Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

The Call for the 2008 Democratic National Convention is not a model of clarity. But it seems clear enough that Hillary can control the Credentials Committee. Although I am no lawyer, I provide my analysis below. Please correct me if I am wrong.

We start with Section VII(A), which determines: (i) the number of members of the Credentials Committee, (ii) the number of votes allocated to each state and territory, and (iii) how these votes and memberships are allocated to the states and territories. Section VII(A) provides: "Subject to Rule 20.C. of the Delegate Selection Rules, each standing committee shall be composed of a base of 161 members, casting 158 votes, allocated to the states and territories in accordance with the same distribution formula used to allocate delegates to the Democratic National Convention."

Let's try to figure out what this provision says and does not say.

First, there are fewer votes than members because some members of the Committee (Guam, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Democrats Abroad) get only ¼ of a vote.

Second, because there are 55 states and territories, each state and territory sends an average of 2.93 members to the Credentials Committee. This is most likely what Donna Brazil refers to when she states that "each state will send three members to the Credentials Committee." Of course, we must determine membership in the Committee by the manner set forth in the Call, not by some other manner such as an average. Indeed, the Call is clear that California sends more members to the Committee than Delaware. Why? Because California is allocated more pledged delegates, and the members of the Committee are allocated to each state in proportion to each state's number of pledged delegates ("allocated to the states and territories in accordance with the same distribution formula used to allocate delegates to the Democratic National Convention.").

Thus, Section VIIA determines the number of Committee members allocated to each state. You can liken this to how, in the general presidential election, the numbers of Electoral College votes are allocated each state. But Section VII(A) does NOT determine how the states elect the persons who shall fill the membership slots allocated to them. To answer that question, we must turn to Section VII(B)(1), entitled: "Election." That section provides: "The members of the standing committees allocated to the states and territories shall be elected by each state's National Convention Delegates ..."

So the pledged delegates for each state elect the members of the Credentials Committee for that state. But Section VII(B) does not state how such election shall determine the actual persons elected to the membership slots allocated to the state. Let's take a simplified example. Suppose State A has been allocated 10 pledged delegates. Also suppose that, because of proportional representation, BHO has 6 pledged delegates from State A and HRC has 4 pledged delegates from State A. Finally, assume that State A has been allocated 10 members on the Credentials Committee.

Query: How many BHO supporters are on State A's delegation to the Credentials Committee and how many HRC supporters are on state A's delegation to the Credentials Committee? Shall the election be proportional? Shall it be winner take all? Again, Section VII(B) gives no answer. However, one thing is clear. State A's delegation to the Credentials Committee cannot be proportional to a candidate's pledged delegate win. Why not? Because that is not an election, and Section VII(B) requires an election to determine membership on State A's delegation to the Credentials Committee (True, there have been or will be primary or caucus elections in every state, but those are elections to determine pledged delegates, not elections to determine delegations to Credentials Committees.)

So it is clear that the Pledged Delegates must hold an election amongst themselves to determine their state's delegation to the Credentials Committees. There are two choices: The results of the Pledged Delegates' vote determine the delegation to the Credentials Committee on winner take all, or proportional. But which one?

Let's first look at how this question would be answered as a legal matter. But first, I think this does not matter, because the court's will not get involved in intra-party matters. But the exercise is useful to start us thinking about this matter. As a general rule in America, elections are winner take all. That is how the Electoral College works in presidential elections (with the exception I think of Maine or Nebraska).  That is how legislation works in Congress (Congress passes a law and the president takes the whole thing, or vetoes the whole thing - no line item veto - take all of the bill of take none of it). So I think as a legal matter, HRC supporters will comprise ALL of a state's delegation to the Credentials Committee in states where she has a majority of pledged delegates, and likewise for Obama.

I think the result is the same as a practical matter. When the pledged delegates get together to vote for their state's delegation to the Credentials Committees, the pledged delegates in the majority will simply shout down the pledged delegates in the minority. The majority will demand that the composition of the delegation be determined on a winner take all basis.

So what does this mean?

Well, here are the states that HRC has won a majority of pledged delegates or is likely to win a majority of the pledges delegates, along with each state's allocation of Credential Committee members.

