WASHINGTON, May 23, 2017 — During a hearing before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Bruce V. Spiva, the attorney representing the Democratic National Committee, asked the court to dismiss a class action lawsuit accusing DNC officials of rigging state primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton and against Sen. Bernie Sanders and his financial donors.
Spiva argued that the lawsuit violates the DNC’s First Amendment protection of free speech and free association. He suggested that conspiratorial agreements reached between DNC officials on behalf of the Clinton presidential campaign supersede the Democratic Party’s incorporating charter, which pledges its national chairperson in “conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National committee” to “exercise impartiality and evenhandedness during the Presidential nominating process.”
“I just want to say,” Spiva told Judge William J. Zloch, “that the [Democratic] party could choose its nominees in a smoke-filled room … even to define what constitutes evenhandedness and impartiality really would already drag the court well into a political question and a question of how the party runs its own affairs.”
Regarding the legal standing of the Democratic voters in whose names the suit was filed, Spiva said the judge did not have the power even to recognize their existence. “The court would have to determine what it means to be a Democrat.”
The suit alleges the DNC of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence and that the Democratic National Committee violated its own charter, including Article 5 Section 4—which states the chairperson of the party “shall exercise impartiality and even-handedness” between candidates running for president and their respective campaigns.
“The DNC was biased in favor of one candidate—Hillary Clinton—from the beginning and throughout the process,” the suit alleges.
Jared H. Beck, attorney for the plaintiffs, argued, “Freedom of speech and freedom of association are very, very important, but we also have a right not to be defrauded. We also have a right not to be taken advantage of … We have a right not to be deceived. There’s no exception to those rights just because the fraudulent speech or fraudulent conduct involved takes place in a political context.”
Beck cited the 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Madigan vs. Illinois, which reads:
“Consistent with our precedent and First Amendment, states may maintain fraud actions when fundraisers make false or misleading representations designed to deceive donors about how their donations are used.”
But not, according to Spiva, if the Democratic Party only recognizes your money and not, well, you. Plaintiffs are seeking repayment of their donations