Allegations of TX caucus shenanigans

DALLAS, TX Clinton Texas director Ace Smith and campaign lawyer Lyn Utrecht cited evidence that Obama supporters had illegally obtained caucus packets in several precincts throughout the state. Under caucus rules, whomever has the packet is placed in charge of the caucus.

They also said Obama supporters had locked Clinton voters out of several caucuses.

Utrecht said lawyers across the state were observing caucus activity and that a decision would be made shortly about what kind of challenge to launch.

"There are a number of legal options, but it's too early to say what we will pursue," she said.

Since coming in third in the Iowa caucuses in January, Clinton and her top aides have made no secret of their disdain for caucuses that they believe are undemocratic and cater only to party activists. Texas has a hybrid system where two-thirds of the delegates are awarded through the primary and another third come from 8,700 precinct caucuses that began immediately after polls closed.

Speaking to reporters, Clinton aides pushed back on the notion that they were challenging the caucus process because they believed the outcome would benefit Obama.

"These are not accusations. These are documented incidents where voters are being activiely disenfrancised. It's outrageous," Smith said.

There was even a humorous moment of campaign theater when Obama's campaign lawer Bob Bauer phoned into the press conference call to complain about the Clinton campaign's persistent criticism of caucuses.

"This is part of a string of accustaions you've launched against the caucus process," Bauer said, noting that the Clinton campaign had filed lawsuits in Nevada in advance of that state's precinct caucuses Jan. 19.

"What is happening in Texas is extraordinary," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson told Bauer. "We, of course, don't hold you personally responsible for it, but we believe that you do share our commitment to strong democratic values."

Earlier, the Democratic presidential campaigns traded accusations of other primary day shenanigans, prompting the party to issue a stern reprimand to follow the rules.

Allegations flew from both campaigns that staffers were signing up participants in advance of precinct caucuses or swiping caucus packages containing tools for the second round of voting in Texas' quirky Democratic primary system.

After polls closed, Democrats gathered to decide how to allocate 67 delegates. Participants were not supposed to sign up for the caucuses unless they show up.

Obama's campaign issued a news release accusing Clinton's campaign of a handful of incidents in various precincts while Clinton's campaign helped reporters get in touch with a witness to early signups by an Obama worker.

"We are disappointed to see the Clinton campaign once again engaging in an effort to diminish the importance of the Texas caucuses and discourage Texans from participating," said Adrian Saenz, Obama's Texas state director.

Clinton's campaign denied its workers were signing up caucus attendees in advance. "We've made it clear to all of our campaign workers that this is not acceptable and we've trained all of our people not to do this," said Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee. It was Obama's supporters who were undermining the process, he said.

The Texas Democratic Party intervened to referee.

"We sent out a memo to both campaigns laying out the official rules of the Texas Democratic Party. We expect both campaigns and their campaign workers to abide by these rules," said party spokesman Hector Nieto. He would not say who was doing what.

In addition to the early signups, the party said:

-- Supporters of one of the campaigns who are not Texas residents came from out of state to attend caucuses and to bid to be a temporary chair. The party said such people would be turned away.

-- Campaigns were giving volunteers caucus credentials. The party said no credentials are needed to attend the campaign.

-- Supporters of one of the campaigns were requesting caucus packets early and supporters of one of the campaigns took the packets from polling places. The party said the latter is a criminal violation.

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