It is not easy to expose the wrongdoing of powerful people or powerful organizations, especially if you have spent years in service to them. So, I tip my hat to Donna Brazile, a long-time Democratic Party operative and former interim chair of the DNC, for laying bare the mismanagement and exploitation of the organization she inherited last year.
Brazile’s damning op-ed in Politico outlined the shocking truth behind the curtains at the DNC. While many speculated that the DNC was shilling for Hillary Clinton through the 2016 primaries, I don’t know if anyone truly recognized the extent of the institutionalized shadow management of the DNC by the Clinton campaign. I certainly didn’t. I’ve been involved in the Democratic Party in Ohio and nationally for roughly two decades.
As a Democrat, I am ashamed and appalled by the alleged conduct of the DNC and the Clinton campaign in the last cycle as outlined by Brazile in Politico.
First, it seems the former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz totally abdicated her leadership role to raise money for the party and basically outsourced DNC fundraising to the Clinton campaign apparatus. The woeful financial health of the DNC placed the party in a position of vulnerability that the Clinton camp pounced on and exploited for their own benefit. Clinton’s team stepped up to fill the leadership and financial vacuum left by both Wasserman Schultz and lingering 2012 campaign debt. To add insult to injury, the DNC was also bloated and burning through cash at an unsustainable rate.
Second, it is beyond troubling that Wasserman Schultz did not include party officers in her decision-making process and kept them in the dark on major operational challenges. We have a committee organization for a reason: to ensure all voices are heard and to provide checks and balances against unilateral action from the top. Icing out DNC officers, either due to a lack of interest in the day-to-day party operation, or to willfully hide things from them, is wholly unacceptable behavior for the chair of the DNC.
Third, obviously, the national party is not supposed to be playing favorites in a primary. But, that’s exactly what they did, not necessarily because the DNC structure actually preferred Hillary, but rather because she essentially forced them to turn over the reigns in exchange for a financial bailout. This was a legal bribe of sorts, memorialized in an actual written agreement between the DNC and the Clinton campaign finally exposed by Donna Brazile, who spent months trying to get to the truth behind the rumors.
In Politico, Brazile stated:
The agreement — signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and [Clinton campaign manager] Robby Mook with a copy to [legal counsel] 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.
Yes, presidential nominees customarily take over the party — but after they have secured the nomination. This arranged marriage between the Clinton campaign and the DNC occurred in 2015, months before she clinched the nomination.
Hillary essentially purchased the DNC to do her campaign’s bidding. I’m not sure what is worse: Her exploitation of the party’s shortcomings or the DNC being willing to throw all ethical conventions out the window just to stay afloat.
I understand the DNC’s challenging position, though. They were in desperate financial straights and saw no other choice but to accept a bailout. So the DNC accepted the deal. But then, they denied any coordination between Clinton and the party, insisting they were neutral and dismissing the cries from the Bernie Sanders camp that the fix was in.
All along, the party’s denials were apparently a cover-up for the truth: Hillary’s team owned the DNC.
I don’t think the outcome of the election would have changed had Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton, been the Democratic nominee in 2016. But Donna Brazile’s revelations do prove that Bernie Sanders and his supporters were right all along. The DNC was rigged against them. It also is exemplary of the unfortunate narrative that Hillary Clinton would do anything to get elected and felt entitled to the Democratic nomination, if not the presidency. These revelations make it glaringly obvious that the Democratic Party must cultivate a new generation of leaders to speak for our party and our true values.
All candidates in a primary deserve the chance to compete fairly for the votes, and in this case delegates towards the presidential nomination. It is clear that the Democratic National Committee needs to do more to rebuild trust within its ranks.
I know a number of fellow Democrats that have invested their efforts into creating a culture of accountability within the DNC going forward. Let’s hope we can drain the DNC swamp quick enough to have a shot in 2018.
Capri Cafaro (@thehonorablecsc) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a former member of the Ohio State Senate, where she was the Senate minority leader. She is now an Executive in Residence at American University's School of Public Affairs.
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