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.