Will a Little-Known Ohio Law Make Delegate-Chasing a Felony During RNC?

[image-1]ABC News stumbled on an interesting bit of state law arcana this week, pointing out that convention candidates who give or lend or offer money or other goods to delegates would be guilty of bribery, a fourth-degree felony in Ohio

The law, which specifically addresses bribery before, during and after a convention, also prohibits intimidation and coercion. GOP frontrunner and talking McRib Donald Trump's network has literally already been doing this

From ABC News:
Lawmakers passed the original law on bribery in state elections in 1871, but added language to “protect the elections of voluntary political associations” three years later, on the cusp of the contentious 1876 Republican convention in Cincinnati, which took seven ballots to crown a nominee.

“Purchases of votes for money have been openly made in the hall where conventions were held,” says an 1874 Cincinnati Enquirer story decrying people “who become delegates for no purpose in the world but to sell their votes to the highest bidder” at local conventions. 
(1876 was kind of a crazy year. The RNC was plagued with tension, and the general election resulted in the presidency of Ohio Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes — who actually lost the popular vote, foreshadowing the insanity of our 2000 general election.)

It's not a sure bet that the bribery law will be enforced in Cleveland, though. It's rarely come up in the annals of Ohio prosecution. (Once in 1982, once in 1991, and once — unsuccessfully — in 2012.)

The Republican National Committee, for its part, offers no guidelines on what political writers call "horse-trading" before and during a convention. Like pretty much everything else in the run-up to the RNC, we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

“It’s entirely imaginable that these kind of controversies will emerge if Donald Trump goes into Cleveland without 1,237 [delegates],” Dan Tokaji, an expert in election law at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, told ABC News. “There’s going to be a furious jockeying for these delegates.” 

Furious jockeying, everybody. 

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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