OH (7)
RI (1)
CA (17)
NY (11)
NJ (5)
MA (4)
TN (3)
NM (1)
AZ (2)
AR (1)
OK (2)
American Somoa (0.25)
PA (7)
IN (3)
WV (1)
KY (2)
PR (2)

And here are the states where HRC and BHO are tied in number of pledged delegates:

MO (3)
NH (1)

(Source for allocation of Credentials Committee Members to states: The Call)

Now here is the math. There are supposed to be 158 votes on Credentials Committee. However, subtract FL and MI. Then there are 144 votes on Credentials Committee. This means that a HRC needs 72 votes on the Credentials Committee to force a stalemate. (And I have no idea what would happen in that event.)

I add up all the Credential Committee members that HRC gets from the states where she has won a majority of Pledged Delegates, and gave her half Credential Committee members in states where she and BHO split the Pledged delegate count.

This gives her 71.25 votes on the Credentials Committee. If she can win only one of: Oregon, South Dakota, or Montana, she will control the Credentials Committee.

I know my analysis is flawed. Just point out where I am wrong.

Tags: credentials (all tags)



I dont know if it is flawed,

but it is highly recommended =)

by SevenStrings 2008-04-04 04:50PM | 0 recs
I hate to do this

Because you obviously put a lot of time and work into this.  And I barely even skimmed your diary.

But I'm pretty sure I can tell you where you're wrong.

Where you're wrong is in assuming that a majority vote of the credentials committee will control who gets seated.  It doesn't.  Any slate of delegates with 20% or more of the Credentials Committee gets sent to the floor for a vote by all the delegates already seated.

by Trickster 2008-04-04 04:51PM | 0 recs
Re: I hate to do this

I think that is right. And Obama would need to hold together all his pledged delegates to vote against deating the delegations from MI and FL.

It would be quite a spectical. One candidate's Democratic Party delegates to the convention voting not to seat two states delegations.

by MediaFreeze 2008-04-04 05:00PM | 0 recs
Re: I hate to do this

It wouldn't be voting not to seat, it would be voting to seat according to the majority/minority report's plan. No one is going to advocate not seating delegates from MI and FL, it is a question of how they will be distributed and how many votes they will get (and will Clinton try for the completely ridiculous distribution of delegates, where Obama gets 0 from Michigan, if that is what it takes to get her to a majority of pledged delegates?).

As you imply, a floor vote on a minority report will probably be damaging to our chances of electing a Democratic president this year.

by alephnul 2008-04-04 11:55PM | 0 recs
Re: I hate to do this

Perhaps I am wrong, but I don't see your analysis anywhere in the Call. What section of the Call are you referencing for the proposition that "Any slate of delegates with 20% or more of the Credentials Committee gets sent to the floor for a vote by all the delegates already seated."

Moreover, the Call seems clear that PLEDGED DELEGATES, not any other group, determines each states delegation to the Crendentials Committee. It's fairly clear in the Call as I have cited.

by ThompsonTOT 2008-04-04 05:01PM | 0 recs
Re: I hate to do this

I don't know where it says so in the rules, but the arguments I have read involve something called a "minority resolution."

Because 20% of the credentials committee can affix their signatures to a minority resolution, there is a fair chance (that's a qualified conjecture) that the entire Democratic National Convention will get a chance to seat the Florida and Michigan delegation in some capacity. In this scenario, there will be, of course, a majority report that urges against such a seating.


by MediaFreeze 2008-04-04 05:08PM | 0 recs
Re: I hate to do this

Yes, I am familiar with this provision. But this relates to minority rights in the Credentials Committee. It does not address itself to how the Credentials Committee is constituted in the first instance.

In other words, assume that HRC controls the Credentials Committee. BHO will be able to exercise the minority rights in the provision you cite above.

Likewise, if BHO controls the Credentials Committee, HRC will be able to exercise the minority rights in the provision you cite above.

But this says nothing about who controls the Credentials Committee in the first instance. I believe Sections VII(A) and VII(B) answer that question.

by ThompsonTOT 2008-04-04 05:15PM | 0 recs
Re: I hate to do this

I understand. I think that trickster's point is that whoever ends up controlling the Credentials Committee, there will be a minority report that the entire convention will vote on. If Clinton controls and sends a majority report authorizing the seating of the delegations, then Obama's members will send a minority report blocking them to the floor. If Obama blocks them by controlling the committee, then Clinton's members will send a minority report to seat them. In the end the entire convention will vote on MI and FL. That is, if I understand this correctly.

by MediaFreeze 2008-04-04 05:27PM | 0 recs

2008 Call for the Democratic National Convention, Rule VII(J)(3).  

Actually, though, on re-looking at the rules, there may be a scenario, even an important scenario, where majority control of the credential committee counts.  The rules state that "no person shall be permitted to vote upon his own credentials contest," but I'm not sure whether [Majority Report vs Minority Report] is considered one credentials contest, in which case none of the contested delegation could vote, or whether the credentials contest only applies to the Minority report, in which case the delegates seated by the Majority report would be allowed to vote on the minority report.

