The DNC Fraud Lawsuit

You probably won't hear much about it on CNN or MSNBC, but right now there is a class-action lawsuit brought by some Bernie Sanders donors against the DNC alleging that the DNC, by failing to live up to its public charter and bylaws by biasing the primary towards Hillary Clinton, committed a fraud against donors to Democratic candidates in 2016.

The DNC has argued that the suit should be dismissed on the grounds that:

1)They have the right to simply pick whichever candidate they want without consulting voters at all.

2)That impartiality is not something required of them; it doesn't have to be in the charter.

3)That impartiality, though it is in the charter, is not an enforceable promise: it is a political promise, like George H.W. Bush's promise "Read my lips: no new taxes." (He of course then went on to raise taxes and was promptly voted out in favor of Bill Clinton. Remember when we blamed candidate choices for losing elections instead of voters?)

4)That requiring neutrality of an organization that has promised neutrality infringes the free speech rights of the organization.

The funny thing about #1 and #2 there is that they could be true but it wouldn't seem to have much bearing on the case (aside from being necessary to make any of the other defenses work): the DNC rules and bylaws don't allow simply picking the candidate without consulting voters. In fact, I think political parties do potentially have that right, and ought potentially to have that right-- just like independent campaigns-- but the DNC, by using primary election processes and assuring us of their fairness and impartiality, has waived that right in return for a substantial gain in public support. The DNC would have the moral right to act like an organization which just independently supports candidates its operators and donors like if it made no pretense otherwise. But if it does make that pretense-- if the public support is based on a lie and people have given money under the pretense that the lie is true, that would seem to be a case of fraud no different from telling people you'll take their donations to fund someone's cancer treatment, then just pocketing the money once it is given.

Number four is interesting. It would indeed seem to limit one's speech to have to be neutral. However, there is an easy remedy: stop being the chair of the DNC and give the job to someone who can manage being impartial. Number four is ultimately an unconvincing defense.

Credible public statements about the standards to which an organization will hold itself do amount to promises to those who donate to that organization or participate in its processes. The case seems to turn on #3 (or possibly some standing issue I'm overlooking). The court could well decide that political parties have the right to lie not only about what they'll do when in office (which of course has the remedy of voting them out of office) but also about how they conduct their candidate selection (for which the only recourse is choosing another party.) If the DNC does win this case, choosing another party or somehow seizing control of it from the malcontents who currently control it will be the only recourse. And that fact alone makes it plain why this isn't getting much mainstream coverage: the outcome of this case will actually be relevant news to those who demand political change instead of a choice between two heads of the same snake.

http://www.salon.com/2017/05/13/the-dncs-elephant-in-the-room-dems-have-a-problem-its-not-donald-trump/
http://lawnewz.com/uncategorized/dnc-stoops-to-new-low-in-fraud-lawsuit-filed-by-bernie-backers/
http://inthesetimes.com/article/20105/in-its-defense-against-fraud-suit-from-bernie-supporters-the-dnc-just-dug-i
http://www.wnd.com/2017/05/dnc-we-rigged-primaries-so-what/

So this is why Saelune says that Bernie Sanders is a bigger threat than Jill Stein was: Because he might cause the Democratic Party to stop being the party of coastal urbanites(clearly a road to failure) and become the Party of the Workers(which might actually get the Dems to start winning again).

Does this lawsuit have any chance of going anywhere? What is the status of this charter?

I agree that failing to live up to your own charter in this way is rather dishonest but I don't know whether it is against US law.

As for the arguments you spoke of. I can't speak to how much legal sense they make, but 1) and 2) seem like bad arguments. Just because you didn't have to promise something doesn't mean you can arbitrarily walk back on a promise. It would not surprise me if 3) and 4) are taken as good arguments. I can at least vaguely imagine legal reasons for that. 4) is a bit amusing because organisations have free speech rights now. How very american. I recall that was also a thing in this one lawsuit that Bernie Sanders didn't like but the details aren't sharp in my mind. As for 3) I don't precisely understand what unenforcable means in this context. It would have certainly been possible not to promote Hillary as hard as they had done and to keep their promise. What makes it unenforcable specifically? What is a 'political promise'? Is that just code for lying?

Good, I hope they clean up the Democratic party a bit from all of those corporate owned politicians.

