RBC Preview: The Case Clinton Has To Make

A lawyer for the Clinton campaign fired off a letter today to the co-chairs of the DNC rules committee, outlining the argument they plan to make tomorrow. Their case hinges largely on whether Florida and Michigan have been sufficiently punished. We all agree they’ve been very bad states , the argument goes. Get over it .

The letter rejects the argument made by DNC lawyers that the committee can’t reinstate more than half of the delegations. “This conclusion is incorrect,” the Clinton letter states. “The RBC has broad power to fully reinstate the Florida and Michigan delegations” as long as the state parties “have taken provable, positive steps and acted in good faith to bring the state into compliance” with party rules. Attempts to hold re-votes count as such good-faith steps, even though they failed, according to the campaign. If the RBC buys this argument—that the states genuinely tried to comply with the rules but failed—then the Clinton camp might have a shot at reinstating all the delegates. (In Florida, at least; Michigan is messier by a long shot.)

But there’s another rule the Clinton campaign doesn’t mention. In the same part of the Delegate Selection Rules ( PDF ) cited by the Clinton team [Rule 20(C)(7)], it says that “other relevant Democratic party leaders and elected officials took all provable, positive steps and acted in good faith in attempting to prevent the legislative changes which resulted in state law that fails to comply with the pertinent provisions of these rules.” In other words, Florida Dems have to prove they fought tooth and nail to keep the Republican state legislature from moving the primary date up.

As we’ve pointed out before , that didn’t really happen. The effort to move the date up was initially spearheaded by a state senate Democrat, and tacitly supported by other Dems. In 2006, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party said that “Florida Democrats are all for it.” Likewise, Michigan Democrats knew full well what they were doing when they moved their primary to Jan. 15.

So even if the Clinton camp is able to prove that Democrats made good-faith effort to hold re-votes, they’ll have a lot more trouble arguing they did everything in their power to prevent the original sin.