Donna Brazile, the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, who stepped in after the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has released an excerpt of her new book in politico titled “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC.” Brazile took over from Wasserman Schultz following the leaking or hacking of emails which showed DNC staff members derailing Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign, and plotting ways to aid Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s.
Brazile’s disclosure of secret agreements between the DNC and the Clinton campaign confirm what many Sanders supporters feared over the Democratic primary, that the DNC did not act as a neutral arbitrator during the primary and that the race was tipped for Clinton. (Note: it does not suggest or conclude however that Sanders would have definitely won the race if not for this, rather the DNC heavily favoured Clinton to her advantage in the race, Sanders simply didn’t get a fair shot).
The details Brazile disclosed relate to a fundraising agreement between the DNC and the Clinton campaign reached in August 2015. “The agreement which was signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and [Clinton campaign manager] Robby Mook with a copy to [Clinton campaign counsel] Marc Elias, specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised,”. Furthermore, Brazile explained that Clinton’s campaign as a result of this deal had the “right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.” As such the Clinton campaign also had control over the victory fund, which was supposed to be for the eventual winner of the primary. In effect, Clinton was in charge of the Democratic party long before any votes were cast.
There has been much confusion over Brazile’s allegations since her story was published. CNN falsely reported that the DNC “robbed” Sanders of the nomination and that Brazile was “shocked” but instead, Brazile’s account is explosive as for the first time it provides us with the details about the nature of the fundraising agreement between Clinton and the DNC. What Brazile is contending is that the DNC, being effectively bankrupt and in serious debt, agreed to exchange with Clinton a significant portion of its own autonomy for Clinton’s help in fundraising as far back as in August of 2015, long before any voting in the primary began.
Now while such an agreement between the DNC and Clinton does not mean that Sanders would have won the nomination if not for it, but it does suggest however that Clinton’s campaign team had veto power over some of the DNC’s decisions during the primary. For Brazile, she concludes that this was “proof” that the democrats tipped the nomination against Sanders (it is worth noting that Brazile herself had been implicated in tipping the primary for Clinton, after it was uncovered that she had given Clinton parts of debate questions in advance of the debate).
Brazile also revealed the details of Clinton’s joint fundraising committee (The Hillary Victory fund) which was avoiding the “spirit if not the letter of the law” (A JFC is a legal loophole to circumvent the current campaign financing laws, specifically the $2,700 donation limit, an individual donor can also give up to $33,400 to the DNC, and up to $10,000 to each state party committee). Clinton’s JFC worked as such, Clinton would bring in big money donors, providing state parties access to donors such as George Clooney, which it would otherwise never get. As such, Clinton could then claim, as she did on multiple occasions, that she was raising money for the entire party, and not just for herself.
However, the money was not being shared between the 3 different groups, (Victory fund, Democratic party and state parties) in fact 99% was going towards the DNC which was over $2million in debt or directly to Clinton’s own campaign, which resulted in state parties being starved of resources, an agreement which the DNC defended despite complaints from National Democrats. In Brazile’s own words “It’s a circumvention of the contribution limits on the national party.” Michael Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute, told Brazile “The victim here is anybody who thinks there’s anything meaningful left to contribution limits.” But the document revealed by Brazile adds a new dimension to this story, suggesting that the Clinton team had control over the DNC throughout this fundraising process that cut out the state parties for their own benefit.
While Brazile’s disclosures of how Clinton took control of the DNC before the primary even began is interesting and fascinating, it does pose further questions. For all intents and purposes, she has now effectively burned all her bridges with Clinton and her allies – a significant move in itself – does this therefore suggest that Brazile sees Clinton’s time as the democratic standard bearer has passed? Or rather, is it that Brazile is looking down the line to 2020 and is realising that Sanders and his supporters are essential to any bid for the Democrats to reclaim the White House, and as such is this reveal an overture towards his supporters, confirming their fears and suspicions in an attempt to bring them into the democratic mainstream, rather than trying to deepen animosities between the various branches of the democratic party? Alternatively, it could be a simple financial incentive, causing controversy to gain attention and boost sales of the book. But overall as Eric Levitz writes in New York magazine: “Maybe Brazile just wants to maximize sales of her upcoming book, and recognized that an inside story of DNC treachery was the juiciest angle she had, but this certainly reads like the kind of piece a Democratic operative would write if she were interested in having as warm a relationship with the Sanders 2020 campaign as she did with the Clinton 2016 one.”
Brazile’s book, ‘Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House’, will be released on November 28th.