The Democratic National Committee appears to have misrepresented the money it spent in support of Sen. Doug Jones during Alabama's contentious special election last year.
A McClatchy report published Thursday evening undermined the DNC's claim it spent almost $1 million boosting Jones. "[F]aced with documentation that questions the claim, DNC officials say the committee spent only $250,000 of its own money on the race, cash that funded more than two dozen staffers on the ground in the state who, among other things, conducted extensive outreach to African-American voters," McClatchy reported. "The rest – nearly three-quarters of the total funds originally claimed – was not a direct injection of DNC money but instead cash the DNC raised on behalf of Jones through email solicitations."
"Disingenuous would not be too strong a word for it," one Democratic strategist said in the report.
In other words, until a media outlet confronted the DNC with contrary evidence, it publicly claimed to have spent $1 million on Jones, when most of that cash was really just money the party raised off of Jones and then funneled back into his campaign.
Though it may be symptomatic of larger struggles, this exaggeration is among the very least of the DNC's problems these days.
The party's fundraising is lagging dramatically behind its Republican counterpart. Internal divisions between progressive and establishment Democrats continue to simmer. It appears to be struggling with a high-profile promise to deliver grants to state parties. DNC Chairman Tom Perez is reportedly "miserable" in his post.
Surprise electoral victories, like Jones' win in Alabama or a recent state senate win in Wisconsin, have rightfully boosted morale among Democrats, indicating an enthusiasm gap between center-right voters disillusioned with an unpopular president and center-left voters motivated to undermine him could deliver big wins in November. Perhaps an eagerness to latch onto that narrative prompted the DNC to exaggerate its efforts in Alabama, seeking to confirm its dubious contention that the party is united and can overcome internal squabbles when it matters.
But the more desperation informs this cash-strapped DNC's strategy, the more damage it could do to its own reputation.