Democrats are frustrated by fresh allegations from former party chairwoman Donna Brazile that the Democratic National Committee favored Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and handed it significant direct control over the party.
In a forthcoming book, Brazile says that in exchange for a joint fundraising deal to keep the DNC funded, the party agreed in August of 2015 to give Clinton’s campaign some influence over the party’s strategy, staffing decisions, and finances.
It reopened old wounds for Democrats, and in the hours following the Brazile’s revelations, Sen. Elizabeth Warren D-Mass. went on TV and said “yes” the DNC’s process was rigged to favor Clinton. President Trump jumped at the rift, tweeting Friday morning that the “real story of Collusion” is about how Clinton “stole the Democratic Primary from Crazy Bernie!”
Brazile’s account of what she says is “proof” of an “unethical” DNC disappointed Democrats, laying bare all of the pent-up anguish over last year’s election, but both the Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ wings of the party are primarily tired of looking in the rearview mirror.
“I wish Democrats could move on and stop relitigating the 2016 campaign,” said Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders’ campaign. “Really the issue for Democrats is trying to move forward to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
Longabaugh pointed to the Unity Reform Commission, which is tasked with reforming the presidential nominating process and presenting it’s recommended changes by the end of the year, as critical to the party’s ability to move forward. He called on DNC Chairman Tom Perez to come out in favor of the reforms put forward by the commission.
“In December they’re going to issue recommendations and he should endorse those reforms,” Longabaugh said.
It’s not so much that Brazile’s account has reignited the fight between the Clinton and Bernie wings of the party, it’s that it’s one more stab in an already bleeding party as it attempts to rebuild. Both sides want to move forward but the DNC’s way of operating is so ingrained that those advocating for change in diversity, in reducing superdelegates and in how the nominating process occurs are having trouble being taken seriously.
“Donna Brazile’s account ripped open all of the emotions that Bernie and Clinton Democrats have for all to see,” said Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party and member of the unity commission. “We are all responsible for the position the DNC is in right now: State party chairs, DNC members, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, it’s all of us.”
“The quote-on-quote traditional way of operating the DNC has become fact versus following our actual charter and bylaws which if we did is actually a very fair process,” Kleeb said, expressing frustrations over the lack of transparency at the top and inability to get people with differing ideological viewpoints in key positions at the DNC.
A former senior staffer on Clinton’s campaign described the excerpt of Brazile’s book as “sad and disappointing.”
“She played into anti-Hillary Clinton biases and into Donald Trump’s hands all as part of promotion of selling her book,” the former Clinton staffer said. “And the truth of it is is these fundraising agreements are pretty standard; they’ve existed since 2004.”
DNC chairman Tom Perez has tried to quell any dissension in the party ranks in the 24 hours since Brazile’s allegations went public. When first asked about Brazile’s charge Thursday, Perez dodged, simply saying “we’re moving forward.” But on Friday, as news coverage of the controversy increased, Perez sent a note sent out to DNC members, reassuring them that he wasn’t ignoring it.
“I have heard from several of you about the recent political coverage in the news about the 2016 joint fundraising agreement,” Perez said. “First of all, as DNC Chair, I stand by the Charter of the DNC requiring neutrality in the presidential primary process. Even a perception of impropriety – whether real or not – is detrimental to the DNC as an institution. I care about culture change.”
Perez’s note doesn’t mention Brazile by name once. Rep. Keith Ellison D-Ill, vice chairman of the DNC, took a slightly different approach in his own statement Friday, saying “Donna Brazile's account cannot simply be dismissed.”
Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, wasn’t too surprised by Brazile’s account. “[It] proves what we knew all along,” he said in a statement. “This only reinforces the need for real changes at the DNC — which is being pushed for in the Unity Reform Commission -- to return the power to the people, rather than serve as a party of elites.
Weaver added that Democrats shouldn’t let it “distract” them from defeating “the disastrous and heartless Republican agenda.”
Xochitl Hinojosa, DNC communications director, said joint fundraising committees were created between the DNC and both Clinton and Sanders campaigns “in attempt to raise the general election funds needed to win in 2016.”
“Clinton was the only candidate who raised money for the party through her joint fundraising committee with the DNC,” she added.
Brazile’s report of her time leading the party has validated the suspicions of many who believed the DNC was stacking the deck in favor of Clinton. Throughout the primary, then-DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. denied such speculation.
“We all had pretty good idea,” said Chuck Rocha, former adviser to Sanders’ campaign. “Personally I’m disappointed but I’m more disappointed by the millions of Democratic primary voters who were left out of this process.”
Rocha said that during his time traveling for Sanders’ presidential campaign he met a lot of people who were motivated to be a part of the Democratic party because of Sanders.
“When they see stuff like this it disenfranchises those voters,” he said, “and we may never get them back.”