Well, I guess we’re going at it again, folks. The circular firing squad of the Democratic primary has restarted with an astonishingly dishonest excerpt from interim DNC chair Donna Brazile’s new book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House, published in Politico today and now tweeted all over the mainstream media as “proof” that the DNC rigged the primaries against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. It is an appalling piece of writing which will only worsen the infighting and encourage the anti-Hillary trolls of the far right and Purity Left to continue their Quixotic quest to bring down “the establishment,” whatever that means.
Brazile, appointed as interim DNC head after WikiLeaks’ first batch of stolen emails hit the internet the day before Democrats began their convention, causing the resignation of then-chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, describes a party mechanism rife with chaos, flat broke, two million in debt, and “fully under the control of the Clinton campaign.” She was horrified to learn that the campaign took much of its income from state fundraising organizations, leaving them with little to spend in return, citing this Politico article from May of last year. After returning from vacation, Brazile learned of the joint fundraising agreement Clinton had signed, writing:
“The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to 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. Her campaign 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…
“[It] was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical. 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.:”
Brazile goes on to describe the call she had to make to Bernie Sanders afterwards to tell him the bad news. Had she known about the fundraising agreement, she says she would not have taken the position of interim chair, and urged Bernie to campaign “as hard as he could” for the former Secretary of State. “I never in my life had felt so tiny and powerless as I did making that call,” she recalled.
“But wait!” you may cry. “If Donna Brazile only learned of the agreement midway through the campaign, it must’ve been kept a secret, right?” Wrong. The agreement was covered in (you guessed it) Politico and other mainstream outlets. Brazile, clutching her proverbial pearls, writes that the agreement “was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.” How? The party was broke when Clinton announced her candidacy and she had taken care of much of its debt – as Brazile cites – with her Hillary Victory Fund. By January 2017, she and Brazile left the DNC in the black with a surplus of $10.8 million and debts of only $3.7 million. If these fundraising techniques “compromised the party’s integrity,” they didn’t compromise its coffers.
In fact, joint fundraising agreements are so common that even Bernie Sanders signed one, as reported in November 2015 by Politico (they are winning on all fronts today.) The agreement was the same as Hillary’s: he’d raise some money for the committee and collect a smaller amount from donors at events. Let me repeat this with emphasis – Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton signed the same agreements to help the Democratic Party, both of which had been reported on before Donna Brazile made this “discovery.” He just ignored it – and those are Brazile’s own words, not mine.
Sanders’s presumed “ignorance” of the agreement explains this MSNBC article from April 2016, a month before Politico first wrote about Hillary’s fundraising. Clinton’s March fundraising had included $6.1 million for the DNC and state parties, but for the first quarter of 2016, the amount that Sanders raised for them was zero. And when Rachel Maddow asked him whether he would raise more for candidates who weren’t him, he just said, “We’ll see.” Since his loss, he has still refused to share his list of donors with the DNC, nor has he properly addressed his FEC violations, which include an undisclosed donation of $10 million dollars shortly after he announced his campaign. He also still doesn’t identify as a Democrat.
Still, because Brazile has served up the media’s favorite image of Hillary Clinton – as a vicious, backstabbing monster who would lie, cheat, and steal just to achieve her agenda – they are lapping up this article like pudding, and the trolls are out in full force.
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) November 2, 2017
Donna Brazile on how the HRC campaign backed democracy into a corner. https://t.co/oljRiW1XB9
— Winifred (@WaywardWinifred) November 2, 2017
Donna Brazile turns on Hillary Clinton's corruption of the DNC https://t.co/3kCk53WyDL
— Julian Assange (tweets by #FreeJulian campaign)⌛ (@JulianAssange) November 2, 2017
We will make it happen. We can discuss all 20 chapters plus if you would like.
— Donna Lease Brazile (@donnabrazile) November 2, 2017
This last exchange lays bare Brazile’s intentions to gain a new audience of BernieBros who undermined the party last year, with Black being among the worst of them (he co-hosted a show from 2016-17 with HA Goodman and supports Seth Rich conspiracy theories.) The publication of her excerpts have also given leeway for the MSM to run with irresponsible headlines like Newsweek’s “Clinton Robbed Bernie Sanders of the Democratic Nomination,” and unreliable websites like Zero Hedge and True Pundit are running their own takes which praise Brazille for “blowing the whistle,” while stating that “Bernie Got Robbed.”
This is simply not true, and it has been disproven over and over again. The DNC did not rig the primary – Hillary won by getting more votes, particularly the votes of men and women of color, whom Sanders has still not figured out how to address. The most recent example of this deficiency occurred on Seth Meyers the other night when Sanders opined that while Democrats had to take on Trump’s fight against POC, “equally important, or more important” were the “bread-and-butter issues that mean so much to ordinary Americans,” with “ordinary” being an obvious dog whistle for white.
Brazile’s claims are further undermined by the Politico article she cites in her piece, the one she said proved that the Clinton campaign was, in effect, a money-laundering operation, taking away money from state parties and down-ballot races. What should be noted is that the article was published in May 2016 – before any down ballot candidates were nominated. And the money that got sent back to them was eventually spent on voter outreach in state parties. It turned out that Clinton raised $40 million that May, with $27 million going to her campaign, and $13.5 million going to the DNC and state parties through the Hillary Victory Fund, which was established in the joint fundraising agreement she signed in August 2015.
Should Brazile’s story raise concerns? Yes, in that we should hold Obama and Schultz’s feet to the fire for not taking better care of the Committee under his presidency so that one candidate wouldn’t have to bear the brunt of carrying the entire party on their back. But for Brazile to rewrite history like this to damn the Clinton campaign is a blow of the lowest order, and one that must be debunked and discarded before it further weakens our stature. Brazile may have misgivings about how the Democrats ran in 2016, but they shouldn’t be a license to enable those who seek nothing less than the wholesale destruction of the Party because the man they wanted to win got clobbered.
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Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.