Clinton, presumably, would seat delegations consistent with the states' elections if she could control the credentials committee.  I'm not sure what Obama would do if he controls the credetials committee, whether he would seat nobody, a 50-50 delegation, an all-Obama delegation, or what.  Hopefully it wouldn't be something painfully artificial such as the last of those options I listed.

OTOH, if "credentials contest" means the decision on which delegation to seat, again, it would be the other states' delegates making the decision (which might be the best way to go).

by Trickster 2008-04-04 06:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Right

The Minority report position is voted on first.  But in your scenario, with HRC forces in control of the Credentials Committee, the minority position would be from the BHO forces either voting to uphold the DNC punishment or a 50/50 seating compromise.  I don't think that would pass.  I cannot envisage the majority of delegates voting to punish the Michigan and Florida delegations, I just don't think the BHO forces could enforce that kind of discipline on their delegates.  So in your scenario, having control of the Credentials Committee could indeed have a major impact on the nomination.

by Demo Dan in Dayton 2008-04-05 05:44AM | 0 recs
Why not?

Are you presuming Obama couldn't keep his delegates in line but that Clinton could? That's probably not a smart bet to make.

My guess is that Obama's team is doing plenty of homework on this, and they'll have their ducks in a row if it comes to a floor fight. At this point, the rules are on their side, so by sticking with the rules they are asking for no change to the DNC's decision, while Hillary would be asking the cred. committee to overturn the DNC's ruling, even though she signed an agreement that the results of MI and FL primaries would not determine those states' delegates.

Obama's 50/50 offer in MI, is, I think, a bone being tossed so they can say they offered a compromise of some kind after the state tried and failed to come up with a plan for a re-vote. BHO has now offered more than the rules say MI should get, and Clinton has rejected it. Ball's in her court.

As for controlling the rules committee, I think it's a bit of a stretch to think that any state's delegation has a winner-take-all selection of committee members.

The rules for this process were laid down before the process began, and all the candidates agreed to them. It's a highly cynical move by the Clinton campaign to wax rhapsodic about disenfranchisement at this stage of the game. The time for objecting to those rules and working to change them was over 8 months ago. If they're hoping to game the credentials process, that's gonna look pretty transparent and I doubt the convention floor with an Obama plurality will let that happen. Sure, we can what-if until the cows come home about this scenario and that, but anyone can do that. Let's think reasonably about what's likely and how we move forward.

by SuperTex 2008-04-05 07:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Why not?

"As for controlling the rules committee, I think it's a bit of a stretch to think that any state's delegation has a winner-take-all selection of committee members."

On what provisions in The Call do you base this conclusion?

by ThompsonTOT 2008-04-05 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Why not?

Because it's highly unlikely that a split delegation  will agree to elect committee members under a winner-take-all scenario. If they have a choice as to how they can elect their members, what makes you think Obama delegates will agree to such a plan?

by SuperTex 2008-04-05 10:31AM | 0 recs
Sorry -

what I'm saying is, you're counting on a Clinton-majority in a given delegation being able to simply "shout down" objections to a winner-take-all election, and then assuming Obama's delegates will simply take it. A delegation doesn't generally work that way. So you're analysis rests on a reading of what the rules (the Call) DOES NOT say. We could play that game all day long. It also doesn't say they can't simply vote to exclude the Obama delegates from any committee assignments, or exclude his delegates all together, does it? You're analyzing in a vacuum, basically, which will bear little resemblance to reality.

Not to mention the sum total of it all points to something entirely unlikely, for good reason - it would tear the party apart and most assuredly cost us the election in November. Hillary is a fighter and she is conniving (in a good way, usually), but I don't believe she is suicidal. What you speculate on here would make Ahab blush.

by SuperTex 2008-04-05 10:40AM | 0 recs
Andrew Walker knows more.

