I was at the St. Charles County caucus held in St. Peters, MO, on Saturday, March 17, 2012, which I now affectionately refer to as “The Raucous Caucus”. I’m not really interested in putting a particular political spin on what occurred. Rather, I’d like to state what occurred as just matters of fact and go over the major points of contention that led to it being brought to a close with no delegates and alternates being designated. So, as much as is possible, I have left out the names of the camps of supporters involved in the events of the Raucous Caucus. Source material and links provided are a different matter: they can and do name names and I didn’t take it upon myself to edit them. Where I do interject my perspective while delineating the points of contention, it’s for the purpose of logically connecting the sequence of events, to provide an explanation for why there appeared to be a conflict on a particular matter or specific event, or to provide a reasonable range of possible objectives or motivations.

So let’s look at the points of contention…

Contention 1: “ 7. No Recording Devices Allowed of Any Type”

For at least three days before the Raucous Caucus on March 17, the St. Charles County Republican Central Committee (www.stcharlesgop.com), the caucus organizers, had posted information about what would and would not be allowed at the caucus and/or required of the caucus-goers. Here’s a screenshot of what was posted:


Item number 7 in the list was the following:

  1. No Recording Devices Allowed of Any Type

Apparently, this was an item of much concern to some of the caucus-goers as reported in several posts online by those in attendance.

  • St. Charles Caucus HIJACKED – Bryce’s Report
    “Bryan Spencer tried to enforce an arbitrary “house rule” ban on recording devices and eject a caucus body member who refused to stop recording. The caucus body of many hundreds erupted into howls of disapproval for what seemed like an eternity. Spencer dispatched on-site police officers to remove him or arrest him for trespassing.”
  • ‘St. Patrick’s Day Massacre’ Takes Place During GOP Presidential Caucus in St. Charles, Missouri
    “Dokes reiterated the importance of the rules and emphasized the ban on recording devices before pausing to implore a man in the bleachers to turn off his video camera or face arrest.When the man refused to put away his tripod-mounted camera, Dokes asked members of the St. Peters Police Department to arrest the man and escort him out of the building.  That, of course, drew heated objections from members of the crowd — including Ron Paul supporters and others — who seemed to believe transparency should trump rules during the caucus.”
  • Largest MO Caucus Adjourns WITHOUT Conducting Business – No Delegates Selected
    “Standing rules established by the Central Committee included the prohibition of cameras, video or sound recording.  This did not sit well with the caucus goers. One particular individual protested the demand to put away his camera.  Central Committee Chairman, Eugene Dokes refused to gavel the meeting to order until the camera was put away. Caucusgoers sided, quite vocally, with the cameraman!”

The source of this confusion about this rule appears to have been due to a flyer of proposed (not official) caucus rules that were being handed out by a group of supporters for a particular candidate or two.


Although the point of contention was about recording devices, you may wish to note in these proposed rules that some of them appear to be crafted to benefit certain parties while disenfranchising other parties (3b), to permit “stealth delegates” whom may claim to support one candidate only to go to the later conventions and vote for another candidate (3g), or to change an initial “rule” initiated by the caucus organizers (5).

Let’s look at proposed rule 5 since that seems to be part of where this first point of contention originated:.

  1. Any caucus member or observer may record any proceeding of the caucus in writing, audio recording, or video recording to ensure honesty, transparency, and accountability.

As you can see, this was in direct conflict with the caucus organizer’s “Caucus Information” point number 7 which was in effect automatically from the beginning of the caucus.

Technically speaking, this shouldn’t have been a big deal since, once the temporary chairman of the caucus was able to get to the point in the official agenda where the permanent caucus chairman was seated, proposed rules could have been brought up in relatively short order and the apparently much-hated “No Recording Devices” rule could have been replaced. Alternatively, the ruckus made by some individuals about the ban on recording devices could just as well have been for the purpose of alienating other caucus-goers against the caucus organizers and their rules in order to motivate the caucus to adopt the proposed rules of the parties that had been distributing them.

At the very least, several individuals appeared to be of the impression that the proposed rules that were being circulated were the rules in force at the time at which they were being asked to put away their recording devices. This misunderstanding by several of the caucus-goers seems to have been the source of this initial point of contention.

