Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The call of fiduciary duty, Sanders vs the DNC

Somewhere out there, amidst the din of calls for Sanders to surrender, is a tiny voice, a voice that even when heard, is often ignored. This voice is the voice of fiduciary duty. It has something to say on both sides of the Democratic nominee selection process. According to The Wex Legal Dictionary:
A fiduciary duty is a legal duty to act solely in another party's interests. Parties owing this duty are called fiduciaries. The individuals to whom they owe a duty are called principals. Fiduciaries may not profit from their relationship with their principals unless they have the principals' express informed consent.
Sanders has received many millions of dollars from millions of contributors in trust for him to run his campaign to the very end. That means, by following the rules, and the laws, he is using every possible avenue to win the nomination. That means staying in the race to the nomination to the very end, until the last vote is counted at the Democratic National Convention in just a few weeks.

When people call upon him to surrender his campaign for the nomination, they are asking Bernie Sanders to abandon his fiduciary duty to his supporters to use every means possible, within the rules provided, to secure the nomination. This fiduciary duty is above and beyond the maintenance of his relationship to a loyal and enthusiastic following of millions of Americans. Were he to abandon the quest for the nomination prematurely, he would betray his followers. His followers are Americans who have for years wanted a way out of voting for the lesser of two evils. They have wanted to vote for a true progressive, and having found him, they have supported him tirelessly. That support will continue, well beyond the end of the campaign, whatever the outcome.

As far as Sanders and his supporters are concerned, this is not over. Not even close.

During the campaign, Sanders encountered numerous obstacles in his quest for the nomination. Oddly, one of those obstacles turned out to be the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The DNC also has a fiduciary duty to the people they serve. The DNC has received millions of dollars in contributions from millions of people all over the country. Many of these donations were made in the hopes of supporting Bernie Sanders and others like him. Yet, the DNC has not been the neutral and impartial arbiter of the nomination process that we would all expect them to be.

For many Sanders supporters, it has been plainly obvious that there was a pro-Clinton bias exhibited by the DNC. I am one of them and I have seen this bias from the beginning. For the most part, I just assumed that it was politics as usual. But in recent days, I learned of a class action lawsuit against the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I've read the complaint and now I see the full story, in all its gory details. It's a short read, so check it out here.

The quick summary is that the DNC bylaws and rules require it to be a neutral party with respect to candidates seeking the nomination to run as candidate for president. The DNC computer systems were hacked and an email was stolen and released to the public to show that the DNC had already made up its mind that Hillary Rodham Clinton or, "HRC", was going to be the nominee. In addition, the DNC had agreed to commit resources to push stories out "without fingerprints" that would support HRC and respond to criticisms about her. That was in May of 2015, after Sanders had already announced his candidacy. That strategy document made no mention of any other candidate and shows that even then, the DNC was confident that HRC would be their nominee.

It is estimated that the number of plaintiffs to be included in the classes for this lawsuit could include millions of people. The classes of people include those who donated to Bernie Sanders directly, those donated to the DNC and all registered members of the Democratic Party.

Did the DNC breach a fiduciary duty to the people who made a contribution to the DNC? I think so. Did they commit a fraud upon the people they serve? I think so, too. But ultimately it is up to the court to decide these questions.

The amount of bias against Sanders and in favor of Clinton that has been exhibited by the DNC is, in my estimation, unprecedented and almost certainly without peer in the GOP and in past elections for either party. I believe that a reasonable jury or judge would be hard pressed to find for the defendant if this case ever gets to trial. I do hope that it does get to trial so that the verdict, with damages is made public for all to see and so that the DNC members who participated in this farce will be made an example for all to avoid. Let's not let them have a settlement protected by a non-disclosure agreement. Justice should be free or all to see.

The fact that Bernie Sanders has not conceded and has not endorsed Hillary Clinton is a testament to his determination to honor his duties and obligations as a candidate, both fiduciary and otherwise, to the people who support him. This is why I support him and will continue to do so, well after the election is over, regardless of the outcome. A peaceful revolution has started, the kind of revolution that democratic governments are designed to permit, so that the people are better able to determine their own collective fate, without spilling any blood. Let us confine this revolution to spilling ink and electrons instead.

So the next time someone tells you that Bernie Sanders should drop out, remind them that he has a duty to his supporters to use every legal option at his disposal to win the nomination. In the same breath, you can remind the opposition that the DNC appears to have violated their duty to be neutral in the selection process of the nominee. Is it really too much to ask for a level playing field during the primaries? Perhaps for this DNC, it is.

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