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A county-level political party committee donated to a few, but not all, upcoming primary candidate campaigns, despite the committee's bylaw that states "It shall be the policy of the committee to take no position in favor of any [party] candidate engaged in a primary election contest."

The ratio of the donations was given to about 30% of all candidates in eight primary races. One was a race in the same county as the committee. One donation was given to a candidate in a state-wide campaign, who also serves in the leadership of the same county-level committee. It's unknown if they were to be able to vote to give themself the campaign donation.

The state-level party chairman sent notice to the committee that by unequally contributing to primary races, they took a position in favor of those candidates and violated their own by-laws. The chairman gave three options to remedy the problem: Donate equal amounts to all the other primary candidates in those races, request a refund from the original candidates, or the committee could provide a solution that corrects the violations.

The committee did not vote to endorse or support any candidates and doesn’t believe donating money to a candidate is favoritism. They said some candidates already spent the money, and they won't donate to other candidates that the committee leadership doesn't support. The committee hasn't said what a third option solution might be. However, a few days later the committee announced they were going to start ranking primary candidates by how much they adhere to all of the party platforms and interviews with committee leadership.

The party rules allow the state-level organization to compel performance to remedy violations within county-level committees. The state party chairman has final discretion.

  1. Does donating money to some candidates express favor for those candidates over others in the same primary race?
  2. Would the candidate ranking idea violate the bylaw?
  3. Could the other candidates pursue legal remedies from the committee?
  4. Could party members who donated to the committee and disagree pursue legal remedies from the committee?
  5. The political party is legally considered a private business. Would the state chairman be able to successfully apply consequences to the committee if he doesn't like their solution?

UPDATE: Yes, all candidates are from the same political party. It's an internal party primary. I guess I should have made that clear, but I kept saying primary election so I thought that was enough. The committee donated money to some candidates in the party and not others running against each other in the same race. Nothing like the general election where of course they'll only support their candidates.

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  • It seems the point of a political party committee is to support some candidates over others. Were the candidates (who were/were not donated to) all from the same party. E.g. was this an internal party primary or an at large primary?
    – sharur
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 1:36
  • There are ways in which some candidates get money and others not without endorsement - in case each campaign has to request funds and some candidates simply didn't do that or didn't fill out the forms correctly or in time.
    – Trish
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 10:01
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    I’m voting to close this question because political party bylaws are not the law.
    – bdb484
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 11:01
  • Party bylaws are not, strictly speaking, law, but in the US parties are closely regulated by law, and I think this as on topic as a question about administrative regulations authorized by law (which are not law either). Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 14:21
  • Yes, all candidates are from the same political party. It's an internal party primary. I guess I should have made that clear, but I kept saying primary election so I thought that was enough. So the committee donated money to some candidates in the party and not others running in the primary against each other in the same race. Nothing like the general election where of course they'll only support their candidates. Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 16:01

1 Answer 1

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It would first depend on what the bylaws (rules) of the county party are. Hypothetically speaking, here could be rules of a party in some county which does avow a policy (in Art. II) of not supporting any candidate engaged in a primary election contest. Donation in favor of any candidate violates that provision. Powers of a county central committee are by state law subordinate to rules and regulations promulgated and adopted by the state conventions or the state central committee. One would then turn to (hypothetical) state party rules which specify a procedure for adjudicating disputes under Art. XII.

One would need to study the specific governing documents in the case under consideration to answer these questions. Given the hypothetical governing documents, Q1 is misconceived because it assumes something not in evidence. The stated (quoted) policy is not "comparative" (one candidate over another), it is literally absolute ("take no position in favor of any ... candidate engaged in a primary election contest") – any donation constitutes support. However, a more imaginative interpretation of the language of the policy could be that the intention was to "express specific support for one candidate over another" – either way, the bylaw has been violated. Q2: "Candidate ranking" enjoys no direct support from the bylaws, but is conceivably consistent with other requirements of Art. II. Nothing in those bylaws empowers the county committee to expel or deny party affiliation to a candidate on the grounds of ideological impurity. Q3-4: a candidate can, under state rules, seek redress of grievances at the state party level, as can contributors. Q5: Given the hypothetical, the state party chairman does not have such discretionary power, instead, the decision is made by the Judicial Committee or, in case of appeal, the State Central Committee.

Hyper-hypothetically, a disgruntled individual could file suit in state court, seeking a better outcome, but the suit would almost certainly be dismissed unless there is evidence of a serious procedural violation in the hearing.

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