Name: Orlando Vidal
Candidate: International Counsel
Member since: 2011
Country/Countries: United Arab Emirates
I’m a partner in the Dubai office of the international law firm of Norton Rose Fulbright, which is the second largest law firm in the United States, and with over 50 offices worldwide one of the 10 largest in the world.
I’m a former US federal prosecutor (Assistant US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania) and US Department of Justice Foreign Resident Legal Advisor (in Colombia).
I lead my Firm’s Compliance & Investigations practice for the Middle East.
For DA, I have served in various capacities: (1) as a two-term (4 years) International Counsel; (2) as a DNC Member (4 years); (3) as UAE Country Chair (6 years); (4) as UAE Legal Counsel (6 years); and (5) as a Member of the Hispanic Caucus’s Steering Committee (4 years). I volunteer for other worthy causes, in addition to DA, but especially in efforts to bring about statehood for Puerto Rico.
Describe your volunteer work with DA and cite your greatest DA accomplishment.
I have served in several roles, locally in the UAE, as Chair and Legal Counsel, and at the DPCA level, as International Counsel, DNC Member, and Hispanic Caucus leader. Perhaps the greatest challenge I faced as International Counsel was getting the DNC to approve our Delegate Selection Plan (DSP) in 2015 despite challenges raised by people without the best interests of our organization at heart. My proudest moment though remains standing alone at the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee to attempt to convince them (unsuccessfully, as everyone knows) that the over 9 million Americans Abroad deserve a full DNC delegation instead of the half-votes we are allowed to cast. Having received the promise of the then Chairman of the DNC in writing to fix this for DA, I tried to hold him to his promise. That was a huge learning experience. But in the process I proudly stood for DA.
Why are you running for this office
I don’t need 200 words to tell you why I’m running for this office: I’m running for International Legal Counsel because I want to serve this organization I love, and I can best serve it in the role I play for a living: as a lawyer. I was in fact encouraged to run for Vice Chair but however important that role is I see I can serve best as Legal Counsel. Modesty apart, I do think I was effective in the role when I previously held it. I think I was effective not only because of the legal knowledge I was able to impart to particular problems as they arose. I was also effective because of the manner in which I treated people, sometimes in very contentious and difficult circumstances. Now, I do think (no, more than that: I’m really confident that) with the benefit of experience (those slings and arrows of outrageous fortune), I can do even better for DA this time around. I hope our voting membership gives me that opportunity again. If you do, I vow to work very hard only keeping DA’s best interests in mind.
How will your skill sets and experience contribute to DA's success?
Certainly my legal skills and experience as a partner in a major international law firm (and what that means in terms of knowing how to operate in a complex, international setting with many members with hugely competing interests) served me well last time, and I know will serve me well again.
I have also repeatedly proven my zealous and effective advocacy skills for my clients, which of course include—if elected—DA. And those skills often come in handy when issues arise, be they internal or with the DNC. I also believe a good lawyer must be prepared to provide independent legal advice to his/her clients, regardless of the consequences, allegiances, or political pressures to which the lawyer may be exposed. I do know I have proven at DA to have those skills. I am also a team player and will be looking to bring people along with me.
Are there any DA organizational or practical issues (not political goals) that you would like to address should you be elected?
If elected,I propose:
(1) to reestablish a Council of Counsels (which I created when I was first International Counsel but has since, for unexplained reasons, been done-away with): lawyers interested in advising the International Counsel on legal issues as they arise and, in the process, gain more knowledge and experience of the legal issues faced by DA and voters abroad that could serve them well in the future as they step up to assume the role of International Counsel themselves;
(2) improve our organizational Compliance and Ethical standards, including by adopting a stand-alone Conflict of Interest policy so we can avoid even the appearance of a conflict situation by Members of the International ExCom;
(3) serve as an always-available resource to each and every legal counsel in our Country Committees, including by regularly attending individual Country Committee ExCom meetings and Regional meetings; (4) strengthen DA’s voter-protection initiatives, including by actively pursuing appropriate interventions in cases across the country as a friend-of-the-court (amicus curiae) advocating on issues of concern to voters abroad; and (5) ensure the International ExCom and Country Committee ExComs are properly protected through D&O-type liability insurance.
How can Democrats Abroad best raise our profile among American voters abroad and better work to elect Democrats?
We have to find and meet people where they are and speak directly to their concerns and interests. It is not “brain surgery,” but it’s hard, constant, and exhausting work. However, it’s really what is needed.
