Two delegates to the Republican National Convention has settled a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Two Unnamed Plaintiffs v. FEC. These delegates were represented by attorneys from the Pillar of Law Institute, which was also a plaintiff in the case. The delegates and Pillar brought suit in Wyoming federal court due to a ban against giving any assistance to delegates by corporations, even non-profits.
“Our win ensures that convention delegates will have access to similar sources of funding as party operatives. It also allows non-profits to donate free legal services and educational materials to delegates,” said Benjamin Barr, lead counsel in the case. “Our settlement goes further than that, recognizing that corporate non-profits may provide delegates with travel stipends and other financial assistance, breaking new ground in federal campaign finance law.”
The case arose in May out of concerns that Donald Trump, then the presumptive Republican nominee, would utilize unconstitutional legal tactics such as defamation lawsuits to suppress or punish convention delegates who supported delegate autonomy. If the law prohibited Pillar’s free legal representation of these delegates, campaign finance complaints could have been filed as well.
“Although the 2016 Republican convention is over, Donald Trump’s legal tactics may still boil over,” said Steve Klein, co-counsel in the case. “His recent threat against the real author of The Art of the Deal shows Trump will do just about anything to silence people who disagree with him. Thanks to our lawsuit, we know definitively that federal campaign finance law will not prevent constitutional legal groups like Pillar from defending delegates if they have to fight petty tyranny.”
As the Democratic Convention begins today in Philadelphia, delegate autonomy—the principle that convention delegates cannot be bound to vote for a specific candidate—may yet again prove newsworthy, along with the importance of this recent decision.
“Just as Trump goes out of his way to threaten his opponents, the DNC and Hillary Clinton might submit to the same temptations,” said Barr. “With this win, conscientious delegates now and for conventions to come are not alone. Non-profit corporations are free to help fund their efforts and donate legal services, breathing new life into the convention process.”