Obama and Clinton ‘prune’ delegate lists

The presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton pruned today hundreds of would-be delegate candidates from this Sunday’s caucus, invoking a little-used clause that allows them the final say over the candidates.

Nearly 3,000 Democrats applied for the 241 Congressional-level delegate seats but only 1,500 remain on the ballot as of today. The campaigns winnowed down what turned out to be the party’s biggest ever number of delegate applicants, most of them on the Obama side. (Click here to see the final list.)

I first got wind of the cuts earlier today at the Calitics blog, where Brian Leubitz bemoaned the fact that he was cut. And Kevin Yamamura at the Sacramento Bee posted a story a few hours ago.

I was surprised. My colleague, Josh Richman, and I had interviewed a number of eager East Bay delegate candidates in the past few days for use in a Friday story we’re writing about the Sunday caucuses. No one at the Democratic Party mentioned it. And none of the applicants seemed to know they could be cut by the campaigns before they even showed up Sunday for their caucus elections.

I reached one of the pruned delegates tonight, who said he hadn’t never seen this happen in his 30 years of party politics. “We knew the clause was there but it was only used to boot out the nut cases or people who were trying to get into the convention to cause trouble,” he said.

Here’s what an Obama delegate cut from the field received via email today from the party:

Dear District Level Obama Applicant:

As directed by the Delegate Selection Rules adopted by the DNC in August 2006 (Rule 12 Presidential Preference subsection D & E), all the completed applications for district level delegate were forwarded to your Presidential Campaign for review and approval. The final list of those who will be on the ballot in each CD is now posted at www.cadem.org/finalapplicants.

Please check right now.

If you have any questions regarding the process, please contact the Barack Obama campaign at (866) 675-2008.

The caucuses to elect the delegates will take place on April 13th everywhere in the state at 3:00 p.m., with sign-in and voting starting at 2:00. Please check www.cadem.org for more information.

What is doesn’t say it that you should check the list now because you may no longer be on it.

Some of those who were cut include elected officials such Richmond Councilman Harpreet Sandhu and Martinez Councilman Mike Menesini. Former Pinole councilwoman Maria Alegria, who was recalled from office in February, was stripped off the delegate list.

Sandhu has been campaigning hard. His daughters have been helping him. He was lining up vanpools to bring fellow Seiks from the El Sobrante temple over to the Martinez where the caucus was being held. Others spent hours on Facebook and MySpace campaigns or door-knocking.

The campaigns, according to an Associated Press story, went through the applicant lists, cross-checked campaign finance records and made some phone calls to ensure that only party loyalists would be on the ballots.

Yes, it’s true that the delegates are not legally bound to vote for their pledged candidate once they arrive at the convention, although that has rarely happened.

And granted, the candidates are only permitted to cut the lists to within three times the number of delegates allowed in each district.

But really, so much for the open, diverse, democratic process the Democratic Party likes to trot out on display. If the candidates have hand-picked the delegates, why even bother to hold caucuses?

Why not let the candidates go all the way and make the final choice of delegates and be done with it? That’s how the Republicans do it.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen