Play Hardball, Al
Eric Kleefeld has done America and the blogosphere a great service by painstakingly documenting the Minnesota Senate recount trial between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. Closing arguments were made today, and Senator-elect Franken's were pretty strong. But of course, like any trial, after Coleman loses this challenge he will have the right to appeal. And then perhaps an appeal up to the Supreme Court. So we're looking well into the summer before Franken could be seated, with the possibility that the Supremes would pull a Bush v. Gore and overturn a settled and well-adjudicated election.
However, Franken does have a tool in his toolkit, should he want to use it, and given how slimy Coleman has been throughout this entire process, I see no reason why he shouldn't.
The election-contest proceeding operates under a loser-pays system -- so if Coleman loses, his campaign committee would have to pay all the legal costs of Team Franken. Those numbers aren't publicly available, but Schultz estimates it at anywhere between $1-3 million.
And it's also normal procedure in such civil cases, Schultz explains, for a losing party that appeals to then be served a court order requiring them to place in escrow the amount for which they are currently liable. So if Franken's lawyers are smart people -- and nobody would doubt that they are -- Schultz sees it as very likely that they would seek to force Coleman's committee to procure millions of dollars up front just so they could start an appeal. "I think it's very likely -- not a certainty but very likely -- a court would agree with that," said Schultz, "for the Coleman campaign to provide the costs and legal fees."
And after some additional legal wrangling, a decision like this could effectively end it: "A one-two combination of asking for the escrow, and having the money dry up because of the credit-card problem, that could very well dictate how far he goes."
If Republicans are going to obstruct, they ought to be forced to pay for it. Considering that the RNC and the campaign committees are short on cash as it is, this is probably the only way to get Coleman to cut his losses. Franken's legal team should absolutely pursue this.
...Mitch McConnell is talking about going all the way to the Supreme Court. OK, Mitch, you can pay for it, then. And Al Franken's lawyers are pricey. Because they're actually good.