Exclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races

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New documents obtained by Guccifer 2.0 and exclusively leaked to The Hill highlight efforts by Democrats to prevent Mike Parrish from winning the party’s primary for a contested House seat in Pennsylvania.

The memos and other documents show how the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sought to recruit three candidates for House races in Pennsylvania seen by Democrats as competitive.

{mosads}In district six, the DCCC targeted Marian Moskowitz, a small businesswoman and 2014 candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, as a challenger to Parrish, who had already announced his bid.

To lure Moskowitz, the DCCC arranged calls and meetings with top party officials such as Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Mar.).
“Please tell Moskowitz that the DCCC will be all-in on her candidacy,” talking points to Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, and other party officials said.

“We will be there from day one to support her and help her build a strong campaign. DCCC is targeting this district but the current Democratic candidate (Mike Parrish) is not getting the job done.”

These efforts, which have not been previously reported, proved unsuccessful, and Parrish ultimately won his primary.

He is now an underdog to incumbent Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.). The Cook Political Report rates the district as likely Republican.

While the actions by the DCCC are par for the course in House campaigns in which parties seek the best candidates they can find across the country, the memos offer interesting details on the lengths at which the House Democratic campaign arm went to field its Pennsylvania roster.

Guccifer 2.0’s decision to release the documents is equally interesting.

This is the first time the hacker or hackers, which are believed to be behind huge breaches at the DCCC and Democratic National Convention, have released documents focusing on to specific state races.

The cache adds to five Pennsylvania specific documents released publicly on the Guccifer 2.0 blog, including a November memo from the DCCC to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) identifying House Districts 6, 7 and 8 as priorities for the party in the Keystone State.

The additional documents released to the Hill, include vetting documents, internal polling, and memos – including near-monthly updated versions of the same Pelosi memo as the three races progressed.

Guccifer 2.0 is widely believed to be a cover identity for Russian intelligence, which many posit is trying to bolster Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.

“National security experts are in wide agreement that Russian state actors have conducted a massive cyber attack against key Democratic organizations, including the DCCC. The Committee is cooperating with federal law enforcement in their ongoing investigation,” said DCCC National Press Secretary Meredith Kelly in a written statement.

If the leaks are a Russian operation, the documents would mark the first time the Guccifer 2.0 group has attempted to influence a specific local election on this scale.

It’s not clear what Guccifer 2.0’s motivation is in releasing the documents, but embarrassing Democratic candidates and party officials in Pennsylvania could be a boon to Trump’s efforts to flip the state from blue to red.

One of the primary functions of the DCCC and its Republican equivalent, the National Republican Campaign Committee, is to ensure that the best possible candidate is nominated in each district. The memos make clear Parrish’s fundraising woes convinced the DCCC he was not that candidate, especially for a district it believed it could win.

Instead, the DCCC targeted Moskowitz, a businesswoman who had narrowly lost a state House race in 2014.

Heading into the election season, the DCCC appears to have believed the sixth district was winnable – internal polling from September included in the Guccifer 2.0 documents suggests that 50 percent of the district wanted to vote against Costello.

The move to replace Parrish took place between December 2015 and January 2016.

As the election cycle has progressed, those hopes have waned – the Cook Political report lists the district as currently “likely” Republican, a designation it says denotes the race is not currently competitive.

Besides Hoyer, the DCCC prepared talking points for Rep. Dennis Heck (D-Wash.), Rep. Debby Dingell (D-Mich.), Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), DCCC Chair Ben Ray Lujan and various Pennsylvania party officials urging them to push Moskowitz to run.

The DCCC began to question Parrish’s ability to win the district before the end of 2015. The memos show the DCCC was particularly worried about his fundraising, as Parrish only pulled in $30,000 in the third quarter of 2015.

Moskowitz appears to have been reluctant to enter the race for a number of reasons, including not wanting to enter the race without a numerical path to victory and feeling like she could get more accomplished working in local committees than as a minority party member of the House.

The memos also note she would have needed to be assuaged of “the personal discomfort of running against Costello, as she and her husband are friends with Costello and his wife. The Costellos were helpful to her in her 2014 State House run.”

In next-door district seven, memos show a concerted effort by the DCCC to recruit Pastor Bill Golderer as a candidate. Golderer was eventually defeated in the primary by La Salle University Professor Mary Ellen Balchunis.

As late as May, the DCCC believed that incumbent GOP Rep. Pat Meehan was vulnerable, noting that historically a Democrat held a slight edge.

The DCCC began to solicit Golderer in the summer of 2015. Memos to Reps. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), Bustos and Heck giving strategy tips for the trio to encourage Golderer to run emphasized two key points.

The DCCC thought his story would make for a compelling foil to Meehan – Golderer founded the Broad Street Ministry, an alternative church emphasizing inclusiveness and civic outreach. It also felt that Golderer could mount successful fundraising efforts through “an extensive rolodex from his public ventures and past political work and can mount a credible challenge.”

But after Golderer declared and the primary race went on into 2016, the focus of the memos switched to pleading with the candidate to stay in contention.

“A troubled campaign since the New Year,” the DCCC wrote in the memos, after key advisors left the campaign and the DCCC needed to step in to shore up necessary signatures for the primary. Golderer “has tried to exit the race several times.”

“Please ask him to stop telling supporters or members about his plans to exit the race without a plan in place,” asks one memo of Lujan.

The documents show the DCCC also was targeting District 8 in Pennsylvania.

DCCC memos say the party was agnostic about which of two primary candidates, Shaughnessy Naughton and Steve Santarsiero, would ultimately run. Santarsiero won the primary and will take on Brian Fitzpatrick, brother of Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.), the district’s current representative who is not seeking reelection.

These are just the latest in a series of document leaks from Guccifer 2.0 that have included DNC strategy documents, donor personal data and contact information for congressional Democrats. Guccifer 2.0 claimed credit for the WikiLeaks DNC email leak, something WikiLeaks has said it will neither confirm nor deny because of its strict policy of anonymity.

The DNC email leaks recently led to the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Recent reports provide evidence that Russian intelligence agents have at least attempted to hack Republican networks the same way as they have attacked Democratic ones. Only Democratic documents have been released.

Guccifer 2.0 has claimed to be a Romanian lone wolf hacker – the name Guccifer 2.0 is itself a reference to the famous Romanian hacker Guccifer – but substantial technical evidence connects the DNC and DCCC attacks to those already attributed to Russia. 

Tags Cheri Bustos Dennis Heck Donald Trump
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