The GOP presidential campaigns meeting in Washington on Sunday are about to let the fox look after the henhouse when it comes to 2016 primary debates.
Ben Ginsberg, a top lawyer for the GOP establishment, is reportedly about to facilitate a meeting of various GOP campaign staffers looking to put together a list of grievances with the debate process to send those to the Republican National Committee (RNC) to try to force change.
Despite media reports, though, Ginsberg may end up not having a substantial role in the meeting. It’s unclear as of yet what exact role he will have. But a source with direct knowledge of these matters told Breitbart News that “Ben Ginsburg has zero authority or role in these meetings other than presenting what occurred in the 2012 cycle.”
“He has no say so, but is simply reviewing the debate structure from the last cycle,” the source said.
Nonetheless, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are reporting that he will have a big role.
“Ben Ginsberg, a top Republican lawyer who has long served as the lead presidential debate negotiator for his party, will attend a private meeting Sunday evening in Washington of Republican presidential campaigns hoping to overhaul the primary debate process,” the New York Times reports. “Mr. Ginsberg, who is not currently affiliated with a campaign, was invited to serve as a facilitator, helping to ensure a smooth, civil discussion, according to a Republican strategist familiar with the plans.”
The Wall Street Journal added that Ginsberg won’t just be at the meeting — but the meeting will be “run by” him.
“The meeting Sunday night is to be run by Ben Ginsberg, a longtime Republican campaign lawyer who is distrusted by many among the party’s conservative elements,” WSJ’s Reid Epstein wrote.
The presidential campaign of Dr. Ben Carson, a world-renowned neurosurgeon and in some recent polling a candidate close to tied with frontrunner Donald Trump, is seeming to take much of the lead on the process. Carson’s campaign manager Barry Bennett will, according to the WSJ report, communicate the campaigns’ concerns and demands back to top RNC communications aide Sean Spicer. Spicer has been running the debate process for the RNC this cycle.
Several campaigns tell Breitbart News privately that they expect—since Ginsberg is running the process here—no substantive changes, and things could potentially get even worse than they have been.
“It’s like letting the devil run Bible study,” one senior GOP operative with one GOP presidential campaign told Breitbart News in response to the revelation.
That’s because Ginsberg has for years been a damage control man for the GOP establishment. Back in 2012, as the establishment—then run by operatives working to further then presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s control of the party—made several rules changes to the RNC rules, Ginsberg was their point man.
“Last Friday, August 24th, at a meeting the Convention Rules Committee, longtime GOP lawyer and Romney advisor Ben Ginsberg surprised Rules Committee members by proposing some rules changes that, on reflection, were almost certainly intended to consolidate control of the party in Washington and head off a conservative challenge to President Romney in 2016,” Dean Clancy wrote for FreedomWorks in 2012.
Clancy then cited conservative movement leader Morton Blackwell, who wrote about the rules change efforts by Ginsberg in Red State.
“The changes he [Ginsberg] proposed shared a common theme: to concentrate and centralize more power at the top of the party and to shut off opportunities for power in the party to flow from the bottom up,” Blackwell wrote. “None of Mr. Ginsberg’s power grabs would in any way help us elect Mitt Romney and defeat President Barack Obama… But his efforts predictably enraged conservative Republicans who treasure the protections long incorporated in our national party rules. The record will show that during the Conventions Rules Committee meeting, as a member of that committee from Virginia, I repeatedly warned Mr. Ginsberg that his power grabs would hurt the Romney campaign by outraging grassroots conservative and libertarian activists whom we want to support our candidates this year.”
Blackwell, an RNC national committeeman from Virginia, has repeatedly fought against centralization of power in the RNC in Washington. In fact, in a follow-up letter to chairman Reince Priebus blowing the whistle on more power grab efforts in 2014, Blackwell further detailed exactly what happened when Ginsberg was involved in 2012.
Blackwell wrote to Priebus that “the unprecedented series of power grabs introduced and passed at the Convention Rules Committee meeting in Tampa by the Romney campaign through Ben Ginsberg (their designated representative on the Convention Rules Committee) attracted the instant attention of print, broadcast, and online media.”
“Everyone knew that Romney lieutenant Ron Kaufman of Massachusetts was in charge of national convention matters for the Romney campaign. Everyone also understood that Ben Ginsberg of D.C. was the Romney/Kaufman leader at the Convention Rules Committee meetings,” Blackwell continued. “Under pressure, many members of the Convention Rules Committee did whatever Ron Kaufman and Ben Ginsberg let them know they wanted done.
That’s unfortunate. Willingness always to do exactly what one is told to do is overrated as a measure of party loyalty.”
Ultimately, Blackwell wrote, the establishment plan is to do away with those pesky primaries because such elections help conservatives beat the establishment.
“Kaufman admitted two months ago in my presence that what he really wants is for Republicans to hold a one-day national presidential primary across the country,” Blackwell wrote. “His position favoring a one-day national Republican primary runs directly counter to the almost universal consensus among generations of participants in our national rule-making process that front-loading the schedule of our delegation-selection process is very dangerous to our party.”