According to his law school classmate Irina Manta, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who is planning to object to the Electoral College results on Wednesday, once exploited election rules to best her in the race for president of Yale Law School’s Federalist Society.
Manta, Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Center for Intellectual Property Law at Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law, suggested to Hawley in a USA Today op-ed that he should take a cue from her grace in defeat and move on from President Trump’s electoral loss.
Sen. Hawley and I were both members of the Yale Law School Class of 2006. While we had our differences, we shared a common bond through our joint participation in the school’s fairly small Federalist Society, made up of mostly conservative and libertarian law students.
At the end of our first year, we were both elected as Vice Presidents for Events of the YLS Federalist Society. Collaborating in these positions in our second year proved difficult. I organized the lion’s share of the group’s events and frequently received no responses from him on emails I sent to him and the Society’s president that year. This puzzled me because I thought our goal was to make the organization as strong as possible, and failure to communicate was an obstacle.
This isn’t to say that Sen. Hawley didn’t have his qualities as a vice president. For example, his marketing skills certainly contributed to strong turnout at an event with the late Harvard Law School professor William Stuntz. While I did more work that year, Sen. Hawley knew better how to shine the spotlight on his contributions, which is an important skill in the political arena.
Manta wrote that when the YLS Federalist Society’s presidential election came around in 2005, she and Hawley both ran for the position. Not long before the election, a friend tipped off Manta as to how Hawley intended to win, she wrote.
As appeared accurate based on the eventual turnout, Sen. Hawley had obtained from the sitting president the student email addresses for the YLS Federalist Society listserv (and the president, whom I had helped to win the previous year, did not volunteer that information to me at that stage). The rule was that anyone who had signed up for the listserv by a certain earlier date could vote in the Society’s elections. This included a bunch of people who did not attend events and had little or no involvement with the Society.
The rule, while easy to administer, was a bad one. It even had the potential for individuals to co-opt the Society for the sole purpose of destroying it. Historically, however, nobody had exploited that rule, to my knowledge. Instead, candidates had campaigned for votes from people actively involved with the Society.
Despite Hawley exploiting the rules to gain a competitive edge — resulting in Manta’s defeat by just a handful of votes — the then-law school student accepted her loss and moved on, she said.
Of course, the stakes are much higher when it comes to the presidency of the United States than that of the Yale Law School Federalist Society. Conversely, however, maintaining the integrity of the democratic system of our country vastly trumps doing so for a law school club. While Sen. Hawley is unlikely to succeed in his bid to hinder President-elect Biden from taking office, he is setting a dangerous precedent such that one day, a hostile Congress could overturn a rightful presidential election.
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