Common Cause Urges Presidential Candidates to Adopt Delegate Gift Ban

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  • Scott Swenson, Dale Eisman

With hotly-contested campaigns still underway in both parties, Common Cause urged the five remaining candidates for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations on Thursday to stop their campaigns and supporters from making personal gifts to national party convention delegates.

“Nominations and elections should be decided based on experience and ideas, not on the size of one’s wallet,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport.

In letters to Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders and Republicans Ted CruzJohn Kasich and Donald Trump, Rapoport called for each candidate to sign a pledge “not to provide gifts, travel beyond reasonable reimbursement costs for attendance at the convention, food, and/or other tangible or intangible gifts to delegates.” The candidates also were asked to pledge to “disavow any independent entity supporting my candidacy that provides cash, gifts, travel, food and/or other tangible or intangible gifts to delegates.”

The requests follow media reports that individuals and groups supporting some candidates may attempt to ply delegates with a variety of personal gifts or favors. There also have been reports that some campaigns or candidate supporters may publicize the hotel room numbers of wavering delegates, potentially inviting harassment.

Rapoport said the candidates should insist that their supporters not “provide gifts, travel, food, or anything else of value” to delegates in attempt to sway their votes. He also called on the candidates to press their respective parties to adopt convention rules barring gifts to delegates and alternate delegates by campaigns, candidate committees, political action groups, 501 (c) tax-exempt organizations and other entities.

While outright bribery of delegates is illegal, Rapoport’s letter notes that rules created by the Federal Election Commission “offer little guidance” about how candidates and their supporters can use gifts of travel, food, and other benefits in an attempt to influence delegate votes.

“In this climate, the lavish wooing of delegates will only reinforce cynicism that politics is all about money. Your pledge to voluntarily ban gifts or other support for delegates will send a signal to voters that you are in tune with them in this election cycle,” Rapoport wrote.