Contention 2: The Caucus Agenda

In Contention 1 above, mention was made of a set of proposed rules for the caucus that, at a minimum, were being circulated by some caucus-goers, assumed by other caucus-goers as being the official rules of the caucus, and further assumed to be in effect. A similar situation appears to have been occurring with another flyer that was being handed out by the same caucus-goers: “Agenda and Form for Reporting Minutes”.

This handy agenda for the caucus had one problem with it: It wasn’t the official agenda. The caucus organizer had posted a few copies of both the official agenda and a set of proposed rules on the walls where caucus-goers waiting in line to register could see and read them…but no official agenda (nor caucus organizer-proposed rules for that matter) were posted online ahead of the caucus nor provided to the caucus-goers in the form of a flyer at any time. Whether this was by-design or an oversight may be a matter for debate but this is not the point of Contention 2. The point is that there was a “false” agenda circulated as being the official agenda when no official agenda was available other than a few copies hung on the walls. It is hard to see where the purpose of circulating the “false” agenda would have been for any other purpose other than to create confusion and dissent within the caucus but I’m not going to make an assumption of motives on this point at this time. At the very least, the circulation of the “false” agenda could have been a well-intention but misguided action.

With my thanks to the caucus organizers, I have been provided a copy of the official caucus agenda which I am posting here for you to compare against the “false” agenda.

Please feel free to draw your own conclusions about the intentions behind the circulation of a “false” agenda but its presence and the assumption by caucus-goers that it was the official agenda led to confusion.  After the caucus organizer’s temporary chairman started the caucus and proceeded to follow the official agenda, as soon as the official agenda diverged from the “false” agenda, caucus-goers erupted with cries of “Point of Order!” It was at this time that a minority of the caucus-goers refused to quiet down and, due to the ruckus during the time frame in which Contention 1 above occurred, some off-duty law-enforcement officials who were providing security for the event were already present on the floor of the caucus. The yelling, screaming, and chanting continued for several minutes and persisted even when additional on-duty law-enforcement officials were brought in to try and help restore order.

Unfortunately, order was never truly restored beyond this point. My understanding is that law-enforcement recommended to the Central Committee that the event be shut down. What happened next to close down the caucus is an item of much debate but, in my opinion, what seemed to occur is that, under the rancor and chaos of some caucus-goers making it impossible for the rest of the caucus to hear what was being said (even with the help of a public address system), the temporary chairman and a small group of people at the front of the caucus were able to seat a permanent chairman who immediately received a motion for closure, received a quick second of the motion for closure, called for a voice vote on the motion, and reportedly received more “ayes” than “nays” to successfully pass the motion. Due to the overwhelming din in the caucus, this was able to be done quickly before anyone in the rest of the caucus could figure out what was happening. Again, this is a matter of much debate but, from what I’ve been able to find out about how caucuses are run and from Robert’s Rules of Order, this was a possibly crafty but otherwise perfectly legitimate maneuver.

Contention 3: The Rump Caucus

I would not mention this contention except for the fact that much is being said about the rump caucus that a small number of caucus-goers attempted to assemble. (You may see this being referred to elsewhere as a “rum” caucus. The correct term is “rump caucus”.) First off, a rump caucus is a caucus held by a minority of individuals of a larger caucus from which the minority believes they are being unjustly ignored, excluded, or otherwise disenfranchised. These are usually assembled on the certified caucus location and, depending on what the larger caucus is doing at the time, can be used for different purposes. I won’t explain all the possible purposes. Instead, I will focus on what appears to have been the objective of the rump caucus and why it failed to reach its objective.

The objective of the rump caucus that attempted to be convened outside of the facility but on the grounds of the caucus location appears to have been to take advantage of the main caucus’ failure to complete its purpose (i.e., selecting delegates and alternates).  This would have included pushing through the rump caucus’ own agenda, selecting a chairman and other caucus officers, and then selecting and certifying a slate of delegates and alternates. Whether or not a slate certified by a rump caucus would have been able to get delegates and alternates accepted into the future conventions is another matter of debate. The bottom line is that the rump caucus was not able to convene.

When the main caucus was closed, law-enforcement first started to escort caucus-goers from the facility and then attempted to oversee that the grounds were also vacated.  Since the caucus organizers had access to the location only until 1:00 p.m., it is unknown whether the vacating of the grounds was merely law-enforcement’s attempt to ensure that another public disturbance didn’t ensue or that they were asked to do so by the caucus organizers.  Regardless of why they left the grounds, once they complied with law-enforcement’s request, the fact that they separated to go to another location and have a meeting meant that they were no longer a rump caucus.