Pseudonym:
Does this lawsuit have any chance of going anywhere? What is the status of this charter?

I agree that failing to live up to your own charter in this way is rather dishonest but I don't know whether it is against US law.

As for the arguments you spoke of. I can't speak to how much legal sense they make, but 1) and 2) seem like bad arguments. Just because you didn't have to promise something doesn't mean you can arbitrarily walk back on a promise. It would not surprise me if 3) and 4) are taken as good arguments. I can at least vaguely imagine legal reasons for that. 4) is a bit amusing because organisations have free speech rights now. How very american. I recall that was also a thing in this one lawsuit that Bernie Sanders didn't like but the details aren't sharp in my mind. As for 3) I don't precisely understand what unenforcable means in this context. It would have certainly been possible not to promote Hillary as hard as they had done and to keep their promise. What makes it unenforcable specifically? What is a 'political promise'? Is that just code for lying?

A political promise would be one that has the recourse of voting the person out of office-- one which, for various reasons, may not be kept once in office.

As for 3) I don't precisely understand what unenforcable means in this context.

Unenforceable by courts, in this context. The DNC could enforce it, but for courts to do so they argue would be an intolerable intervention into party affairs.

I would've loved to see Sanders in the white house and vastly preferred him over every other candidate but this lawsuit is just nonsense. The primary voters picked their candidate, to their detriment but still.

and also

Seanchaidh:

http://www.salon.com/2017/05/13/the-dncs-elephant-in-the-room-dems-have-a-problem-its-not-donald-trump/
http://lawnewz.com/uncategorized/dnc-stoops-to-new-low-in-fraud-lawsuit-filed-by-bernie-backers/
http://inthesetimes.com/article/20105/in-its-defense-against-fraud-suit-from-bernie-supporters-the-dnc-just-dug-i
http://www.wnd.com/2017/05/dnc-we-rigged-primaries-so-what/

These are all terrible sources. Well, Salon is more middlingly bad but still, Worldnet Daily? Seriously?

@American_Tanker: No, Bernie was a bigger threat cause it was he who really sucked away votes that could have gone to Clinton.

As for this...fuck it, Im fine with it. My knee-jerk reaction was annoyance, cause it seems more Bernie BS, but ya know what?

[1)They have the right to simply pick whichever candidate they want without consulting voters at all.]

Fuck that. That is not Democracy, and that shit is uh, kind of a big problem with why Trump is now President. Even with all the spitefull Bernie voters, Clinton did still get MORE VOTES THAN TRUMP, yet is not President.

I also dont agree much with the other points.

And back to Tanker...how about the Democratic party not be the party of the "Workers" OR "Coastal Urbanites" (by the way, coastal urbanites work too) but the party of the people. All the people. That is why I vote Democrat, cause they have been the party most intent on fighting for all people, including gays and women and poor and immigrants, unlike the competitors, the Republican party who care only about Wealthy White Straight Men, probably in that order.

jademunky:
I would've loved to see Sanders in the white house and vastly preferred him over every other candidate but this lawsuit is just nonsense. The primary voters picked their candidate, to their detriment but still.

and also

Seanchaidh:

http://www.salon.com/2017/05/13/the-dncs-elephant-in-the-room-dems-have-a-problem-its-not-donald-trump/
http://lawnewz.com/uncategorized/dnc-stoops-to-new-low-in-fraud-lawsuit-filed-by-bernie-backers/
http://inthesetimes.com/article/20105/in-its-defense-against-fraud-suit-from-bernie-supporters-the-dnc-just-dug-i
http://www.wnd.com/2017/05/dnc-we-rigged-primaries-so-what/

These are all terrible sources. Well, Salon is more middlingly bad but still, Worldnet Daily? Seriously?

To some extent, that's kind of the point. Try a google search on "DNC Fraud Lawsuit". Let me know what you come up with.

Adam Jensen:
Good, I hope they clean up the Democratic party a bit from all of those corporate owned politicians.

I wish it would, but I know it most likely will not. The bigger issue though is can they win an election without the corporate assholes? Without the corporate assholes they are in the same boat as the 3rd parties, and 3rd parties have no hope of being elected.

