Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The evil Republican follow the law

Last month, I had the honor of being one of the presenters at an election law seminar sponsored by the Republican National Lawyers Association.  Some of the top election and campaign finance attorneys around the state participated in the educational program, which covered topics such as campaign finance regulations, special issues related to military and absentee ballots, ethical rules, and election day procedures and laws.  

Every presenter, over and over, emphasized that our number one priority was to uphold the law and maintain the highest ethical standards in all of our activities.  The Florida Bar already has a very strict and detailed system of ethics and professionalism rules that govern attorneys, and we spent a lot of time discussing how those rules apply to attorneys working on campaigns.  I've attended other similar RNLA election law seminars in the past, including one in St. Louis in 2008.

I have greatly enjoyed every RNLA event I have attended.  The member attorneys are definitely some of the best and brightest in the country, and hold themselves to the highest ethical standards, but they are also a wonderful, friendly, kind-hearted bunch of people.  These are people who sincerely love their country and believe, as I do, that the practice of law is not merely a career, but a profession, and as professionals we must hold ourselves to higher standards.

Besides the RNLA seminars, I have also participated in training volunteers in election day operations for the Republican Party.  The emphasis in our local training, as it was with the RNLA programs, is that we will follow the law in everything that we do.  The front page of the materials I handed out this year states:
"Remember always that you are representing the Republican Party and we support fair and honest elections.  We will be ethical and courteous in all of our activities.
We have been in regular communication with the staff and counsel for the Supervisors of Elections in this area, and make sure that we are in full compliance with all of their regulations.  In Orange County, we are very lucky that our SOE (who is a Democrat, by the way) works very hard to train election staff.  In my experience, the Orange County SOE has been very responsive when any problems have arisen.  This week during early voting, one of my volunteers called in to report that one location was not following the statutory procedure regarding voters bringing in their absentee ballots.  One phone call, and the SOE immediately addressed the problem and had someone give specific instructions to the employees at that location.  They even sent me an email to let me know precisely how the situation had been handled and to thank me for bringing the issue to their attention.

Then yesterday, I noticed I was getting an uptick on my page hits and was wondering why, when I was sent this link:

...the RNLA is currently in the midst of conducting what it bills as an "unprecedented" series of election law training seminars in the run up to the midterms elections. The seminars have been held or scheduled in several states, including Illinois, Nevada, Florida, Washington, California and New York. 

The public gloss the RNLA puts on its seminars is that they're for professional training. In fact, the group offers continuing legal education credits to lawyers who pay to attend them. But according to a blog post by one of the lecturers at its recent Florida seminar, only Republicans are allowed to attend. "Please note that due to the RNLA's sponsorship of this event, that attendance is limited to Republicans," Sarah Rumpf, a Florida attorney wrote on her blog. "If you are not already a member of the RNLA or are not otherwise already known by the [Republican Party of Florida], you will need a reference in order to attend this seminar." 

The seminar speakers seem to have a decidedly political bent as well. The recent Florida seminar featured appearances by Rick Scott, the Republican nominee for governor, and Pam Bondi, the party's nominee of attorney general.
Watch out everyone!  The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is coming to get you!  Bwahahaha! 

We've got all of our diabolically clever attorneys working hard to  pass on our top-secret plans to properly document and report campaign contributions and expenditures, provide proper legal disclaimers on political advertisements, ensure that every voter has full access to the polls free of intimidation, no one engages in campaigning past the 100' boundary around polling places...and oh, don't forget, our magic voodoo schemes to double check that all ballot machines start the day with their counters showing zero.

What are we up to?  Making sure that Republican candidates, party officials, campaign staff and volunteers have access to the current laws and regulations governing Florida elections so they are able to fully and completely comply with those rules.  Oh, the horror!

Yes, it's an eeeeeeeevil conspiracy to tell people to...follow the law.  We've also been known to tell people to be nice to poll workers.  Gasp!  Time to get out the tin foil hats!

So why all the exclusivity?  Simple.  The RNLA has decided that compliance with the law is a top priority and is literally putting their money where their mouth is.  By partially underwriting the expense of these seminars, they vastly increase the number of Republican attorneys who are able to attend and get this information.  As an attorney who practices election and campaign finance law, I can tell you that it is a very specialized practice, and seminars on the subject are rare and hard to find.  

Despite what the TPM writers are trying to suggest, the RNLA doesn't have infinite resources, so it makes perfect sense that it directs those resources to the education of its own members.  Having seen the materials provided at recent RNLA seminars, and helped prepare some of those materials myself, there's nothing in any of those materials that the Democrats couldn't create themselves by looking up the same statutes and case law that we researched.

As far as the "decidedly political bent" of our seminar, TPM again misses the larger picture.  Our RNLA seminar was scheduled for the same hotel and the same weekend as the RPOF Quarterly Meeting, so as to maximize the number of people who would be able to attend.  Many of the attorneys who are counsel for RPOF or our Republican candidates are also active in their local Republican Executive Committees, or would otherwise be attending the RPOF Quarterly in support of a particular candidate.  Rick Scott and Pam Bondi were both already at the hotel for other RPOF events that weekend; they didn't make a special trip to visit our seminar.  Scott and Bondi were not part of the educational component of the seminar, but gave their speeches in between lectures by the presenting attorneys.  The message from Scott and Bondi was the same: to thank us for our efforts to educate attorneys, candidates, and campaign staff and volunteers on compliance with election law, and they both affirmed their personal commitments to fair and ethical election practices. Ooooh, scary.

And just to address the point in the TPM post about the RNLA seminars coming "just weeks" after the Richard DeVos donated money to the RNLA, points for creativity, guys.  The reality is so much less interesting.  The Orlando seminar was planned early this year and the topics and speakers all confirmed by July.  I went back and looked at my archived emails to confirm that.  A lot of people spent a lot of time and energy to plan this seminar to provide education on election law to our members, as the RNLA does every election year, not because some billionaire is pulling strings and ordering us to do his bidding. 

I want to thank TPM for linking back to my blog.  Every view and click brings extra Google Adsense revenue and supports my addiction to Barnie's Hazelnut coffee.  I'm not Townhall or RedState (not yet, anyway), but I love politics and I'm enjoying my little corner of the internets.  Every reader y'all send my way helps support that, so thanks again for the link!  :)

Seriously though, TPM should find some other reason to get their feathers all ruffled.  Maybe they can find a Sunday School class brainwashing little children to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," or maybe there's a third grade teacher out there pushing some nefarious propaganda about "I before E except after C."  (Just in case y'all don't speak Sarcasm, my point is that telling people what the rules are and encouraging them to follow those rules is a good thing.)

Here's the RNLA's response to the TPM tin-foil hat theory article (they're a lot less sarcastic than I am):

RNLA Blog | Liberal Media Seeks to Discredit RNLA & De-Legitimize Voter Fraud Concerns With False Allegations


  1. Gotta love the anonymous comments. Who's the idiot? TPM already published a follow up post essentially admitting I was right.

  2. Nice article written about republican conspiracy. Under RLNA's sponsorship , it is quite possible to easily get in the safer side of the contraversies arising out of evil republican. So, there has to be a follow law.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
Permissions beyond the scope of this license are available here.