Hackers stole private data from election databases

Time magazine has a story today which seems to be one part news and one part Democratic daydreaming about collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. First here’s the news:

In one case, investigators found there had been a manipulation of voter data in a county database but the alterations were discovered and rectified, two sources familiar with the matter tell TIME. Investigators have not identified whether the hackers in that case were Russian agents…

In Illinois, more than 90% of the nearly 90,000 records stolen by Russian state actors contained drivers license numbers, and a quarter contained the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, according to Ken Menzel, the General Counsel of the State Board of Elections.

So someone did hack into an election database but it was discovered and fixed. Also, Russian hackers stole voter’s personal information. That’s troubling but compared to the Chinese hack of the OPM database, which affected 22 million people and involved personal information including complete social security numbers, names of relatives and even fingerprints, this seems relatively minor. Here’s where we get to the daydreaming part of the story.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether any of the stolen information made its way to the Trump campaign. Michael Bahar, a former Democratic staffer tells Time, “If any campaign, Trump or otherwise, used inappropriate data the questions are, How did they get it? From whom? And with what level of knowledge?”

I suppose this would be significant if it were true but is it true? After Bahar throws out his speculation, Time offers this sentence undercutting him, “No one contacted for this story said they had seen evidence that the stolen, private, data had actually made its way to the Trump campaign.” So once again we’re chasing the possibility that something nefarious may have happened even though no one has seen any evidence that it happened.

The story goes on to say that House investigators want to question Brad Parscale, Trump’s digital director. In a previous story about Parscale, CNN quoted Democratic Senator Mark Waner suggesting that the Russian fake news operation must have had help from someone with knowledge of the American political system.

“There have been reports that their ability to target this information, some reports at least saying that in the last week of the campaign in certain precincts in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania there was so much misinformation coming talking about Hillary Clinton’s illnesses or Hillary Clinton stealing money from the State Department or other. It completely blanked out any of the back and forth that was actually going on in the campaign,” Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said at a March 30 hearing.

Warner then added, “One of the things that seems curious is would the Russians on their own have that level of sophisticated knowledge about the American political system, if they didn’t at least get some advice from someone in America?”

I think Democrats would be as surprised as anyone if one of these conspiracy theories turned out to have some truth to it. Mostly, Democrats just move from one unproven conspiracy theory (the Russians had inside help) to the next (the Russians passed stolen data to the Trump campaign). But no matter what their theory is on any given day one thing remains constant: No one has seen proof that any of this actually happened. If they don’t come up with something solid, there is eventually going to be a big backlash to all of this.