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The committee was heavy with — but not exclusively made up of — establishment Republicans.

The seven members who joined Mr. Priebus and Mr. Evans on the panel were RNC General Counsel John Ryder; Bruce Ash of Arizona; Steve Duprey of New Hampshire; former Mitt Romney adviser Ron Kaufman of Massachusetts; Ralph Reed’s Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition President Steve Scheffler; former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s nephew Henry Barbour; and U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

Mr. Priebus was Wisconsin GOP chairman before winning election as RNC chairman.

The secrecy surrounding the effort alienated Republicans who found out about it, prompting some to complain that the exercise was simply an effort by Mr. Priebus to usurp more power.

Mr. Priebus instructed the secret committee he created to withhold that penalties plan until the next RNC meeting in August, according to the interviews and documents.

But the RNC Standing Rules Committee, without acknowledging the secret committee, has stepped in to form a 12-member subcommittee empowered to deal with debate-rules penalties in a more open way.

The plan that was submitted and approved Thursday calls for the establishment of a debate rules committee made up of a man and a woman elected from each of the four regions of the country — a total of eight — plus five chosen by Mr. Priebus.

That would put Mr. Priebus, who has enjoyed the support of conservatives on the RNC, on the side of the establishment that always favors a top-down approach to party governance.

Members said they thought Mr. Priebus was doing what people at the top of any organization tend to do: accrue power because they trust themselves to do the right thing, even when they believe they favor bottom-up politics.

Mr. Ryder, the RNC general counsel, reiterated Mr. Priebus‘ complaint about TV networks, saying a recent poll shows that 93 percent of journalists are not Republicans.