Sanders supporters see vindication in Brazile’s DNC revelations

Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman Donna Brazile’s accusations that the party favored Hillary Clinton during the presidential primary have reopened old divisions, frustrating supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Brazile levied the charges Thursday in a Politico excerpt of her forthcoming book, “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.”

In an excerpt of her book published by Politico Magazine, Brazile depicts a DNC woefully mismanaged by Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to the point that it had no choice but to rely on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign’s extensive fundraising apparatus to stay afloat.

Brazile’s allegations that the DNC was dependent on Clinton offer further proof to Sanders supporters who believe the DNC was biased against their candidate.

“We all knew this was happening and the denials were just ludicrous — the entire Democratic Party establishment was united and aligned to do everything possible to deliver the election to Hillary Clinton, even if that meant taking unethical and corrupt steps,” Jonathan Tasini, a Sanders campaign surrogate who ran against Clinton for Senate in 2006, told The Hill.

Brazile’s most serious allegations centered on the stipulations in the Clinton campaign’s joint fundraising agreement with the DNC, an August 2015 deal that allowed the campaign to combine its fundraising efforts with the broader Democratic apparatus.

The existence of the agreement is not new — news outlets reported in 2015 on both Clinton and Sanders signing the agreements with the DNC. Only Clinton chose to fundraise through that partnership, which opened her campaign up to allegations last year that money raised to benefit state parties was being used in ways that benefited her campaign.

But Brazile claimed in the excerpt that Clinton’s agreement itself represented an uneven playing field. She said that the terms turned over the party’s finances, strategy and staffing decisions to the candidate’s campaign while promising Clinton’s team input on other party decisions as well, months before the first primary votes were cast and almost a year before the party’s convention

“The funding arrangement with [Clinton’s campaign] and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical,” Brazile wrote.

“If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity,” she wrote.

It’s unclear whether Sanders’s joint fundraising agreement included any language offering it a say in those internal party debates. Sanders political aides did not respond to a request for comment.

The excerpt has set off yet another firestorm in the party, which has struggled to move on from the brutal primary. Even as the party seeks to move on from the divisive primary, where hacked internal party emails showed DNC aides openly lobbying for Clinton’s victory, repeated flare-ups have stoked the divide over the months since Election Day.

Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, argued in a statement that the revelations up the pressure on the party’s Unity Reform Commission, a group created at last year’s convention to issue recommendations to help bring the party together.

“When it comes to fostering trust in the DNC, the entire ballgame is the Unity Reform Commission’s forthcoming proposals and whether they are strong and adopted by DNC leadership,” he said.

“After recent news, reforms should also include barring Joint Fundraising Agreements that give an advantage to one candidate over another during a primary — and addressing the conflicts of interest that arise when the DNC and presidential campaigns use the same law firm,” he said.​

Brazile’s allegations about Clinton’s sway over the party aren’t the only revelation in the book that’s stirring up Democrats. Her depiction of a bloated DNC that struggled to stay afloat during the election cycle has given new rise to calls to investigate the party’s finances.

Recounting a July conversation with Clinton campaign chief financial officer Gary Gensler just days after the Democratic National Convention, Brazile said she found out that the party was $2 million in debt and that the Clinton campaign “had placed the party on an allowance.”

Pointing to Brazile’s characterization of a DNC bloated with consultant salaries, prominent Sanders supporters have upped their calls for a full-scale re-evaluation of party spending.

“I have personally not just called for an autopsy, but an audit. We need real primary reforms … but also accountability,” Nomiki Konst, a Sanders delegate to the Unity Reform Commission, tweeted Thursday.

“States will not win legislatures if the DNC doesn’t understand where they blew all the money in the last 9 years. Also won’t raise [the money] back.”

Xochitl Hinojosa, the current DNC communications director, issued a statement on Thursday that emphasized the party’s push to ensure everyone feels like they receive a fair shake in elections.

“The DNC must remain neutral in the presidential primary process, and there shouldn’t even be a perception that the DNC is interfering in that process,” she said.

“Under the new leadership, the DNC has signed a joint fundraising agreement with all 50 states and D.C. well ahead of the presidential primary process in order to support our state parties and win at the state, local and national level in 2017, 2018 and beyond. This is unprecedented. We are no longer a party that is only focused on electing Democrats every four years. We’re a party that elects Democrats every year and in every single zip code.”

As the party marches toward the next presidential cycle, Tasini warned that leadership has to abide by that promise of neutrality.

“If they try this again, the Democratic Party will be done. There are plenty of people, like me, who have held back from leaving the party to try to fix it,” he said.

“But if there’s a repeat of this, it’s over. People will stream out of the party, the party will collapse, and Donald Trump will be reelected.” 

This story was updated on Nov. 3.

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Hillary Clinton

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