By Joseph P. Williams and Susan Milligan, Globe Staff
Democratic Party lawyers told a committee looking at the fate of disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan that at most they can restore only half of their 368 total delegates.
In a memo sent late Tuesday to the 30 members of the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which plans to meet Saturday in Washington, the lawyers say the committee can either allow half the number of delegates from each state into the national convention or allow the full delegations to attend, but give them each half a vote.
The lawyers, however, don't suggest how any delegates should be divided between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
And the Democratic National Committee issued a statement that said the lawyers' memo was not an official recommendation.
"The staff analysis is intentionally neutral; it does not make specific recommendations," the statement said. "The analysis lays out a rules framework for each challenge, and the issues raised within each challenge. The analysis maintains that the RBC did have proper authority and jurisdiction in imposing the 100% sanction. The RBC had wide latitude in that decision.
"The document also examines the 50% automatic sanction and how to implement such a sanction: Under this scenario, one option would be to reduce the total number of delegates by half; the second option for consideration by the RBC would be to reduce the delegation's votes by half, so that each delegate gets a half vote," the statement continues. "We look forward to a thorough discussion of these issues at the Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting this Saturday, May 31st in Washington, DC."
Senior Clinton aides disputed the notion that the DNC lawyers memo requires punishing Florida and Michigan with the loss of at least half their delegates, saying that was only one option available to the rules committee.
The rules indeed allow for an "automatic'' sanction against the states for breaking the rules, said Harold Ickes, a member of the DNC rules and bylaws committee who is also an adviser to the Clinton campaign.
"You can just as easily read that as permitting the rules and bylaws committee to fashion whatever sanctions it wants,'' Ickes told reporters in a conference call today. "The rules provide for automatic sanctions in the event -- and only in the event -- that the rules and bylaws committee does not take jurisdiction and act otherwise,'' he said.
Ickes was among the committee members who voted -- despite emotional appeals by Florida and Michigan Democrats -- to punish the states for violating DNC scheduling rules. But Ickes has since changed his perspective, explaining that he is now an advocate for Clinton.
Obama aides told reporters today that they want a fair solution to the impasse, but drew the line at giving Clinton all the delegates she wants.
Clinton needs as many delegates as possible from the two states to have any hope of catching Obama, who is currently within 45 delegates of clinching the Democratic nomination. That number would change if any Florida and Michigan delegates are restored.
Clinton won both primaries, but no candidates campaigned in Florida, and Obama pulled his name off the ballot in Michigan.
While Clinton's supporters plan to show up in force inside and outside the hotel hosting Saturday's meeting, the Obama campaign is advising its backers not to hold a counterprotest.
"With a click of a mouse in the mid-Atlantic, we could get thousands of people there," Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, told reporters. "But in the interest of party unity, we are not encouraging a protest. We don't think a scene is helpful as we try to bring the party together."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.