Week of April 11, 2016

Saving Bob McDonnell | Paying GOP Delegates | Stopping Trump | Skipping Cleveland

SAVING BOB McDONNELL.  With the filing of a reply brief on behalf of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, McDonnell v. United States is ready for oral argument before the United States Supreme Court in two weeks.  At issue in the case is the trial court’s stunningly broad definition of “official act,” which encompassed not only powers deriving from the Constitution and laws of Virginia, but also those which by practice and custom have come to be regarded as part of the office.  Recent developments–including the death of Justice Scalia and the Court’s recent denial of cert in former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s appeal–have been viewed as blows to McDonnell’s prospects.  But the Court has not been narrowly divided along partisan lines in recent high-profile corruption cases–see the Court’s 9-0 decision in Skilling, as well as its subsequent orders in Black and Weyrauch–and Blagojevich’s corrupt act, the attempted auction of a seat in the United States Senate, was squarely within the powers of the Governor of Illinois as established by law, not practice or custom.  I believe (and hope) that the Court will exonerate Governor McDonnell.

PAYING GOP DELEGATES No one is suggesting that candidates and their supporters could bribe delegates to the Republican National Convention, but that’s not stopping the media from asking if they could.  The resulting debate is worthwhile. however, to the extent that it illuminates the line between out and out bribery on the one hand, and political wheeling and dealing on the other.

+ How far can campaigns go to win support from a Republican delegate? | The Washington Post – Matea Gold and Ed O’Keefe

+ Could Republican Convention delegates be bought? Legally, maybe | CNN – Tal Kopan and Gregory Kreig

+ Cincinnati-inspired bribery law could affect Republican convention | Cincinnati.com – Jeremy Fugleberg

It’s also worth re-upping this analysis from our Digest No. 2:

+ Bribery and the brokered GOP Convention | In the Arena: Law and Politics Update – Brian Svoboda and David Lazarus

STOPPING TRUMP.  Unless something changes, it appears most likely that Donald Trump will not arrive in Cleveland with 1,237 delegates.  The Cruz campaign has been playing the delegate game before anyone else knew there was a delegate game to be played–and as a result, Cruz is now running circles around Trump in the chase for delegates.  Unless Trump is willing to unload many millions of dollars on paid advertising against Cruz in the remaining primary states, we predict it will be Cruz–not Trump–who arrives in Cleveland with 1,237 pledged delegates, and that he only will have to wait for the second ballot before all of them will be freed from their binding and able to vote for him.

+ Donald Trump, losing ground, tries to blame the system | The New York Times – Jeremy W. Peters and Jonathan Martin

+ Despite complaints, delegate system has given Trump a 22% bonus | NBC – Ari Melber

+ RNC tells Trump: Delegate process “easy to understand for those willing to learn it” | The Washington Post – Ed O’Keefe

+ Trump’s delay in building a delegate operation may cost him the nomination | The Guardian – Ben Jacobs

+ Is GOP headed for its own Bush v. Gore? | Washington Examiner – Byron York

SKIPPING CLEVELAND.  GOP candidates in swing states apparently don’t want to be anywhere near the GOP Convention in Cleveland.  Corporations are under pressure from activist groups to skip out, as well.

+ Top Republicans may skip Convention in Cleveland | The Hill – Rebecca Savransky

+ Corporations grow nervous about participating in Republican Convention | The New York Times – Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman

+ Companies worry Trump-led Convention could hurt brands | POLITICO – Anna Palmer

+ The GOP Convention will be so messy, corporate America may want nothing to do with it | Slate – Josh Voorhees

+ Great news! The GOP Convention will be a disaster | CNBC – Jake Novak

+ Many GOP lobbyists will go to Cleveland but the thrill is gone | The Washington Post – Catherine Ho

However, as this article highlights, the RNC Convention’s host committee is raising more funds, and faster, than in prior years.  It may be the DNC Convention in Philadelphia that corporate America, feeling The Bern, ultimately decides to skip:

+ Sanders, not Trump, scaring Democratic Convention donors | Bloomberg BNA (paywall – excerpt available here)

About the Political Law Digest

The Political Law Digest is a weekly review of important stories and significant developments in campaign finance, election law, lobbyist regulation and government ethics – compiled by Chris Ashby and the political activity lawyers at Ashby Law.  To subscribe, or to submit a story, email Info@Ashby-Law.com.


