Oh, one of these things is not like the other … After Donna Brazile’s self-serving narrative blew the lid off of Hillary Clinton’s takeover of the DNC in August 2015, her defenders rushed out with the counternarrative that this as just business as usual. Hey, Bernie’s campaign signed a joint fundraising agreement with the DNC too! That’s true … as far as it goes. But as ABC News reports this morning, the two JFAs have significant differences:
A joint fundraising agreement between the Bernie Sanders campaign and the Democratic National Committee — obtained Friday by ABC News and signed at the start of the primary campaign for the 2016 presidential election — does not include any language about coordinating on strategic decisions over hiring or budget, unlike a fundraising memo between the Hillary Clinton team and the DNC.
Former Sanders staff members argue that the Sanders-DNC agreement refutes the claim by the DNC that the two campaigns were offered similar treatment by the party. What’s more, the Sanders team posits that the joint fundraising agreement they signed with the party was never acted on.
Perez sent out a note to DNC members yesterday, ABC relates, in which he claimed that “the DNC offered all of the presidential campaigns the opportunity to set up a JFA and work with the DNC” for the general election. Again, that might be true as far as it goes, but it’s not the whole story. The DNC under Debbie Wasserman Schultz also signed a separate agreement identifying the scope of Hillary for America’s control of DNC operations. That memo made it clear who was in charge:
The August 26, 2015, memorandum of understanding from Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook to DNC CEO Amy Dacey details the relationship between Clinton’s campaign and the DNC long before she won her party’s nomination.
In exchange for Hillary for America’s (HFA) helping the cash-strapped DNC raise money, the party committee agreed “that HFA personnel will be consulted and have joint authority over strategic decisions over the staffing, budget, expenditures, and general election related communications, data, technology, analytics, and research.”
Specifically, the DNC agreed to hire a communications director from “one of two candidates previously identified as acceptable to HFA.” And while the DNC maintained “the authority to make the final decision” on senior staff in the communications, technology and research departments, the party organization said it would choose “between candidates acceptable to HFA.”
It was that heretofore secret agreement that gave Hillary Clinton control of the DNC’s operations, in exchange for help paying off its debt. That arrangement never got disclosed to the other Democratic presidential campaigns, although it was clear from nearly the beginning of the preprimary activity in 2015 that the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz were doing everything it could to protect Hillary. They had good reason to allow themselves to be coopted — Wasserman Schultz had run the DNC into a ditch, and officers like Brazile hadn’t bothered to keep an eye on business, at least in the most charitable take possible. Clinton could raise money, and the other Democrats in the race were lightweights at the time, including Bernie Sanders.
Donald Trump called for a Department of Justice investigation into this arrangement, which is silly; no criminal laws were broken. However, the DNC’s signing of the Sanders JFA two months after selling out to Hillary raises some questions about whether Sanders and his backers might have a civil case as well as a political argument that the DNC defrauded them. They clearly failed to disclose that they had a preexisting partnership with his opponent which gave Hillary effective first-look control of the organization. Donors who believed that their funds would go to state and local races might have some questions about what happened to their funds, too. Did HFA allow much of it to be spent down-ballot at all?
Courts would probably take a pass on adjudicating those questions, given their electoral context, but it would be a popcorn-passing event if it even came to a hearing.
Right now, the Sanders team would just like the DNC to acknowledge the obvious. Instead, Tom Perez has been ducking any question related to Brazile’s book and trying to act like it’s business as usual. Team Bernie campaign manager Jeff Weaver wonders why Perez is so defensive:
Weaver, who currently sits on a new unity commission charged with suggesting reforms for the party, said he was surprised that the newly-elected leadership at the party was not taking a more proactive stance to dealing with the old wounds.
“A real executive would say, ‘This was a terrible thing that went on, we are cleaning it up,'” Weaver said. “[Tom] Perez isn’t tied to this why is he defending this? It’s ridiculous.”
Clearly, Perez isn’t a real executive, or at least not a really competent executive.
Addendum: Brazile’s backpedaling on the “rigged” charge, claiming Trump misquoted her:
Today’s lesson: Being quoted by Donald Trump means being MIS-quoted by Donald Trump. Stop trolling me. #NeverSaidHillaryRiggedElection
— Donna Brazile (@donnabrazile) November 3, 2017
Twitter may be forever, but books definitely are:
Did you bother to read your own book? pic.twitter.com/AvOWreAJbJ
— Brian O'Neill (@NYC__Native) November 3, 2017
It just proves what I wrote on Thursday — Hacks was a particularly apt title for a Brazile memoir.