FL & MI are on the credentials committee. The accounts I've seen show the lead at 5, including MI & FL-- they cannot vote on their own issue but can on the other. Clinton is likely to gain in the remaining states, it'll come down to one or the other leading by less than 3 (I agree about OR, MT, SD's importance, but OR has 2 so it'll split, while MT & SD just have one winner take all).

There are 25 appointees by Dean, and come from a variety of supporters. Some Dean loyalists, some Clinton, some Obama, but they were appointed long before this became O vs C. Anyway, there's a reason why now Obama is trying to force a MI bargain in his favor, instead of letting it just go to the committee.

by Jerome Armstrong 2008-04-04 04:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Andrew Walker knows more.

So your saying he is afraid he'll lose and MI and FL will be seated as they now stand. I think you are right.

That certainly changes the MATH.

by MediaFreeze 2008-04-04 05:02PM | 0 recs
My response is this...

...As it stands, Sen. Clinton stands a very good chance of A.) controlling the three standing convention committees, and B.) sending a majority report to the floor that restores the voting rights of Florida and Michigan.

by Andre Walker 2008-04-04 06:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Andrew Walker knows more.

Do you really think that a committee fight and a floor vote on a minority report will be entirely harmless to whichever candidate wins?

by alephnul 2008-04-04 11:46PM | 0 recs
What's the reason?

We're really splitting hairs here on a lot of speculation. Even if we assume a Clinton delegate control of credentials (a BIG if), you also have to assume that whatever razor-thin margin she has will hold together in a credentials fight that would essentially be to overturn a DNC ruling that was done with the assent of many Clinton supporters at the time. And, that every last one of them would be cynical enough to vote to overturn and thus render the rules of the process essentially meaningless.

We all want to see a restructuring of the primary calendar, from scratch. We all want to unchain the process from the the arbitrary control of Iowa and New Hampshire. But you don't just set the whole stadium on fire in the middle of a game. There is ample desire to change the process, and a party chair who is certainly willing to move in that direction, but throwing the rulebook out the window at this point not only sunders the party at a very inappropriate time but surrenders any credibility we may have on the principle of fair play.

Where does that leave us four or eight years from now? Does the party control it's own nomination process or do we just let the states hold their contests whenever they please? Those hoping or scheming to get the results of FL and MI counted as is have to answer these questions first.

by SuperTex 2008-04-05 07:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

Yes, my analysis ignores the 25 DNC appointees because I have no clue how those will turn out.

by ThompsonTOT 2008-04-04 05:02PM | 0 recs
Amazing Diary

thank you- this was a great one.

by easyE 2008-04-04 05:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

The members of the standing committees allocated to the states and territories shall be elected by each state's National Convention Delegates

I read that to mean that superdelegates will also participate in the election of the members of teh Credentials Committee.

I was also under the impression that FL and MI may, in fact, be representated on teh Credentials Committee and that this was still an open question.

by DaveOinSF 2008-04-04 05:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

I do think this is a fair point. I do not have those numbers handy, but my guess would be that the supers will be split between HRC and BHO (give or take 20), and will not effect the result. But if someone can show whether the supers flip any of these states above back to BHO, that would be a welcome addition.

by ThompsonTOT 2008-04-04 05:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

As it stands now....

Including supers, it would appear that Obama would take New Hampshire and Missouri would remain a tie, but there's the possibility that Texas and Nevada could go back into Hillary's column (as they should, anyway) and maybe even Alabama.

by DaveOinSF 2008-04-04 05:31PM | 0 recs
"As they should"?

Why "should" they go back into Hillary's column? There was process in Texas, just as in every state, as to how delegates would be selected and allocated. Under those rules (not someone's arbitrary definition) Obama currently has "won" more delegates. That could change, but there's no "should" about it. It will be what it will be, under the RULES.

by SuperTex 2008-04-05 10:45AM | 0 recs
More grist for the mill...

This issue was diaried a few days ago on dKos, in response to some statements by Donna Brazile, that Obama had the credentials committee all locked up.

After lots of erroneous analysis and corrections this seems to  be the diary's conclusion:

UPDATE II: As of right now (based on already resolved state primaries), from these states: New Hampshire, Nevada, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Ohio: Clinton will have 61.44 votes on the Credentials Committee.

From these states: Iowa, South Carolina, Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, Maine, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Vermont, Wyoming, Mississippi, Obama will have 70.22 votes on the credentials committee.

States I haven't counted in: Pennsylvania, Guam, Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana, South Dakota, Democrats Abroad, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, which make up 26.33 votes remaining.