Right now they have to focus on house and senate wins across the board, which will take corporate assholes in order to do so. In order to win what they need to actually make a difference, they will need to be able to beat republicans at their own game in many districts, or they will never win. They are not doing that nor are they offering ANY candidates that could remotely do that in many areas. The candidates I have seen run here have no hope of winning because of the demographics they are trying to win over. They cannot cater to their base in order to win the seats they need to win to actually pass the legislation they need to make a difference, they have to cater to those people who want a "republican" but are tired of corruption. Sadly, if you are not a white Christian male in many areas, it is not going to happen. In order to beat the Republicans "white christian male" you have to bring your own white christian male in many of the areas where we need to unseat the worst offenders in Congress.

Not winning doesn't help anything, and what is at stake currently, the lives of millions, is not something they can afford to lose. First, they have to actually win those seats to be able to save lives as fast as possible.There is not going to be any fast takeover, no matter how much I would like one, this is going to be a slow change over a long time, one seat at a time. Currently they lost congress and the white house and congress is even MORE important than the white house. It is going to take everything they have to change that, and they are no where near prepared to do so currently. They need democrats that look and talk like " good ol boys" ( lots of Bill Clinton's) in order to take the seats they need to make a real difference once and for all.

We need to pull them together enough just to get their footing back first, then work from the inside while they have time to actually do so. Losing means losing all the work they have done up till now and having to start over .. again.

Seanchaidh:

To some extent, that's kind of the point. Try a google search on "DNC Fraud Lawsuit". Let me know what you come up with.

Your own thread is #7 on the list. Point taken on that one.

Now, why do you think that is? Is it because large, rival publications have colluded to keep this story buried (really impossible in this day and age once it gets out) or that they have concluded that it will not get anywhere and is not even being brought by Sanders himself so is not really newsworthy.

jademunky:

Seanchaidh:

To some extent, that's kind of the point. Try a google search on "DNC Fraud Lawsuit". Let me know what you come up with.

Your own thread is #7 on the list. Point taken on that one.

I didn't think it'd be that bad! Though I guess the title of the post is exactly that...

jademunky:
Now, why do you think that is? Is it because large, rival publications have colluded to keep this story buried (really impossible in this day and age once it gets out) or that they have concluded that it will not get anywhere and is not even being brought by Sanders himself so is not really newsworthy.

It needn't be any sort of organized effort to suppress the story. They just don't have an interest in seeing the Democratic Party embarrassed like that. Not covering a story is something that requires no conspiring or conscious collusion whatsoever, as it carries very little risk. It's the same reason why Democratic Senators getting shouted down for not supporting single payer in town hall discussions isn't being covered like the tea party was: the tea party is a line corporate news wants to push, because one of their big things is "fiscal responsibility", so their news anchors get up there and blow a load on how big a force they are.

As to the merits, judges have a very easy time justifying not interfering with political parties if they don't want to. The reasoning behind not interfering with the Democratic Party in this case is probably fairly sound from a technical point of view (by conceding that Democratic party primaries basically don't have to be fair at all). But I think there is a definite edge to the fraud argument that a judge might decide is compelling, and if indeed the Democratic Party doesn't have to be impartial or follow its rules at all, that seems incredibly newsworthy: this lawsuit failing would be big news to me, and very important news for people who consider themselves Democrats or tend to vote for Democrats. If the people really don't have the power to take back the Democratic party for themselves, that should have vast political ramifications. If primaries don't need to be fair, then it becomes much harder to argue that the two major parties are not far too powerful for us to call ourselves a functioning democracy.

Seanchaidh:

As to the merits, judges have a very easy time justifying not interfering with political parties if they don't want to. The reasoning behind not interfering with the Democratic Party in this case is probably fairly sound from a technical point of view (by conceding that Democratic party primaries basically don't have to be fair at all).

This is pretty-much the reality, parties are just clubs that can set their own rules. I think the fault here lies with the population themselves who have insisted since forever of never having any more than 2 permanent parties.

If the people really don't have the power to take back the Democratic party for themselves, that should have vast political ramifications.