Imagine if instead of a 170,000-member organization, we were a million! Then our interests and concerns would be taken more seriously at the DNC, in the halls of Congress, and within the Administration.
We must do everything we can to raise our profile. Using every tool available to us, including AI. The more members we have the easier to get the vote out, and make the difference particularly in tight elections.
As International Counsel, I will support all legitimate efforts to increase our numbers so we can elect Democrats up and down every ballot. My role will be to facilitate the legal framework that will allow the deployment of the most effective strategies.
Endorsement from Heather Stone, Executive Vice Chair, Democrats Abroad Israel
It is my absolute honor and privilege to submit this letter of endorsement on behalf of Orlando Vidal in his bid for International Legal Counsel of Democrats Abroad.
Orlando has been a dedicated volunteer with Democrats Abroad for many years, giving many hours of service at the UAE country committee and global level in the numerous roles he has held, He has contributed to the knowledge capital of the organization and has built up the organization's strength with his professional abilities and his personal style that brings everyone along to reach consensus. As former International Legal Counsel from 2013-2017 and and DNC Member from 2016-2020, Orlando is the most qualified and experienced candidate for the role.
As a regulation and investigations attorney with a major international law firm with offices in over 50 countries around the world, Orlando can be trusted to provide DA's global ExComm and country committees the best independent advice, offered with Orlando's unique pragmatic, practical and sensible manner that will achieve workable results and bring everyone along.
I first met Orlando in 2017, when he was international Legal Counsel and we were bringing our country Committee into compliance. Orlando shepherded the process, came to Tel Aviv for our first meeting and helped us launch. This is evidence of Orlando's passion and caring for the organization,
DA deserves the best legal advisor - it deserves Orlando Vidal.
Endorsement from Tom Schmid, former International Counsel (2017- 2019)
Members of Democrats Abroad,
2 April 2021
Orlando Vidal needs no introduction, and his qualifications to serve as International Counsel are
beyond question. Throughout many years of service to Democrats Abroad, including two terms as
International Counsel, Orlando has served at all levels of the organization - from country
committee to the DNC. Thus, he brings a breadth of knowledge and experience that few possess.
In addition to the herculean task of drafting the 2016 Delegate Selection Plan, Orlando successfully
represented the Executive Committee in two implementation challenges brought before the Rules
Committee of the Global Convention in 2016, which I chaired.
Orlando will be an independent voice on the Executive Committee, a characteristic necessary to
providing unbiased advice. Independence, integrity, and courage led him to fight to expand
Democrats Abroad's voting power on the DNC despite significant political pressure to the
contrary. Though unsuccessful, his efforts demonstrate that he will stand up for his principles and
beliefs regardless of the political climate.
Less than a year ago, the Executive Committee struggled - and failed - to adequately address the
issue of conflicts of interest, ripping the social fabric of Democrats Abroad. This unsustainable
situation must be remedied, and Orlando has committed to guiding the Executive Committee
toward the adoption of a robust conflicts of interest policy.
If elected, Orlando's experience and personal demeanor will have a stabilizing effect on leadership,
and his legal skill, courage and conviction will facilitate the restoration of sound governance,
respect, and confidence throughout Democrats Abroad.
Endorsement from John Eastwood, former representative to the DNC (2012- 2020), former International Counsel (2011-2013), Chair Democrats Abroad, Taiwan
I first met Orlando Vidal at the London meeting in 2013, when I was the outgoing international counsel and he was a fresh face within our organization running for that position. That freshness was an advantage because he is a natural problem-solver with a keen eye for smart solutions, unwilling to accept "we've always done this" as a rationale for continuing bad ideas.
As counsel, Orlando brings a great legal mind, a strong commitment to fairness, and a great understanding of the protective role that the international counsel has for Dems Abroad to ensure humane and correct explanations to our members about the FEC, Democratic Party and internal Dems Abroad rules with which we must comply.
I've seen Orlando in action, speaking as a powerful and diplomatic advocate to defend Dems Abroad at the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee in Minneapolis in 2015, when bad-intentioned folks tried to strip us of our Convention delegates. When we served together from 2016-2020 as representatives to the DNC, I saw Orlando work hard to represent Dems Abroad and hold the DNC accountable for promises they had made.Orlando never takes the easy way out and does not compromise on his principles, even as he helps others find common ground and reach compromises on solutions. Orlando acts with a great degree of independence that the counsel role requires, working for the organization and not any individual or faction therein. Orlando would do an excellent job as our global counsel.