In the lead up to releasing her book, titled “Hacks,” ex-Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile has written an absolutely explosive article for Politico, detailing how the Hillary Campaign seized control over the DNC and rigged the primary against Bernie Sanders. This article confirms many of the accusations from the Bernie wing of the party and exposes many damning truths about the current DNC that could cause lasting damage to the party. While none of the revelations expose criminal conduct directly, many are deeply disturbing.
- Hillary Clinton secretly gained control over the Democratic Party by promising to pay off its debts.
Brazile’s article reveals that the Clinton campaign had far greater control over the Democratic Party than even most critics of the party assumed. Here is how Brazile describes what Hillary demanded from the DNC in exchange for her helping with their debts:
“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.”
In effect, under this agreement, the DNC became a shadow-organization, with all major messaging, staffing, and data decisions being made externally by the Hillary campaign. While it retained the APPEARANCE of being a separate entity, every major decision that it appeared to be making was secretly fed to them by Hillary staffers. This was decided without the input of the DNC as a whole and it created a situation where people working at the DNC were unknowingly co-opted into working for the Hillary Campaign.
This agreement was in place months before Hillary even officially “decided” to run for president and was kept secret from the vast majority of Democratic officials and voters. The DNC is mandated by its charter to be a neutral entity in party primaries (article 5, section 4), but this agreement clearly betrays intent by the DNC to rig the primary in favor of Hillary no matter who else entered the race—it is simply impossible for them to be neutral when one candidate secretly controls their fundraising, messaging, staffing, leadership, and data operations.
Not only is this agreement immoral and anti-democratic, it exposes several disturbing truths about the DNC.
First, they agreed to sell control over their own organization to an individual who could pay off their debts. With this precedent set, how can voters be secure in supporting the DNC in the future when they know that it is always possible that some wealthy interest (e.g. Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer) has secretly bought control over the party? This contradiction could cause long-term damage to the party, not only while fundraising, but also at the ballot box.
Second, Brazile’s admission that the DNC was controlled by the Hillary campaign throughout the entire primary puts into brutal relief the comments by the DNC’s lawyers during the DNC fraud lawsuit. They argued that the DNC could “choose its nominees in a smoke-filled room” while fundraising using literature which suggested that they were supporting all Democrats equally and it would not be fraud. Put simply, we now know that this is almost exactly what they did (less smoking, more Shake Shack) and the fact that they justified this action as within their power exposes that they could very well do it again.
Additionally, the revelation that Hillary Clinton had secretly taken over the DNC in 2015 and had been setting up a shadow-infrastructure for her upcoming 2016 run absolutely refutes one of the primary arguments she used to defend her decision to take hundreds of thousands in speaking fees from Wall Street. She has repeatedly asserted that she only decided to run for president again in 2016, and thus was on the speaking circuit as a person who wasn’t planning to run for office, but the very fact that she was setting down this infrastructure at the time exposes this argument as a lie.
- The DNC rigged the 2016 primary against Bernie Sanders
Brazile’s revelations should put any doubts over whether the 2016 primary was fair to rest. The DNC was not only invested in Hillary winning the primary before the campaigns began, but they were secretly taking orders from her staffers. This is particularly damning when we consider that polling has consistently indicated that Hillary had a lower chance of beating Trump than other candidates (e.g. Bernie and Biden), yet the DNC decided to back her anyway—this means that they were willing to increase the risk of Trump winning the presidency (which we are all “enjoying” right now) in exchange for Hillary helping with their debts.
This decision is particularly selfish and short-sighted when we consider how many of the DNC leaders and Hillary loyalists in “The Resistance” have attacked Trump’s dangerous instability and personality. If the DNC leaders truly believe what they are saying about Trump now, then the logical conclusion of their choice to support Hillary is that they were willing to increase the risk of a vicious, unstable, racist, misogynist, corrupt, idiot gaining control over the most powerful military in human history, in exchange for wealthy donors helping them pay off their $24 million in debts.
- The DNC engaged in legal money-laundering that let the Hillary Campaign skirt campaign finance laws.
This is not a new revelation, as Politico exposed this arrangement in mid-2016, but Brazile’s take on the situation does add to our understanding of just how exploitative this scheme was. Here is how Brazile explains the money funneling operation:
“Individuals who had maxed out their $2,700 contribution limit to the campaign could write an additional check for $353,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund—that figure represented $10,000 to each of the 32 states’ parties who were part of the Victory Fund agreement—$320,000—and $33,400 to the DNC. The money would be deposited in the states first, and transferred to the DNC shortly after that. Money in the battleground states usually stayed in that state, but all the other states funneled that money directly to the DNC, which quickly transferred the money to Brooklyn.”