The people (those who voted it the primaries) did choose Clinton though. Now a large amount of that was that was due to her having spent the last 30 years of her life preparing herself for this role but isn't that an important distinction? She had been spending her political years building support within the party's various interests and along comes a guy who says "well, your party kinda sucks, also vote for me." It's not a fantastic message.

jademunky:

Seanchaidh:

As to the merits, judges have a very easy time justifying not interfering with political parties if they don't want to. The reasoning behind not interfering with the Democratic Party in this case is probably fairly sound from a technical point of view (by conceding that Democratic party primaries basically don't have to be fair at all).

This is pretty-much the reality, parties are just clubs that can set their own rules. I think the fault here lies with the population themselves who have insisted since forever of never having any more than 2 permanent parties.

That would make political parties rather unique in their ability to lie about how they operate, however. Also: who owns the DNC? Whose rights are supposedly being protected here? And if they explicitly market themselves as something that isn't just a club that arbitrarily chooses candidates, then they have a responsibility to at least make a good faith effort to live up to their own claims.

jademunky:

If the people really don't have the power to take back the Democratic party for themselves, that should have vast political ramifications.

The people (those who voted it the primaries) did choose Clinton though. Now a large amount of that was that was due to her having spent the last 30 years of her life preparing herself for this role but isn't that an important distinction? She had been spending her political years building support within the party's various interests and along comes a guy who says "well, your party kinda sucks, also vote for me." It's not a fantastic message.

Yeah, and the party apparatus deliberately scheduled debates to limit exposure of candidates (which would predictably benefit Clinton since her trend in polls is almost always downward: people think "maybe she's different this time. Maybe I'll like her... oh... no... damnit. :(" And the DNC itself developed a media strategy to defend her in the primary (by "muddying the waters" about transparency, campaign finance, ethics) before O'Malley or Webb had even declared they were running. And, of course, the superdelegate shenanigans (especially how they were reported) served to make what was rather a close race look not close at all and discourage people from even bothering to vote against her.

The lawsuit will go nowhere.

Seanchaidh:
1)They have the right to simply pick whichever candidate they want without consulting voters at all.

This is, in fact, the legal position. It's not very democratic, but nothing in the Constitution requires that a political party select a candidate by democratic vote, only that their candidate be elected by democratic vote.

This is probably easier for me to stomach because here in Australia, the position of prime minister is determined by an almost-entirely opaque process of intra-party shenanigans, and the prime minister you voted for can be ousted by his own party basically at any time. In short; that's how it works, it's how it's always worked, and if you want to change it then I guess you better get into politics.

More generally; the idea that a donor can sue a political committee for fraud, of all things, is really weird to me. For one thing, it kind of implies that the voting process is transactional; the politician promises to do X in exchange for a vote from a citizen, and if the politician does not or never intended to fulfill their promise, the transaction was fraudulent and they have "cheated" the citizen out of a vote. But that's just buying votes; it's basically illegal. The candidate/donor relationship cannot be framed in that way conceptually, even if it functions in that way in practice, because the whole legal fiction underpinning the process is that the voter votes for a politician whose platform they agree with, not a politician who promised to give them something in return.

Similarly, it's really weird for a donor to speak about a political donation as if it was an investment. A political donor is not an investor. There's no fiduciary relationship between the politician and the people bankrolling his campaign, and the donation does not give rise to any legally binding obligations for either participant. The donation may have the practical effect of being an investment, in that it generates political capital that can be expended at a later date, but it cannot be legally enforced in that manner. That would essentially allow the companies paying the bribes to sue the politicians they bribed for not doing what they were bribed to do.

I would be really surprised if this ever went anywhere. It seems like even the people bringing the suit haven't thought through all the implications of what they're claiming.

As to this story being suppressed in the media, I don't think that's happening. For one, it's up on Wikipedia. It's more likely that it's not being reported on because there's not much to report; the same goes for the sixty or so pending lawsuits against President Trump that I don't hear anything about on a daily basis. Lawsuits move slowly. If it actually gets to court, that's news. If a judge hands down a decision, that's news. But if the lawsuit has just been filed? There's not much to say other than "a lawsuit has just been filed."

bastardofmelbourne:

Seanchaidh:
1)They have the right to simply pick whichever candidate they want without consulting voters at all.

This is, in fact, the legal position. It's not very democratic, but nothing in the Constitution requires that a political party select a candidate by democratic vote, only that their candidate be elected by democratic vote.

