DNC charter requires chairman be full time

DNC charter requires chairman be full time
© Getty Images

The Democratic National Committee’s charter states that the chairman must be a full-time employee, a revelation that is raising questions about the candidacy of Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota.


There appears to be wiggle room in the charter, because it does not specifically prohibit a lawmaker from serving as DNC chairman. And the most recent chairman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida – split her duties between the DNC and Congress.

“The National Chairperson shall serve full time and shall receive such compensation as may be determined by agreement between the Chairperson and the Democratic National Committee,” Article V, Section Four of the charter reads.

Some Democrats believe the party overlooked that portion of the charter to accommodate Wasserman Schultz because President Obama directly appointed her.

The DNC did not respond to a request for comment.

But a DNC official who has not endorsed any candidate highlighted that section to The Hill, making the case that committee leaders need to clarify the rules that will govern the race for the next chairperson.

Some Democrats believe that even under a strict reading of the charter, the party would waive the provision if it sees Ellison – the first Muslim elected to Congress and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus – as best equipped to lead.

Still, it could become a sticking point among Ellison’s rivals as the race heats up.

Democrats are scrambling to get up to speed on the rules that govern the first DNC chairman election since 2004, the last time they lost the White House.

The assumption among most going into Election Day was that President-elect Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump campaign launches Asian Pacific Americans coalition Van Jones: A 'white, liberal Hillary Clinton supporter' can pose a greater threat to black Americans than the KKK Taylor Swift slams Trump tweet: 'You have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence?' MORE would choose a new DNC chief in January, as is standard when the party controls the White House.

Instead, her loss set off a furious scramble for power that is being viewed as a proxy battle over the future of the party.

Ellison is the early favorite, and he launched his bid on Monday with the support of liberal icon Bernie SandersBernie SandersExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support The battle of two Cubas Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Ro Khanna MORE, Senate Democratic leaders Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidCortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP Nevada congressman admits to affair after relationship divulged on podcast Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil MORE and Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment MORE, progressive grassroots groups and several state party chairmen.

But some Democrats are worried that the party risks repeating past mistakes if it selects a chairman whose responsibilities are divided between the DNC and Capitol Hill.

Wasserman Schultz’s tenure atop the DNC was rife with conflicts between her dual roles. Sanders was so displeased with her work that he backed her primary opponent after accusing the DNC of seeking to sabotage his presidential campaign.

Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who is running for the position again in 2016, and several others have argued that the next chairman should not be an elected official. That’s a call echoed by South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison, the latest contender to enter the chairman race.

They say that at such a critical time for the party, the role requires the full attention of someone whose sole focus is on rebuilding the national party.

Ellison insists that’s not an issue.

“I have a work ethic that people who know me know that nobody’s going to outwork me," Ellison said Monday night on MSNBC. "I’m going to be tireless working all the time and I’m going to be making sure that the message gets to the people. 

"This is not a job just for one person,” he added. “We’re going to raise and inspire millions of people all over this country, anybody who thinks this is just one guys who is going to do everything, it’s not true, my vision will be to empower people across the grassroots."

Other potential contenders who have either expressed interest or have been floated as possible candidates are Vice President Biden, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Reps. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.) and Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump official violated ethics rules in seeking EPA job for relative, watchdog finds| Trump administration aims to buy uranium for reserve 'as soon as possible,' official says| 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fue 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards OVERNIGHT ENERGY: States, green groups sue Trump over rollback of Obama fuel efficiency regulations | Oil lobby says low prices still hurting industry | Conservative group wants Trump to go further in rolling back key environmental law MORE (Calif.), and DNC National Finance Chairman Henry Muñoz III.