Now, I’m no fan of straw polls. It is one thing if the voting universe is small. But it is not at many, and straw polls are usually arbitrary fundraising adventures for the hosts. And for the winners, they are a way of buying headlines. The Romney campaign has been touting their successes with the recent South Carolina straw polls. Just like they touted their successes after buying the Southern Republican Leadership Conference and CPAC(two articles).

Salon has the run-down on this:

At some point on Friday night, Esther Wagner, the county GOP treasurer, spotted a Romney aide across the hall, and accused him of paying delegate fees to pump up Romney’s poll numbers. Wagner’s suspicions had been aroused earlier in the month, when she received a stack of last-minute registrations from about 15 to 20 people. Most of the fees had been paid in cash. "That is unusual," said Wagner, who has done work on the side for another candidate, John Cox, a minor rival to Romney. "Most people pay [by] check." Then she got a call from a Romney supporter named Jeff Lynch, who mentioned in passing that someone had paid his fee.

"Chris Slick, who is Romney’s grass-roots field coordinator, was emphatically denying it," says Betty Poe, the president of the Greenville County Republican Women’s Club. According to three separate accounts of the incident, Slick maintained that neither the Romney campaign, nor any campaign staff, had paid delegate fees. "But he said an individual paid for someone," Poe remembers.

"We were delegates of Mitt Romney, so we didn’t have to pay," Lynch said. Like thousands of South Carolinians, Lynch and his wife, Melissa, have been bombarded with direct mail from the presidential candidates. He sent back a card from Romney, saying he would like to help. Sometime later, he said, Slick, the Romney aide, showed up at his door, and told him not to worry about the money. "He came over and we signed papers to be delegates, so we wouldn’t have to pay the $15 fee," Lynch said. "Is there a problem?"

Perhaps the problem is that the Romney campaign is struggling to find a way to be honest. Again…
Buying straw polls is fine. Touting winning straw polls that you bought is fine. (although a little weird)  Lying about buying straw polls is not. Touting victories in straw polls that you are lying about buying is dumb. Especially when you get caught.


SC Conservative · April 23, 2007 at 2:05 PM

Would you like a real source on this issue? I was recruited by Chris Slick–Romney’s operative–to attend the Greenville GOP convention, and I paid for my own registration. I’d be happy to e-mail a copy of the cancelled check. I can also vouch that anyone else he recruited was a solid grass-roots supporter of Governor Romney–both before and after the convention.

Most of these people simply didn’t know how the process worked and so Romney’s campaign helped explain the process so that we could get involved. As a result of attending, my wife and I were able to volunteer to assist with future elections at our precinct.

Was there “vote buying”? NO! Was there “delegate sponsoring”? Probably, but that’s not why Romney won the straw poll. He won it because he gave the best speech, has the strongest grassroots organization in the state, and his supporters are enthusiastic about his message.

By the way, has anyone actually looked into the process of qualifying to be a delegate at a straw poll in Greenville County? You have to have voted in the republican primary in 2006, attend your precinct reorganization meeting, or attended the make-up reorganization meeting (which I did)–in addition to paying a mere $15 to help support the local GOP. In other words, it cost me 7 hours of my time to be a delegate (regardless of the $15 dollars).

You would have to be an idiot to think that Romney’s win was by anything other than a dedicated grassroots support as it becomes clear that the cost in time is much more costly than the registration fee!

I only wish normal voting required so much civic sacrifice!

eye · April 23, 2007 at 3:34 PM

I am not saying that the people were not sincere. But Chris Slick’s statement makes clear that he knows the people who paid for people.

Lynch’s statement makes it clear that, if the Romney campaign did not pay for Lynch’s registration, that information was given by the Romney campaign to someone else. That person then acted on behalf of the Romney campaign. Is that action disclosed? Is that even legal? How many are we talking about?

SC Conservative · April 23, 2007 at 3:43 PM

No matter what happened here, no one is going to get a fair shake in the race for headlines. Just look at the blogosphere and see who is really telling the whole story.

I e-mailed the original author of the Salon piece–with a copy of my cancelled check and here’s what he said:

“Thanks for the note. I am not sure how I am going to follow up on this, but I appreciate the information.

I certainly did not mean to suggest, nor do I think I did, that all or even most of Romney’s support comes from arranging payment of delegate fees, and I have no reason to doubt Mr. Slick’s motives. I think the article makes clear that all the campaigns, including Cox’s sleazy flier, should be looked at with some suspicion for dirty tricks. I included this anectdote as one of many about the trickiness of politics in South Carolina. ”

Interesting how a mere ‘anecdote’ turns into a headline!

eye · April 23, 2007 at 4:12 PM

I don’t think that it is inappropriate that one possible misleading statement should be an issue.

That is like saying, “He only murdered once, but the rest of the time he is a fine guy.”

It certainly looks like Mr. Slick shared information with someone who paid for the registrations. I have questions about that. It would be good to know what Mr. Slick says.

Comments are closed.