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February 29, 2012 at 7:57 PM

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Ron Paul campaign claims 'irregularities' with delegate appointments

Paul campaign letter

The Ron Paul campaign, suspicious of the Republican establishment, has accused top Washington GOP officials of "shenanigans" in delegate appointments ahead of Saturday's caucuses.

The accusation was flatly denied by GOP leaders, who suggested the Paul campaign is looking for a way to discredit the caucuses if the Texas congressman loses.

In a letter to party leaders Wednesday, Paul campaign lawyer David Warrington alleged "substantial irregularities" in the selection of precinct-committee officers (PCOs) in King County.

PCOs are important because they run caucuses and become automatic delegates to the county and legislative-district conventions that will help determine how to allocate Washington's 43 delegates to the Republican National Convention this summer in Tampa, Florida.

While PCOs are normally elected, vacant positions can be filled through appointments by party leaders.

The Paul campaign raises the suspicion that King County GOP Chairwoman Lori Sotelo may have violated party rules and appointed PCOs after a Dec. 14 deadline -- presumably to stave off a Paul victory here.

The Paul letter notes that the King County GOP has refused to make the list of appointed PCOs public prior to Friday.

Warrington wrote that the Paul campaign will try to contact all the appointed PCOs, and if it finds any were improperly appointed, will try to prevent the seating of any King County delegates at the national convention.

"Should this blatant attempt to corrupt the process continue in King County, or anywhere else, the Paul Campaign will pursue all of the legal remedies to ensure that the process is fair and legal and that the rights of citizens participating in the process are (not) violated," Warrington wrote.

In a news release, Paul's national campaign chairman Jesse Benton said he was not surprised by "the shenanigans happening inside the King County Republican establishment." He said "all options are on the table, including the 'nuclear option' " of disallowing King County PCOs to be seated at the national convention.

With 2,600 precincts in King County, there are potentially hundreds of delegates at stake in the dispute, though Sotelo would not say Wednesday exactly how many PCO vacancies she filled with appointments.

Sotelo and State GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur rejected the Paul accusations and said all the presidential campaigns have been treated equally. "There is nothing to this," said Wilbur with more than a hint of exasperation.

Sotelo said she's never worked against Paul, but she anticipated his campaign would trot out conspiracy theories before the Saturday caucuses. She pointed to similar accusations in other states, as well as the disruptive behavior of some Paul supporters at the state's 2008 caucuses.

"I think they are looking for a way to discredit the process," said Sotelo, who pointed to spelling and grammatical errors in the Paul campaign's letter and accompanying news release. (For instance, the Paul campaign misspelled her last name as "Sotero.")

Sotelo said she has absolute confidence the PCO selection process was fair and said no PCOs were appointed after the Dec. 14 deadline.

Asked why the PCO list was not made available until Friday, Sotelo said the list is primarily for internal party use -- and that none of the other presidential campaigns complained.

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