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Politics

Young Republican Leadership Fight Takes A Nasty Turn

Forget Bush vs. Trump. The kids are duking it out.

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At a convention in Chicago, Illinois, this weekend, members of the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) from around the country will gather to elect the chairman who will lead them through the 2016 election -- an important role for an organization charged with engaging a younger generation in Republican politics.

This year's convention, however, occurs under the specter of potential legal issues over the fairness and transparency of the election.

One of the candidates for the YRNF chairmanship has threatened legal action and its consequences -- specifically the "unnecessary headache and expense of involving the Superior Court of D.C." -- against the organization if it does not turn over its complete list of delegates eligible to vote in the convention.

In a letter sent last Friday to YRNF chairman Jason Weingartner, candidate Meagan Hanson's attorney (and husband) alleged that the YRNF was unlawfully withholding the list of delegates' names and phone numbers, citing a D.C. law that requires nonprofits to provide for the inspection of such a list.

The letter also lists penalties that could be imposed by the D.C. Superior Court for not complying with law, specifically "a summary order allowing inspection, imposition of attorney's fees and other costs, and even a 'postpone[ment] of the meeting for which the list was prepared until the inspection and copying is complete.'"

"It is simply impossible for a fair, unbiased, open election to be held when one slate of candidates is systematically denied access to the names and contact information of all individuals who are qualified to vote in that election," the letter reads.

Weingartner told BuzzFeed News that both campaigns have been receiving rolling updates of the names of the delegates that have registered for the convention, but the groups' National Committee voted in March not to allow the more complete list (with full legal names, date of births, and phone numbers) to be disseminated over concerns of privacy violations. After Hanson requested the full list, however, Weingartner contacted each state organization and presented them with the option of sharing their list voluntarily.

According to Weingartner, earlier in July, Hanson made two allegations of possible mishandling regarding the delegate lists, but later asked Weingartner not to act on them because they were based on hearsay. Weingartner added that there was no credible evidence that any campaign had unfair access to the complete list.

"I did not enjoy the threat of a lawsuit. I don't enjoy getting unnecessary headaches or expenses. I can only do what the National Committee grants me the authority to do," Weingartner said.

In a formal response sent Tuesday to Hanson's attorney, Weingartner laid out YRNF's disagreements over the legal interpretation behind Hanson's initial letter -- mainly that D.C. law only requires the group to allow inspection of its members, which they say only comprises of the National Committee, not the delegates.

Weingartner said he hasn't spoken directly with Hanson since the first letter was sent on Friday.

BuzzFeed News emailed Hanson for an interview, and, in response, she sent back an official statement from her campaign, chalking up the whole ordeal to an "internal dispute."

"From time to time, internal disputes happen in all organizations. I have every confidence that this matter will be resolved internally and that the YRNF will be stronger and better positioned to help Republicans take governorships across the country, hold Congress, and take back the White House in 2016," Hanson said. "I look forward to the opportunity to lead the YRNF with an emphasis on transparency, expanding the organization to more young people, and helping all Republicans to victory in 2016."

Read the full letter Meagan Hanson's attorney sent here:

Read YRNF's response here:

Kyle Blaine is the deputy politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Kyle Blaine at kyle.blaine@buzzfeed.com.

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