Thus, there is a razor thin margin here, where indeed Clinton has more of a chance in a credentials fight than Donna Brazille's (incorrect) division of votes.  With the 25 DNC members, and 26.33 members still to be elected in future primaries, a majority on the credentials committee can be had by either candidate.  

The credentials committee will submit their majoity report to the convention floor, which will state who is credentialed and who is not. Further to the DNC rules (in the same document above, Sec VII, B, 2), a minority of the committee composed of only 20% of its membership may submit a minority report, which will be voted on at the convention floor, too.

Brazile: Hillary Clinton's "Credentials Committee" Threat Going Nowhere UPDATE II

Here is a link to the rules: (Sec VII., A 1, under "Standing Committees on Platform, Rules and Credentials of the 2008 Deomcratic National Convention")

by MediaFreeze 2008-04-04 05:21PM | 0 recs
Re: More grist for the mill...

I did read the diary on Kos, I think it is incorrect. As an example, the diary states: "each state elects their own credential committee members."

That is not correct.

Section VII(B)(1) of the Call provides: "The members of the standing committees allocated to the states and territories shall be elected by each state's National Convention Delegates ..."

The Delegates (Pledged and Super) determine membership on a states delegation to the Credentials Committee. It is simply not true that each state elects it own delegation to the Credentials Committee. (I assume the diarist on Kos means the state democratic party when he refers to "the state" as electing a state's delegation to the Credentials Committee. I am not sure. But if he means anything other the the delegates (Pledged and Super) from a state as electing that state's delegation to Credentials Committee, I beleive he is wrong.)

by ThompsonTOT 2008-04-04 05:33PM | 0 recs
"The Rules"

Doesn't this information, at a mimimum, put the lie to the facile and endlessly repeated Obama-supporter argument that "the rules" require that the Florida and Michigan delegations not be seated? There simply is no such "rule," as that word is normally understood. There was a provisional decision by the DNC, which everyone who mattered always understood was open to reconsideration by this Committee and/or the full Convention.

So, please, can we have a surcease of this constant bleating that "the rules" require this or that. They don't. And they never did. And both campaigns always knew that.

by freemansfarm 2008-04-04 05:43PM | 0 recs
Thank you

I've been saying that all along.  And here's another "talking point" to go along with the argument.

According to the Convention Rules, the name of the list of delegates derived from the primaries and caucuses that is sent to the Credentials Committee for its yea or nay is . . . The Temporary Roll.

Yes indeedy, "the rules" have always envisioned that the final decision on who to seat will be made at the Convention.  This is a feature, not a bug.  It has to be that way because, in normal times, the Convention does and must belong to the nominee, and the nominee must be able to muscle through whatever rules s/he wants at the Convention.  The Convention is the nominee's show, from pillar to post.  In normal times.

by Trickster 2008-04-04 07:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

In the upcoming states Clinton isn't likely to do well enough to go on to the convention. I think Clinton will concede before June.

by Lefty Coaster 2008-04-04 06:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

Doesn't it matter that Michigan and Florida violated the rules set down the by Democratic Party in having their primaries early? Doesn't it matter that all of the candidates, including Senator Clinton, agreed to honor the rules  and not campaign in those states? I hate the idea of not counting any one's vote, but there is the simple issue of fair play here. You can't just dismiss that. Perhaps you can game the convention and get around it, but to do so is ethically dishonest, and whoever does so should and will have to live with the consequences.

by mmdavis4 2008-04-04 06:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

So also did NH, SC, and IA violate the rules, and that was easily enough dismissed.

by Jerome Armstrong 2008-04-05 08:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

The MI and FL members of the Credentials Committee are not stripped of their membership to the Credentials Committee, however they have to abstain on the vote for their own state so MI gets to vote on FL delegates and FL on MI delegates to be seated.

This was according to Howard Dean in an interview last week or the week before.

I'm not a lawyer either and not too sure many lawyers specialize in DNC rules so can't say if your figures are flawed, but they look about right to me other than MI and FL.

by Justwords 2008-04-04 08:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Clinton control the Credentials Committee?

The more talk about the credentials committee there is, the more superdelegates will rally to Obama and make the argument worthless as the delegates will be able to be seated without effecting anything.  Do you think the Democratic Party wants a vicious floor fight 2 months before the election?

by thezzyzx 2008-04-05 04:27AM | 0 recs


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