

As the LAGOP moves forward, I hope we can rid ourselves of the destructive forces like Charlie Davis and continue our work to elect conservative candidates to office in Louisiana.

Scott Wilfong
RSCC Member, District 65A
Chairman – Bylaws Committee of the RSCC

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