WASHINGTON–Storm clouds are forming over Barack Obama’s big Denver convention parade later this month, with behind-the-scenes efforts to put Hillary Clinton’s name on the ballot showing no signs of slowing.
The Denver Group, an independent advocacy group which says it wants the party’s rules to be respected, has emerged as the most prominent of organizations pushing for a roll-call vote with the New York senator’s name as a presidential nominee.
The group was co-founded in June by Marc Rubin, an advertising and entertainment writer , and Heidi Li Feldman, a professor of law and philosophy at Washington’s Georgetown University and a Clinton fundraiser.
“The Democratic party does not have a nominee or even a presumptive nominee,” Feldman claimed yesterday.
The Denver Group argues neither Obama nor Clinton won a majority of pledged delegates during the protracted primary battle and that the stated preferences of so-called superdelegates are meaningless without them casting ballots.
The designation of superdelegate – which includes party officials and elected members – was created as a device to choose a nominee if two candidates arrived at the national convention without enough pledged delegates to win the nomination.
The mood at the convention, which begins Aug. 25, could become tense as both Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton have been given coveted speaking slots.
Hillary Clinton will speak on the 88th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in this country.
Clinton fundraiser Feldman said she would abandon her efforts to get Clinton on the ballot only if the New York senator releases her delegates – something she has not done.
Clinton also has not called for such efforts to cease, instead telling supporters there may need to be a “catharsis” by giving her backers voice at the convention.
She has campaigned on behalf of Obama, but there is still well-documented frostiness between the two camps, and Bill Clinton did nothing to thaw relations by refusing to tell a television interviewer he thought Obama was prepared to be president.
A former aide, Howard Wolfson, further irritated the Obama campaign by telling ABC News this week Clinton would have won Iowa and the party nomination if candidate John Edwards’ extramarital affair had been known before the January caucus.
The Denver Group’s Rubin, once the head writer on The White Shadow television show, argues Clinton “got 18 million votes.
“There is a great deal of anger and animosity among them about what is going on.”
The group has solicited funds – under law it cannot receive individual donations of more than $5,000 – and has accepted enough cash to take on the party leadership in newspaper ads in Chicago, Florida and Michigan, as well as Roll Call, a well-read Capitol Hill newspaper.
Yesterday it was seeking donations to buy ad time on CNN’s Situation Room to counter negative comments made about their efforts by commentator Jack Cafferty.
There are other groups advocating for the same roll call vote.
HRC 300 is a website purporting to be the home of the PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) Alliance.
Other pro-Clinton delegates are working quietly to avoid the wrath of the party, they say.
Feldman said rank-and-file Democrats have been turned off by the party’s demand that it vote for one candidate, and one candidate only.
An ad paid for by the Denver Group states that Democratic National Committee chairman “Howard Dean does not choose the nominee. (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi does not choose the nominee. The press does not choose the nominee.
“The delegates of the Democratic party choose the nominee.
“Senator Clinton’s name must be placed in nomination and her supporters must be allowed to make speeches on behalf of her candidacy.”
If 20 per cent of Democrats sit out the election, Republican John McCain will be elected, Feldman says, and she maintains that the Democratic National Committee is pursuing a strategy that “clearly alienates” at least 20 per cent of party supporters.
“When people believe the game is being rigged, they generally don’t go to the game,” Feldman said.
“You might love baseball and enjoy going to the games, but you wouldn’t pay good money to watch a World Series if the outcome was already decided.”
The party is desperately seeking unity as Obama seeks a post-convention bounce after a nationally televised acceptance speech he will deliver before an expected audience of 75,000 at Denver’s Invesco Field.
Feldman says she wants a Democrat in the White House, but says the party is already divided.
“If the party legitimized this nomination, Obama could win,” she says.
“But it won’t happen if they do it by ramming him down the throats of the party members.
“Until we go through this formal nomination process, this party shows every sign of being a divided party,” she said.