Many of the deadlines have passed for Virginia’s 10th district Republicans to apply to be delegates to their quadrennial convention on May 30th. The delegates will choose their 10th district chairman, their candidate for Congress as well as representatives to the State Central Committee and other offices. The full list of offices and candidates is here.
In the past local units have looked over the submitted delegate forms to make sure the applicant was a registered voter at the address listed, to verify payment, signatures, and other things on the form. If an applicant made an error, such as forgetting to sign the document or the amount of their check was incorrect, they would be contacted to correct the error.
The Rob Jones campaign for the congressional nomination in the 10th district has objected to this procedure and hired a law firm to send a “Cease and Desist” request to the 10th district chairman, Matt Leeds, and all of the local unit chairs. The letter is signed by Cherylyn Harley LeBon of the law firm Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig PLLC. The letter reads:
Our firm represents Rob Jones for Congress in all matters pertaining to the 10th Congressional District Republican Convention. Please direct all future communications to my attention. At this time, I have no knowledge that any of you are represented by counsel. If this is incorrect, please forward this letter to your respective attorneys.
We want to thank you for your hard work and dedication to this process. We are aware you are volunteers and our client believes you are doing a great service to the Republican Party of Virginia (“RPV”), and to the many delegates who will be attending our conventions this year.
Please do not mistake the concerns raised in this letter as personal attacks directed at you or the committees you serve.
RPV conventions are governed by Article VIII of the RPV Party Plan as amended through December 6, 2019 (“the Party Plan”). Pursuant to the Party Plan, delegates to the 10th District Convention are elected at the mass meetings/canvasses of each jurisdiction in the 10th District. If they are not elected at a mass meeting/canvass, they may still be seated by a majority vote of the credentials committee at the convention itself, or by the full body of the convention.
Please note that there are no credentials committees/nominations committees in existence prior to the convention. Indeed, there are no committees that are authorized to exist until the convention is convened. Therefore, the 10th District and/or local units’ committees do not have the authority to determine who is eligible to be a delegate to any convention. Delegate eligibility must be decided at a mass meetingg/canvass or at the convention.
In light of the aforesaid, the following activities have come to our attention, all constituting the potential to suppress delegate turnout to the 10th District Convention:
1. One or more units are contacting potential delegates and advising that they may be ineligible to vote in the convention. They are then requesting they appear before a committee to explain why they should be permitted to vote in the convention. This is improper and inconsistent with the Party Plan for two reasons. First, there is no such thing as a committee that determines eligibility of delegates at this stage in the process. Only the body of the mass meeting, canvass and/or convention can perform this function. Second, there is no authority for volunteers of an unauthorized committee to call delegates and tell them that they are potentially or actually ineligible to attend a convention. This has the effect of suppressing delegate turnout at the convention since delegates may choose not to be involved rather than jump through invalid procedural hurdles.
2. One or more units are contacting delegates and advising them they may be ineligible to vote in the convention because of mistakes or irregularities with the pre-filing forms. Regardless of whether there may be issues with forms, that is for the mass meeting, canvass, and/or convention to decide, not for unauthorized committees or volunteers
3. A chair of an official committee has suggested that potential delegates be investigated regarding the source of funds for specific filings. Apparently, the concern is checks paid by third parties. This is problematic for three reasons. First, there is nothing illegal or in the Party Plan that precludes third parties from paying delegate filing fees. Second, there is nothing in the Party Plan, the 10th District Call or the official filing form that states a third party check is not acceptable. Third, initiating improper investigations of delegates and their funding sources can have a negative impact on the turnout of delegates to the convention. Potential delegates may feel intimidated if they believe they are part of an investigation by a chair of an official committee.
The purpose of this letter is to identify and resolve these concerns. Please understand this is a convention to nominate a candidate for the United States Congress. Our client is prepared to use
any means necessary to ensure a fair process is conducted and to protect voters from delegate suppression, intimidation and misapplication of Party rules. Accordingly, we request the following to occur immediately:
1. All committees not officially recognized by the Party Plan should cease and desist
2. All direct contact to delegates cease and that eligibility to vote be decided at the 10th
District Convention (or mass meetings/canvasses) as required by the Party Plan. We recognize that eligibility may be reviewed before the convention to save time, but no delegate should be told they are ineligible at this point in the process.
3. All investigations into the source of funds for checks paid for delegate fees terminate immediately. My understanding is that the required campaign finance information will be provided to the appropriate unit. The chair of the official committee is not required to take any additional action.
If all of the aforesaid occur, there will be no further need for contact from our firm or our client’s campaign on these issues. I sincerely hope this is the last time we need to communicate with you on these issues.
Cherylyn Harley LeBon Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig PLLC firstname.lastname@example.org T: (703) 442-3890
After the letter was received several people contacted Chris Marston, General Counsel of RPV, asking for advice on how to handle the matter. Marston responded,
From: Chris Marston <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, March 4, 2020 10:48 AM
To: Matt Leeds <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Chairman <email@example.com>; Tim Stowe <TimStowe@timstowe.com>; Sharon Sadler <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Andrew Harrover <email@example.com>; Preston Banks <firstname.lastname@example.org>; email@example.com; Hess Family <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Chairman@vagop10.com; Jack Wilson (email@example.com) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Letter from Rob Jones Attorney
Dear Matt and 10th District Unit Chairs,
Several of you have reached out to me to seek advice regarding a letter that you have received from Cherylyn LeBon of Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig representing Rob Jones’ campaign.
I think the most effective way to address everyone’s concerns is to have a conference call. I realize that it will be impossible to find a convenient time for everyone quickly, so I will be happy to follow up with anyone who can’t make it individually.
I would propose a call on Friday at 11 am. I will send around a conference call invitation shortly. It will come from UberConference via my work email address, email@example.com.
Please feel free to let me know if you have an urgent question that can’t wait until Friday. Or if there’s any particular concern you have that you want to be sure I address on Friday that may not be common to all of your colleagues (e.g., my mass meeting is tomorrow).
Thanks, Chris Marston
General Counsel Republican Party of Virginia 571-482-7690 <<<<
To that letter 10th district chairman Matt Leeds responded:
>>>(letter head Chairman of the 10th district Matt Leeds)
From: Chairman Ten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, March 4, 2020 7:01 PM
To: ‘Chris Marston’; ‘Matt Leeds’; ‘Chairman’; ‘Tim Stowe’; ‘Sharon Sadler’; ‘Andrew Harrover’; ‘Preston Banks’; ‘email@example.com’; ‘Hess Family’; ‘Jack Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org)’ Subject: RE: Letter from Rob Jones Attorney Attachments: Screenshot (12).png; Screenshot (14).png; Screenshot (19).png
I don’t think a conference call with you is a good response for this cease and desist letter.
Beyond that, it is my understanding you have a business relationship with the consulting firm to the Jones Campaign, StratPoli. (https://www.stratpoli.com/about)
I also recently discovered you are the Treasurer for the Virginia Convention Delegates 2020 PAC, which is involved as a third party payer referenced in the cease and desist letter. (https://www.fec.gov/data/committees/?q=c00736793)
Additionally, there is also a business affiliation between StratPoli and Dunlap, Bennett & Ludwig, the law firm representing the Jones Campaign. (https://cis.scc.virginia.gov/EntitySearch/BusinessInformation?businessId=1115458&source=FromEntityResult&isSeries= False)
Matt Leeds <<<<
Another candidate for Congress in the 10th district, Jeff Dove, had this response on his Facebook page:
What happens now? Do the 10th district chair and all the unit chairs need to hire attorneys? Does this mean that all of the delegate forms have to be vetted at the convention? Over a thousand forms will have to be examined, and corrections made, before the convention can begin? Should delegates be prepared to bring meals and sleeping bags?
As more information becomes available we will keep you informed.
My goodness, what a tangled web. I will leave it up to our readers to conclude what is happening in the 10th district and why it’s happening. Connect the dots and draw your own conclusions.