Emails among campaigns meeting this evening just outside Washington, D.C., to discuss the 2016 GOP primary debate structure moving forward, obtained exclusively by Breitbart News, prove that it was the campaign of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that invited highly controversial lawyer Ben Ginsberg to the gathering.
Graham’s campaign manager Christian Ferry, a principal at the political consultant firm the Trailblazer Group, sent an email on Saturday to the various campaigns around 1 p.m. ET to note Ginsberg’s involvement. The email, headed “Sunday meeting,” makes clear that Ginsberg is running the show at Graham’s campaign’s direction.
“Please find the information for the GOP campaign meeting tomorrow below, as well as a general agenda so you can come ready to discuss,” Ferry wrote. “A more detailed agenda will be provided during the meeting. We look forward to seeing you there. As a reminder, Ben Ginsberg will be facilitating the discussion so we can move through important items. Please send no more than two campaign representatives.”
The meeting is taking place at 6 p.m. in Alexandria, Virginia, at the Hilton on Old Town’s King Street. Ferry detailed four bullet points later in the email that went through what campaigns participating in it are expecting to discuss. First, they will discuss “short comings of current process,” second, “areas of agreement,” third, “issues for future debates,” and fourth, “agreed action items.”
Ginsberg’s involvement in this meeting has conservatives previously excited about it seriously worried that the Washington establishment may try to exert more control over the debate process. One source with knowledge of these matters previously told Breitbart News that despite reports in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times that Ginsberg would be in charge, he wouldn’t be.
“Ben Ginsburg has zero authority or role in these meetings other than presenting what occurred in the 2012 cycle,” that source previously said. “He has no say so, but is simply reviewing the debate structure from the last cycle.”
But GOP campaigns are worried with Ginsberg inserting himself into the process that whatever comes out of this event may end up being worse than it was going in.
“It’s like letting the devil run Bible study,” one senior GOP operative with one GOP campaign told Breitbart News when asked for reaction to the news that Ginsberg was involved.
That’s because Ginsberg has a troubling history of gaming the process to help the Washington establishment crush conservatives. As the establishment in 2012, run by allies of then-GOP nominee Mitt Romney, made several changes to RNC rules, Ginsberg ran point.
“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.
In his piece, Clancy cited conservative movement leader Morton Blackwell—an RNC committeeman from Virginia—who lambasted the Ginsberg efforts in a Red State column.
“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 has fought for years against some in the RNC’s efforts to centralize power in Washington. In a follow-up letter to RNC chairman Reince Priebus raising hell on such efforts in 2014, Blackwell walked through what Ginsberg did 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 plan of people like Ginsberg and his allies is to eliminate primaries because they help conservatives.
“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.”
A Graham campaign spokeswoman hasn’t immediately responded to a request for comment about his campaign’s role in bringing in Ginsberg. Interestingly, another Graham campaign staffer—Brett O’Donnell, who is cc’ed on Ferry’s email to other campaigns and appears to also be involved in Sunday’s meeting in the D.C. area—has very recently pled guilty to lying in federal court.
“A top Republican campaign consultant who has advised 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and other top party leaders pled guilty to lying to congressional investigators who were looking into former Georgia Rep. Paul Broun’s use of taxpayer money for political activities,” CNN’s Deirdre Walsh wrote about the plea deal.
Brett O’Donnell admitted in a plea agreement in federal court in Georgia that he made “false statements” to the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent, non-partisan panel that screens potential wrongdoing by members of the House of Representatives. Court documents filed on Friday show that the $43,000 Broun paid O’Donnell from 2012-2014 was not for official business related to his congressional office, but for advice for his House campaign and for his bid for an open U.S. Senate seat. The maximum penalty for the offense is five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, but the plea deal notes guidelines that could mean O’Donnell’s sentence is likely to be lower.
Graham’s campaign has been struggling to gain any traction whatsoever–he’s at 1 percent or less in most recent polling–despite multiple and frequent appearances from the senator on television. Graham has never made the main debate stage and has been only making the undercard debate stage.
Ginsberg appeared on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning to discuss his role in the meeting.
“I’m going to tell them you need to figure out what to do,” Ginsberg said.
“There have been problems with the first three debates,” Ginsberg added, then saying: “It’s their meeting and their agenda and their debates.”
The meeting was organized to begin with by Dr. Ben Carson’s campaign manager Barry Bennett. Carson wants fewer debates but for all the candidates to appear on stage.
“Barry Bennett, the Ben Carson campaign manager who organized the meeting, has told other campaigns that they want all candidates to appear on the same stage for two-hour debates where each candidate is given five minutes for opening and closing statements,” CNN wrote.
They also, according to Carson himself, want moderators who aren’t overtly political and inserting themselves into the process–like what happened with the recent CNBC debate in Boulder, Colorado.