“Cash is on the table,” veteran Republican Marti Halverson says. “I don’t know why you’re so shocked.” This is not the response I was expecting — my mouth gaping. I had just finished asking Wyoming National committeewoman Mrs Halverson about the “wooing” of delegates to switch their vote in this very-likely-to-be-contested upcoming Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Ms Halverson is also opposed to any rule that would stop delegates accepting gifts. “This is a great country,” she said. “We give presents to our friends. No, I would not vote for a rule that said candidates cannot ‘woo’ delegates. I wouldn’t do that. It’s not the American way.” But what is the difference between wooing someone and buying their vote without cash? “Cash is on the table,” she replied. “Absolutely. It is going around that delegates are going to be offered free trips to Cleveland. Not Wyoming delegates, we haven’t heard that. But it is on the table. It is not illegal.”
I will point out at this stage Mrs Halverson is also a member of the Republican Standing Committee on Rules, which met this past week in Florida. “And why would we want to make it illegal? Politics is rough and tumble in this country,” Mrs Halverson said. “If there’s a loophole, some allowance that a candidate has to make a delegate happy. “This is a free country. This is a free country despite what a lot of people would like to turn it into. This is still a free country.”
… I did ask the Federal Election Commission (FEC) about delegate vote-buying and if there is anything illegal about it. They have never successfully prosecuted anyone for it in recent times, and they sent me a copy of their guide for delegates and pointed me to Ohio’s bribery laws. The FEC directed me to page 150 of their Campaign Guide for Political Party Committees and their delegate guide.
In reality, there are few restrictions except “delegates may not accept any contributions from sources prohibited from making contributions in connection with federal elections — corporations, labour organisations, foreign nationals or businesses, or Federal Government contractors”.