Right, but as I indicated above, they have advertised themselves as having voluntarily waived that right. A great deal of state effort is expended on collecting and tallying their primary votes and their publicly available rules and bylaws as well as public statements by the chair of the DNC say that the DNC shall exercise impartiality. The problem is not that they can pick whichever candidate they want, it is that they have made a promise not to do so and have long acted on the pretense that they do not simply pick whichever candidate that the chair wants or bias their primary (aside from allowing superdelegates to vote as they will).

If the DNC wants to simply be like an independent campaign committee for whoever they like, that's fine, but they should not advertise themselves otherwise. And perhaps more importantly, we shouldn't indulge in the fantasy that they are otherwise if they are not.

Seanchaidh:
Right, but as I indicated above, they have advertised themselves as having voluntarily waived that right. A great deal of state effort is expended on collecting and tallying their primary votes and their publicly available rules and bylaws as well as public statements by the chair of the DNC say that the DNC shall exercise impartiality. The problem is not that they can pick whichever candidate they want, it is that they have made a promise not to do so and have long acted on the pretense that they do not simply pick whichever candidate that the chair wants or bias their primary (aside from allowing superdelegates to vote as they will).

If the DNC wants to simply be like an independent campaign committee for whoever they like, that's fine, but they should not advertise themselves otherwise. And perhaps more importantly, we shouldn't indulge in the fantasy that they are otherwise if they are not.

It's important to remember that the DNC doesn't actually control state primaries or caucuses. Those are performed by the states in accordance with state law, IIRC.

More to the point: it is still actually really weird to treat a political promise ("We will treat our candidates fairly") as if it was a legal obligation. I mean, the rules for misrepresentation and fraud in contract law[1] are usually geared around fairly standard cases of deceit, like a snake oil salesman selling you a potion to make your dick bigger but it's actually just vinegar and water.

The DNC may have given their voters the reasonable impression that they pick their candidates fairly, and that may (arguably) fit the requirements of a similar misrepresentation in contract law, but I still don't think that's legally binding at all because I don't think a political promise is comparable to a contract. I don't think it should be comparable to a contract. That implies a whole host of unsavoury things about the voting process that I feel like we should be trying to avoid.

I mean, those kinds of transactional agreements still happen in politics, obviously, but they shouldn't be legitimised by a court decision. The effect of that precedent would be far-reaching and I think almost uniformly negative.

[1] I'm speaking from experience in UK/Australian contract law, so the terms may be different in the US.

I like how the DNC admits there's no legal obligation to pick a candidate from the voters, and not just from backroom deals. They don't even care! They're just as bad as the GOP, just with more brain-dead Celebrities ready to shill for them.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz just keeps seeming worse and worse in retrospect doesn't she?

So if I'm understanding this correctly, this is one of those things that are morally reprehensible but has no legal consequences?

bastardofmelbourne:

Seanchaidh:
Right, but as I indicated above, they have advertised themselves as having voluntarily waived that right. A great deal of state effort is expended on collecting and tallying their primary votes and their publicly available rules and bylaws as well as public statements by the chair of the DNC say that the DNC shall exercise impartiality. The problem is not that they can pick whichever candidate they want, it is that they have made a promise not to do so and have long acted on the pretense that they do not simply pick whichever candidate that the chair wants or bias their primary (aside from allowing superdelegates to vote as they will).

If the DNC wants to simply be like an independent campaign committee for whoever they like, that's fine, but they should not advertise themselves otherwise. And perhaps more importantly, we shouldn't indulge in the fantasy that they are otherwise if they are not.

It's important to remember that the DNC doesn't actually control state primaries or caucuses. Those are performed by the states in accordance with state law, IIRC.

More to the point: it is still actually really weird to treat a political promise ("We will treat our candidates fairly") as if it was a legal obligation. I mean, the rules for misrepresentation and fraud in contract law are usually geared around fairly standard cases of deceit, like a snake oil salesman selling you a potion to make your dick bigger but it's actually just vinegar and water.

The DNC may have given their voters the reasonable impression that they pick their candidates fairly, and that may (arguably) fit the requirements of a similar misrepresentation in contract law, but I still don't think that's legally binding at all because I don't think a political promise is comparable to a contract. I don't think it should be comparable to a contract. That implies a whole host of unsavoury things about the voting process that I feel like we should be trying to avoid.

