It’s Illegal To Buy Votes, But Buying Delegates Gets Murky . . . Really Murky
There are federal and state laws prohibiting bribery of elected officials and there are rules governing political campaigns, but there are few rules governing what private citizens serving as delegates at their party’s convention can accept in exchange for their vote.
With A Contested Convention, All Bets Are Off
Buying votes is illegal, but it turns out that buying delegates might not be.
With Donald Trump having the only real chance at obtaining the 1,237 votes necessary to win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, it is becoming increasingly likely that there will be a convention this year.
As CNN’s Tom Foreman explains, if you get to a contested convention and you get through the first couple of votes with nobody winning then many of the delegates, as many as 8 out of 10, become unbound, which is what some delegates already are. This means that they would be free to vote as they please, not the way the voters back home told them to vote.
Delegates can’t take gifts from corporations, from foreign nationals or from federal contractors. But, the rules say they can accept gifts from political PACs and individuals who are supporting the candidates. Delegates are clearly allowed to raise funds for their travel to the convention and for expenses as long as they do not come from prohibited sources.
“This summer’s Republican National Convention is shaping up to be an all-out brawl for every delegate’s vote. Legally, that could mean loading some of them up with gifts.”
“So,” explains Foreman, “if a political PAC said we want to provide you with first class travel into town, we want to put you up in a very nice hotel, send a limousine to pick you up and give you some lavish meals while you are here. All of that is okay by the rules.”
“Let’s say a private supporter of one of the candidates said I want to throw in a gift bag as well and its going to include some nice snacks and a designer watch, some new headphone and maybe a tablet computer, and how about some tickets to a show or sporting event? Again under the rules, all of that is fine. There may be state rules that tell him he can’t do that but at the national level there is nothing to stop him.”
“Many of the people involved in the national party say that what these delegates really want is not all that stuff. They might want access to the candidates to talk about the issues. That could seem even sort of noble. However, the meeting with that candidate might go even better if you had it at as elite golf club somewhere with a free round or two, or if you had it in a getaway weekend for delegates in the Bahamas.”
“The candidates cannot directly buy or sell votes. The delegates cannot do that either, but this is all sort of a wink and a nod stuff.”
In the end, even thought the parties say they don’t not want this happening and the campaigns say they want no part of something so shady, by the time we get to a contested convention they will have spent million of dollars trying to win delegates.
“So some supporters might very well want to push out some John Kasich steak knives or maybe a Cruz cruise, or perhaps some Trump helicopter tours.”
Tom Lundstrum, a former Arkansas GOP rules chairman is running to be one of Cruz’s delegates. He said he hoped these entities couldn’t do much to influence delegates.
“I would hope that there’s very little they can do,” he said. “They couldn’t do anything for me. I have heard that it is okay for campaigns to pay the travel expenses of their delegates to the convention. But beyond that, I don’t know.”
There are some limits on what candidates can do, Perkins Cole attorneys Brian Svoboda and David Lazarus wrote in an analysis for the firm. They point out that federal code prohibits candidates from promising appointments or employment “for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy.”
VIDEO: Can Republican Convention Delegates Be Bought Legally? The Answer is…Maybe!
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sources: CNN, Youtube, Wikipedia