The concept of a rump caucus is somewhat new to me so I’ll reserve for myself some wiggle room to have missed some key aspects, keep my mind open to learning more about it, and, if necessary, making corrections both in my mind and on this post. However, the video here seems to indicate that my current level of understanding is reasonably accurate.

From 0:30-1:19, you see a guy in a suit vest calling people to convene a caucus.  Then from 2:45-3:00 a man off-camera says “We have to stay here. If we leave, it doesn’t count.” Finally, between 5:45-7:25, Brent Strafford tries to start the rump caucus and is escorted away by police shortly thereafter.

The crowd of would-be rump caucus-goers then relocates as shown in this video…

…where it is stated that the rump caucus (and they do use the term “rump caucus”) will not work because they have changed locations.  Specifically, from 1:40-2:00, you see a guy in an orange shirt with a bullhorn saying that the rump caucus can not be certified because they have moved off of the Missouri GOP-certified caucus location.

Again, it’s unknown how effective a successful rump caucus would have been. At the very least, it would have been used to attempt to lend a degree of credibility to the certified slate, had the rump caucus produced one. More interesting is the fact that the assembly of a rump caucus was a contingency that certain parties had already planned for. This premeditation also seems to lend credibility to the suppositions of some that a minority of caucus-goers intentionally disrupted the caucus once it was determined by this minority group that it could not successfully commandeer the main caucus by other means. The range of possibilities seems to be that this minority group were well-practiced (scripted) or just very knowledgeable of the caucus process. It is apparent that they came modestly prepared (although they weren’t ready with pens and paper to record the attendees of the rump caucus) but, based on the outcome, were either thwarted by bad-luck, by the counter-measures of other parties, or by over-playing their hand or miscalculating the variables. Once again, this is an area in which you will have to draw your own conclusions.

My Conclusions

The contention over the use of recording devices was foolish. Caucus-goers who were even modestly aware of the caucus process would have known that any initial “rules” not directly related to facility-use/limitations could have been countermanded later in the caucus when the official caucus rules would have been proposed, voted on, and ultimately adopted. Those who objected to the initial “no recording devices” limitation were either ignorant or being intentionally disruptive. Furthermore, the St. Charles County Republican Central Committee was upfront about the “rules” and provided sufficient opportunity for caucus-goers to be aware of this ban well before the day of the caucus. I therefore fault the objecting caucus-goers on this point of contention.

The St. Charles County Republican Central Committee seemed to have the caucus reasonably well-organized. At the very least, the lack of an official hand-out of the official caucus agenda to caucus-goers during the entry process, whether intentional or unintentional, left a void that was easily filled…again…either intentionally or unintentionally…by others. This led to further confusion within the caucus so I would fault both the St. Charles County Republican Central Committee that could have prevented the void from existing and the parties that, either intentionally or unintentionally, filled the void with a “false” agenda.

Also necessary for me to mention is the means by which the caucus was brought to closure. Again, I fault both the caucus organizers and the caucus-goers. I fault the caucus organizers for the hasty means of how they accomplished the closure although I temper this criticism due to the need to prevent caucus-goers from being harmed or from harming others. I will also give the caucus organizers credit for closing the caucus without assigning any delegates or alternates at all. Technically-speaking, I believe they could have shoved through a slate just as well as shoving through the motion for closure…but they did not. However, it remains to be seen whether or not St. Charles County will send any delegates at all to the conventions. If they do and depending on how they do so, I reserve the right to change my criticism on this point. As for the fault of the caucus-goers, a small but extremely loud minority created the circumstances in which the agenda could not move (neither forward or backward) with the participation of the entire caucus and provided cover under which the hasty closure was made possible.

Finally, in regard to the rump caucus, I don’t have any non-partisan criticism of it. It was clever, questionable as to its possible effectiveness or usefulness, but ultimately futile. If the removal of the rump caucus from the grounds was done to prevent it from convening successfully, that also would have been a very clever maneuver showing a lot of forsight on the part of the caucus organizers or other parties that utilized law-enforcement for such a theoretical purpose. My opinion, however, is that the prevention of the rump caucus was fortuitous. But I’m not subject to belief in conspiracy theories so I’m just going with my gut on that.