We're not talking about a party platform or a pledge to pursue some policy while in office, though. We're talking about how the organization says it will run itself in its rules and bylaws. Now, it's not absolutely clear that this should be treated as something other than a political promise, but if it is treated that way, then that implies that the two major parties have far too much control over the political system as it now functions. Because the remedy for a broken political promise is voting someone else in. If you only have two real choices and potentially zero influence over what those choices are, then that remedy is severely lacking. There's no way to look at such a situation and call it democracy.

bastardofmelbourne:
I mean, those kinds of transactional agreements still happen in politics, obviously, but they shouldn't be legitimised by a court decision. The effect of that precedent would be far-reaching and I think almost uniformly negative.

I think a principled distinction can be made between the sort of promise we're dealing with here and other political promises, and the scope could be limited to requiring just a "good faith effort" by officers rather than absolute fulfillment of the rules.

Shadowstar38:
So if I'm understanding this correctly, this is one of those things that are morally reprehensible but has no legal consequences?

Yeah, basically.

Seanchaidh:
We're not talking about a party platform or a pledge to pursue some policy while in office, though. We're talking about how the organization says it will run itself in its rules and bylaws. Now, it's not absolutely clear that this should be treated as something other than a political promise, but if it is, then that implies that the two major parties have far too much control over the political system as it now functions. Because the remedy for a broken political promise is voting someone else in. If you only have two real choices and potentially zero influence over what those choices are, then that remedy is severely lacking. There's no way to look at such a situation and call it democracy.

Yeah. I mean, there's a long list of problems with the US right now that inhibit proper democratic voting, but the two-party system is definitely one of them.

It's one of those things where I can't really say much about it other than that it's not illegal, it maybe should be but then again maybe not, and it's only ever going to change if more reform-minded people get into the party hierarchy. There's a way and a need to force the DNC to up its game, but this lawsuit isn't going to do it.

Seanchaidh:
I think a principled distinction can be made between the sort of promise we're dealing with here and other political promises, and the scope could be limited to requiring just a "good faith effort" by officers rather than absolute fulfillment of the rules.

Ehhh...maybe. I mean, the real problem is that the lawsuit is applying principles of contract/fraud law to the operation of a political party. That's just - you know, I'm not going to say it's 100% bad because who knows, but it's fucking weird. I've been thinking about it all morning, actually, and it's really fucking weird because it's alleging some bizarro menage-a-trois of politics, contract law, and tort law.

Contract law, of which misrepresentation is a part, is a very specific and conceptually rigorous field. There's elements to a contract that need to be fulfilled for legal obligations to arise, one of which is a mutual intent to be bound by the rule of the contract. It's basically because of how restrictive contract law is that most consumer protection legislation provides a more relaxed statutory process for resolving minor cases of misrepresentation, but I doubt any of that legislation applies to a non-corporate body like the DNC. So you'd be stuck trying to parse the DNC/voter relationship as a contractual one in order to sue the DNC for essentially misrepresenting the terms of their relationship with the voter.

I mean, you can't actually sue someone just for lying. For misrepresentation, you sue them for misrepresenting the contract; for fraud, you sue them for lying in a way that a) hurts you and b) benefits them. Setting aside the question of whether a lost political donation constitutes "harm" for the purposes of a civil wrong, it's still kinda weird to say that the alleged fraud benefited the DNC; all the staffers involved got fired, and they lost the election.

I actually just thought of something else; if the relationship between the voter and the candidate gives rise to contractual obligations on the candidate, it'd impose the same obligations on the voter. That is, the voter could be sued by the politician if they decided to change their vote while in the polling booth. That's a whole other level of weirdness. Shit, a voter could sue the state they voted in for alleged negligence in not running enough polling booths to allow their candidate to win and therefore fulfill the hypothetical vote contract.

This is actually a super interesting legal hypothetical! I might ask Popehat to write something about this.

bastardofmelbourne:

Seanchaidh:
We're not talking about a party platform or a pledge to pursue some policy while in office, though. We're talking about how the organization says it will run itself in its rules and bylaws. Now, it's not absolutely clear that this should be treated as something other than a political promise, but if it is, then that implies that the two major parties have far too much control over the political system as it now functions. Because the remedy for a broken political promise is voting someone else in. If you only have two real choices and potentially zero influence over what those choices are, then that remedy is severely lacking. There's no way to look at such a situation and call it democracy.

