The Republican Party of Tulsa County is operating in secret, not reporting, or answering questions on procedure in the runup to their March 25 Convention. This comes from declared candidates for party office and voting members of the County Committee and from official filings. Is this to advance Chair Ronda Vuillemont-Smith’s coronation in a second term?
The Convention ticket price is an unprecedented $40 per person or $80 per couple. Online payment has not yet opened (as of March 6), but the latest report says payment must be made 10 days prior (March 15). No same day registration will be allowed, but the party has reportedly purchased registration software, begging the question of functionality and at what expense?
The event venue is an economical church property (discounted to $1,800.00) with lunch (est. $3,500.00) provided, but if the some 400 people that signed up to attend at precinct meetings do so, the profit is estimated to be $10,800.00 with no help offered for those of limited income. Announced Monday, March 6, is a bring your own lunch option for $30 per person. This is not a fundraising event, but a business meeting of the party to elect officers and approve a party platform.
Former-Chair Mike Ford (2015-17) said, “This isn’t a fundraiser. This isn’t an expo. This isn’t a celebration or a rally. It’s a business meeting where duly elected delegates are shareholders who are being called to participate and carry out specific duties at the convention, and to vote for leadership and [conduct] party business. They have the right by rule to participate in ANY of these activities without being forced to preregister or pay an excessive fee, and ANY Committee member or ANY officer who denies their participation can be removed from their positions, by rule 3A.”
Considering rules, the Convention Rules Committee will apparently propose voting changes from a convoluted ranked system based on each precinct’s election participation to a “those who attend the convention” tally. For example, in a ranked system a precinct might have a dozen people show up for a precinct meeting who are told that their precinct would only have one vote at Convention. Attendance could increase if that change was revealed at precinct meetings. While many support this change, to spring it on delegates without advance time for consideration, it could lead many to oppose adoption of the Convention Rules.
As this writer first published at Straight Up on Substack, “The fondest dream of any American Political Party is to welcome all to full participation based on declared principles. Success is judged by increasing numbers of participants, diversity of skills and talents engaged, and functional effectiveness in process.” It should also be fun fellowship, not warfare or lawfare or rulefare with contentious debates which drive people away.
Failing forthrightness, all leaders come under increased scrutiny. This writer questions why the Republican Party of Tulsa County has not filed a report with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission on contributions and expenditures for the last five years while led by David McLain, Bob Jack and Ronda V. Smith.
“Local Party Committees are required to file a Report of Contributions and Expenditures only when the committee does one of the following “triggering events”: (1) Makes an independent expenditure, (2) Makes an electioneering communication or (3) Makes a contribution in any amount to a candidate for any state office.”
There is circumstantial evidence of the party making independent expenditures for signs, events, specialty advertising products (t-shirts, bumper stickers, hats, etc.), and social media. Regular reports should be available online here, but a current member of the County Executive Committee, on the condition of anonymity, said, “Ronda is very crafty and, while she speaks about election law, she finds ways to comply that push the envelope.”
It is suggested by her supporters that Chair Smith is avoiding “state” races, so she is not required to report, but without detailed operational and financial disclosure it is hard to know. State races are very important to all Oklahoma Republicans, and for the State’s second largest metropolitan area to fail to support those campaigns is an issue. A diverse Executive Committee of critical thinkers experienced in political work could have helped this administration, not by keeping deliberations secret, but by resolving issues prior to their escalation.
Regardless, Chair Ronda Vuillemont-Smith’s schemes have lost important races in Tulsa County to Democrats and now she may face ethics violations orders from District Court following money complaints that several have asserted they have filed. This writer contacted the Oklahoma Ethics Commission for clarification and expect their response soon.
In July 2022, the Tulsa County GOP Convention was covered in detail (here) in the Chair’s mid-term in the hope this 2023 convention could better serve Republicans of Tulsa County. Rather than address any issue or speak with her critics, Chair Ronda V. Smith has failed to respond and ended communication with most quoted. She later wrote a partywide email decrying “politics of personal destruction” and demanding readers “not be fooled by a handful of malcontents” and “When people aren’t aware of who the players are, it is easy to be played for fools by those who have a different agenda than yours.” Does she think her knowledge that superior?
Most recently Chair Smith organized a procedure to remove a duly elected precinct chairman, Ron Causby, who had announced he was running against her (here) for chair just weeks ago.
This March 25 Convention is receiving a great deal of advance promotion, but it is an open question as to how this gathering of conservative principle-based activists will respond. Some quip this is “not the way to run a railroad even through East Palestine.”
Maybe the so-called “malcontents” have a point or two worth considering, and their numbers could be much higher than the “handful” Chair Ronda Vuillemont-Smith decries.