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Some supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders have brought a class action case against the Democratic National Committee. They allege that the DNC unfairly favored Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primaries, despite the DNC charter requiring them to maintain impartiality and evenhandedness.

A new tweet is going around regarding the proceedings.

DNC has now stated in a court of law.."no enforceable obligation to run Primary election in a fair and impartial manner" #DNCFraudLawsuit

The quote has been seized upon by others.

Is this true? The nature of the tweet is such that the DNC is arguing that, truth aside, it has no legal obligation to have an honest primary?

It seems the subject of question is The Charter and Bylaws of the Democratic Party of The United States.

  • Article 1, Section 4

    Establish standards and rules of procedure to afford all members of the Democratic Party full, timely and equal opportunities to participate in decisions concerning the selection of candidates, the formulation of policy, and the conduct of other Party affairs, without prejudice on the basis of sex, race, age (if of voting age), color, creed, national origin, religion, economic status, sexual orientation, ethnic identity or physical disability, and further, to promote fair campaign practices and the fair adjudication of disputes. Accordingly, the scheduling of Democratic Party affairs at all levels shall consider the presence of any religious minorities of significant numbers of concentration whose level of participation would be affected;

  • Article 5, Section 4

    The National Chairperson shall serve full time and shall receive such compensation as may be determined by agreement between the Chairperson and the Democratic National Committee. In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and evenhandedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process.

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    The claim doesn't seem very relevant (I'm also not sure if a tweet with just 100 retweets counts as notable). Even if the DNC had claimed this it is afaik true that neither the DNC nor the RNC can be forced to run fair primaries. With a proper definition of "fair", if this is true would actually be a more interesting question (and notability would be easy to show for that question). – tim May 1 '17 at 16:35
  • @tim that doesn't make sense to me, to much negation. – Evan Carroll May 1 '17 at 16:38
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    @tim are you arguing that claim would be interesting if true? or if untrue? and if it's interesting one way or the other -- wouldn't the basis for the claim be relevant? – Evan Carroll May 1 '17 at 16:38
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    I'm saying that "(The DNC claimed that it can just decide their primaries however they want.) Do the DNC and RNC have to run 'fair' primaries?" would be a more interesting question than "Some random person on twitter claimed that the DNC said that it does not have to run fair primaries. Is it true?" – tim May 1 '17 at 16:42
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    @tim No one on twitter asked is it true. They made a claim. This community brings the skepticism. I am skeptical about the claim. I asked if it was true. The claim is just that, the "DNC claimed that it can just decide their primaries however they want". Or, more specifically, that "DNC claimed that it can just decide their primaries without any enforceable obligation to be fair an impartial." That claim is likely true in what the DNC stated, but the words come from the plaintiff's summary and not the DNC. – Evan Carroll May 1 '17 at 16:44
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The claim is likely true to what the DNC argued but the plaintiff used the term "enforceable obligation" in a summary. The defendant, the DNC, having never said that used only terms "contractual and fiduciary obligation" and "enforceable promise."

You can see the quote in full from the transcript here

MR. BECK: Yes. And I'll take the last part first, which was the question your Honor had posed, is there -- and I'm paraphrasing it, but is there a material difference between a campaign promise, such as "read my lips, no new taxes," and representations that are made in the DNC's own charter?

And, quite frankly, if what defendant -- or what the DNC has just said is true -- and I really hope it's not true, but if what he said is true, then I think it's a really sad day for democracy in this country. Because what essentially the DNC has now stated in a court of law is that it believes that there is no enforceable obligation to run the primary elections of this country's democracy in a fair and impartial manner.

And if that's the case -- and I think counsel just said it himself -- then really, you know, the sky's the limit in terms of what the DNC and any party, for that matter, can do.

The key here is that Jared H. Beck is the attorney for the plaintiff. Not the defendant (the Democratic National Committee).

Now what Beck is responding to is a series of claims argued by the defendant, Spiva, acting for the defendant, did say

  1. "we could have [...] voluntarily decided that, Look, we're gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way. That's not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right, and it would drag the Court well into party politics, internal party politics to answer those questions."

  2. "the party has the freedom of association to decide how it's gonna select its representatives to the convention and to the state party."

  3. "there's no right to not have your candidate disadvantaged or have another candidate advantaged. There's no contractual obligation here. Nor is there a fiduciary obligation, although I know we're gonna get to that later. But there's -- it's not a situation where a promise has been made that is an enforceable promise."

Given the context about it being the freedom of association for a political party to pick a candidate in a cigar filled back room after a primary that had one candidate disadvantaged and having said explicitly both "contractual obligation" and "fiduciary obligation" it may not be much of a stretch for Beck to have summarized that the DNC was arguing that there was no "enforceable obligation"; and, the DNC did say explicitly there was no "enforceable promise."

Update

As to whether or not the DNC claimed the primary was fair, they did claim such but they expressly stated that such a claim was not their argument, in fact they argued that to even entertain that question would invalidate the First Amendment interests of the party.

And I should say, your Honor, I just want to be clear, because I know it may sometimes sound like I am somehow suggesting that I think the party did not -- you know, the party's position is that it has not violated in the least this provision of its charter. [...] So I just want to get that out there. But to even determine -- to make that determination would require the Court to wade into this political thicket. And -- you know, which would invade its First Amendment interests, and also, I think, would raise issues -- standing issues along all three prongs of the standing test.

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    Wow that second quote is hard to follow, who talks like that – DasBeasto May 1 '17 at 19:41
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    English is not my first language, and English Legalese isn't even my 4257th, so I have a bit of trouble following the entire chain of events. Is this is a correct simplification: the DNC's lawyer argued that the primaries were fair, but even if for some reason they weren't, that would nevertheless not violate any rules or laws. The opposing lawyer than claimed that the DNC said they were under no obligation to run a fair primary. (Which I guess, technically, they did, but that's terribly misrepresenting the context of the statement.) … – Jörg W Mittag May 1 '17 at 20:30
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    @JörgWMittag, that's a fairly standard way of arguing a case: "My client did not do x, but even if it turns out he did do x, it wasn't illegal for him to do so." – Mark May 1 '17 at 20:59
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    An aside: In theory, no one has any obligation to vote for any particular party candidate, even if they voted in a primary. So realistically, it seems they'd be correct. The party is not a branch of government; it's not bound by all the same rules. One would hope that if the process was unfair, that voters wouldn't vote for that candidate. – jpmc26 May 1 '17 at 23:13
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    @DasBeasto: Many people talk like that. What people don't do is write like that. Direct transcriptions of real speech are frequently hard to follow. – Jack Aidley May 2 '17 at 14:30

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