Yeah. I mean, there's a long list of problems with the US right now that inhibit proper democratic voting, but the two-party system is definitely one of them.

It's one of those things where I can't really say much about it other than that it's not illegal, it maybe should be but then again maybe not, and it's only ever going to change if more reform-minded people get into the party hierarchy. There's a way and a need to force the DNC to up its game, but this lawsuit isn't going to do it.

If the party has unlimited rights to manage itself (and again I'd have to ask: "whose party?") then that might not even be doable.

bastardofmelbourne:

Seanchaidh:
I think a principled distinction can be made between the sort of promise we're dealing with here and other political promises, and the scope could be limited to requiring just a "good faith effort" by officers rather than absolute fulfillment of the rules.

Ehhh...maybe. I mean, the real problem is that the lawsuit is applying principles of contract/fraud law to the operation of a political party. That's just - you know, I'm not going to say it's 100% bad because who knows, but it's fucking weird. I've been thinking about it all morning, actually, and it's really fucking weird because it's alleging some bizarro menage-a-trois of politics, contract law, and tort law.

Contract law, of which misrepresentation is a part, is a very specific and conceptually rigorous field. There's elements to a contract that need to be fulfilled for legal obligations to arise, one of which is a mutual intent to be bound by the rule of the contract. It's basically because of how restrictive contract law is that most consumer protection legislation provides a more relaxed statutory process for resolving minor cases of misrepresentation, but I doubt any of that legislation applies to a non-corporate body like the DNC. So you'd be stuck trying to parse the DNC/voter relationship as a contractual one in order to sue the DNC for essentially misrepresenting the terms of their relationship with the voter.

I mean, you can't actually sue someone just for lying. For misrepresentation, you sue them for misrepresenting the contract; for fraud, you sue them for lying in a way that a) hurts you and b) benefits them. Setting aside the question of whether a lost political donation constitutes "harm" for the purposes of a civil wrong, it's still kinda weird to say that the alleged fraud benefited the DNC; all the staffers involved got fired, and they lost the election.

The case is being brought by people who supported Bernie Sanders; they may have donated to the DNC as well, but they wanted to see their candidate through and presumed a fair process. If I understand correctly, they are suing the DNC on behalf of their class for the amount of money that the class donated to Bernie Sanders.

bastardofmelbourne:
I actually just thought of something else; if the relationship between the voter and the candidate gives rise to contractual obligations on the candidate, it'd impose the same obligations on the voter. That is, the voter could be sued by the politician if they decided to change their vote while in the polling booth. That's a whole other level of weirdness. Shit, a voter could sue the state they voted in for alleged negligence in not running enough polling booths to allow their candidate to win and therefore fulfill the hypothetical vote contract.

In this case the complainants are donors who claim to have donated under certain pretenses rather than just voters; imposing contractual obligations on voters (which voters?) is prima facie absurd and clearly illegal (voting contracts are illegal, and that's also why we don't give people receipts for voting). Presumably, donating would fulfill the one side of the contract just as it would in the case of donating to someone's gofundme or whatever. The distinction here is that an established organization is making claims about how it will operate in its rules and bylaws which seem quite like the fiduciary responsibilities that are incurred in any other kind of organization's official charter.

The transcripts of the hearing on whether to dismiss are now available.

Seanchaidh:

Pseudonym:
snip

A political promise would be one that has the recourse of voting the person out of office-- one which, for various reasons, may not be kept once in office.

As for 3) I don't precisely understand what unenforcable means in this context.

Unenforceable by courts, in this context. The DNC could enforce it, but for courts to do so they argue would be an intolerable intervention into party affairs.

Right, for the political promise, the DNC doesn't need political office of any kind to refrain from interfering in their own elections in the way they did. I get the concept of a political promise because a politician could find, once in office, that he doesn't have the money or the political pull to get his plans executed. Thing is, the DNC was not neutral because they decided to for no reason that I really get. Mostly it seems because they just happened to like Hillary better than Sanders. Fair enough except then you shouldn't write down in your charter that you'll be neutral about the candidates.

As for the unenforcability. Possibly true, but it seems like 4) but phrased a bit more abstractly.

 

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