Can the RBC Really Reinstate All of Florida’s Delegates?

The Associated Press reported that the Rules and Bylaws Committee cannot fully restore the delegates who were stripped from Michigan and Florida at its meeting, since party rules require a reduction of at least 50 percent since the two states held their primaries early. The report cites a memo sent out by DNC lawyers last night.

But on a conference call today, Clinton adviser and RBC member Tina Flournoy said that’s an “incorrect reading” of the memo. It merely presented arguments that could be made before the RBC, she said, which the committee will then have to evaluate. In other words, the Clinton campaign can still get 100 percent of the delegations seated.

Who’s right?

In strictly technical terms, Clinton’s people are. The memo, which summarizes challenges filed in Florida and Michigan to reinstate part or all of the state’s delegations, goes out of its way not to endorse one stance or another. (Michigan’s Democratic Party requested that all of the state’s delegates be reinstated; Florida DNC member Jon Ausman asked for 50 percent of Florida’s pledged delegates and all of its superdelegates to be counted.) As if to reiterate the memo’s toothlessness, the DNC just sent out a statement calling it an “intentionally neutral” analysis that “does not make specific recommendations.”

But in a few key parts, the memo points out how the RBC would basically have to violate DNC rules in order to reinstate more than half the delegations. Here are some examples:

“[I]t seems clear that while the RBC could revoke its additional sanctions , leaving in place the automatic sanctions of Rule 20(C)(1), it does not have authority to reverse or prevent the imposition of those automatic sanctions .”—Michigan challenge, Page 3

“If the RBC decides to go as far as it legally can in granting the MDP Challenge, it would revoke the additional December 2007 sanctions and leave in place a 50% automatic reduction in pledged delegates .”—Michigan challenge, Page 6

“The legally more defensible view seems to be that the RBC had authority, in its discretion, to impose the additional sanction that it did impose in August 2007, but by the same token, that the RBC now has discretion to revoke those additional sanctions , thereby leaving in effect the automatic sanction of Rule 20(C)(1), i.e ., a 50% reduction in pledged delegates .”—Florida challenge, Page 6

In other words, the RBC could reinstate all of Michigan or Florida’s delegates (although only the Michigan challenge calls for full reinstatement), but that would violate its own rules. Clinton supporters will likely argue that the RBC has the power to overrule itself. As the memo puts it, the committee “is vested with broad authority … to ‘determine and resolve questions concerning the seating of delegates and alternates to the Convention.’ ” But it also points out that the committee’s power is limited to making states comply with party rules. If there’s a resolution to seat the full delegations, that will go to the Credentials Committee in late June, which would then throw it to the convention floor in August.

What does this all mean? That we’re in for a really dull RBC meeting. If the Clinton camp can’t get more than 50 percent of the delegations reinstated, they have no hope of turning the tables on Obama. (Even if they could get all of Michigan and Florida’s delegates to count, it would be virtually impossible to catch up among pledged delegates.) Both camps seem to expect mayhem—Clinton supporters are planning protests , while Obama has urged supporters not to stir things up. But chances are the scene outside the building will be a lot more dramatic than inside.