Week of March 28, 2016

Foreigners United? | How to Hack an Election | Rules are Rules | It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

FOREIGNERS UNITED?  FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub thinks she has discovered the antidote to Citizens United–the foreign money ban.  While CU opened the doors to unlimited independent spending by corporations, the prohibition against spending foreign money in U.S. elections remains in tact–and, unlike the corporate prohibition, it applies to all U.S. elections, not just federal ones.  Commissioner Weintraub would have the FEC use the foreign money ban to police corporate-funded independent expenditure spending, searching for even a dollar’s worth of foreign capital in the company’s treasury.  Her proposal was wildly cheered in the progressive reform echo chamber on Twitter, but thoughtful takes from the left and the right have cast doubt on its constitutionality and viability.

+ Taking on Citizens United | The New York Times – Ellen Weintraub

+ No, Commissioner Weintraub, the FEC can’t circumvent Citizens United | The Huffington Post – Allen Dickerson

+ One FEC Commissioner’s answer to Citizens United | More Soft Money Hard Law – Robert Bauer

+ Foreign money is flowing into U.S. elections, Alito’s lying lips notwithstanding | The Intercept – Jon Schwartz

HOW TO HACK AN ELECTION You think there’s no way this could happen here.  Then, this happens.

+ How to hack an election | Bloomberg Businessweek – Jordan Robertson, Michael Riley & Andrew Willis | “Andrés Sepúlveda rigged elections throughout Latin America for almost a decade. On the question of whether the U.S. presidential campaign is being tampered with, he is unequivocal. ‘I’m 100 percent sure it is,’ he says.”

+ Arizona Secretary of State confirms election fraud happened in Arizona primary | U.S. Uncut – Amanda Girard

RULES ARE RULES.  Donald Trump is learning the hard way that winning primaries is not enough.  You also have to win delegates–and keep them–in order to win the nomination.  Trump narrowly won Louisiana’s presidential preference vote, but Ted Cruz appears to have emerged from Louisiana with more pledged delegates.  (Trump threatened to sue.)  Then, after Trump stated that he no longer intends to honor his pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee, his claim to South Carolina’s 50 delegates is in jeopardy.

+ Welcome to politics, Mr. Trump: You won Louisiana’s battle but lost the war | The Washington Times – Kelly Riddell

+ The Trump-Cruz Louisiana delegate fight could be first sign of turmoil to come | Talking Points Memo – Tierney Sneed

+ Trump threatens lawsuit over lost Louisiana delegates | Washington Examiner – Kelly Cohen

+ Trump camp will file RNC complaint over delegates, not a lawsuit | Talking Points Memo – Caitlin MacNeal

+ Trump’s threat on pledge could cost him South Carolina delegates | Time – Zeke J. Miller

IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR.  For LDA nerds, that is.  The Government Accountability Office has released its annual report on Lobbying Disclosure Act compliance.  Once each year, the GAO randomly audits several dozen LDA registrants’ reports, attempting to determine if the registrants’ records line up with their reports.  Of note, over 85% of audited lobbyists responded that they thought it was easy to understand and comply with the LDA–and yet, over 30% failed to comply with one of the LDA’s easiest directives, to report lobbying expenditures rounded to the nearest $10,000.  More importantly, after a period of years in which it seemed regulators had no interest in enforcing the LDA, the report notes a continued uptick in DOJ referrals and criminal prosecutions for registration and reporting failures.

+ Observations on Lobbyists’ Compliance with Disclosure Requirements | Government Accountability Office – March 2016

About the Political Law Digest

The Political Law Digest is a weekly review of important stories and significant developments in campaign finance, election law, lobbyist regulation and government ethics – compiled by Chris Ashby and the political activity lawyers at Ashby Law.  To subscribe, or to submit a story, email Info@Ashby-Law.com.