What Brazile describes here is simply a legal shell game, where Hillary’s super-donors can evade donation limits by giving her the legal maximum, when donating the legal maximum to state party organizations which immediately transfer the money to her campaign fund. Her donors know that their money won’t stay in the state they donate to and are simply using this as a legal pretense to increase the amount of support they can give Hillary. This is not illegal, but it does expose how easy it is for politicians and wealthy super-donors to evade campaign finance laws.
Some Hillary loyalists will claim that this fundraising arrangement is actually beneficial to the states and not a scheme to evade campaign finance laws, but the Politico review of disclosures exposes that this simply isn’t true—in fact, they found that state parties only kept 0.56% of the total funds raised and the rest was kept by the Hillary campaign.
In her article, Brazile adds to our understanding of this arrangement by revealing how the Hillary campaign used their fundraising agreement as a stick to keep the DNC in line. In addition to their promise to pay the DNC’s debts, the Hillary Campaign put the DNC on a monthly allowance that let the DNC pay its operating expenses during the 2016 election…just as long as they toe the Hillary Campaign’s line. Brazile goes as far as to call this stipend a “starvation diet” and admits that the Hillary Campaign managed to make the DNC dependent upon her continued support for its very survival.
- The DNC’s budget has been managed extremely poorly behind a veil of secrecy.
The DNC’s budget is completely opaque, secret to all but the very top leadership. This means that we simply do not know where most of the DNC’s money goes, how much consultants are paid, and who is profiting off of Democratic Party fundraising. This landscape is extremely vulnerable to abuse and mismanagement, and Brazile’s article just confirms how severe this problem has become.
Brazile exposes that by 2016, the DNC had accrued significant debts due to Debbie Wasserman Shultz’s decision to employ numerous consultants during the political off-season, and as a holdover from the Obama campaigns. Because the budget is secret, Shultz was able to make extremely bad financial decisions without any oversight or input from Democratic voters or elected officials. Obviously, this is just a poor way of running a party that creates the grave risk of abuse and unsustainable spending.
This situation brings up an interesting point that could skirt slightly into the conspiratorial. Debbie Wasserman Shultz is a long-term Hillary ally who served as her national campaign co-chair during her failed 2012 primary fight against Obama. After Hillary’s loss, Shultz was elected the chair of the DNC, where she unilaterally (according to Brazile) made the extremely unusual, expensive, and ill-thought out decision to load the DNC up with expensive consultants in the political off-season. This decision helped put the DNC into deep debt and, in turn, made it extremely vulnerable to the Hillary Campaign’s offer to clear up these debts in exchange for giving them control over the party’s decisions (an offer Shultz herself accepted).
While it is certainly possible that Shultz simply made a series of poor financial decisions as head of the DNC, it is also conceivable that Shultz made these poor financial decisions intentionally to create a financial hole so that she could justify her effort to bring the DNC under Hillary’s control. It is not unprecedented for politicians to create a synthetic crisis in order to force painful and otherwise unjustified policies, and this would be just another example of this tactic (referred to as the “shock doctrine” by Naomi Klein).
Questioning Brazile’s Motives
In the aftermath of her exposing this corruption within the DNC, it is important that we do not lionize Donna Brazile and let her off the hook for her part in the rigging of the primary. While she claims in her article to have been deeply disturbed by her discovery that the DNC was secretly rigging the primary for Hillary and against Bernie, her past conduct simply does not support this narrative.
As exposed by Wikileaks and her own admissions, Donna Brazile gave Clinton several debate questions she gained access to as part of her position with CNN during the Democratic primary. If she were really so disturbed by the DNC rigging the primary in favor of Hillary, it would be a strange choice for her to actively contribute to this rigging independently from her position at the DNC. She cannot blame her decision to help Clinton in the debates as part of the DNC’s funding agreement—it was an independent choice by her to reach out and help Hillary—and it would appear incongruent with her stated feelings in her recent writings.
When confronted with her question leaks by Jordan Chariton of TYT Politics and TATM, Brazile not only denied them, but accused him of attacking women in a Trumpian fashion and pivoted to talking points about how the emails were stolen by Russia. This exchange gives us insight into the political mind of Donna Brazile, and exposes that she is not above deflecting, smearing, and obfuscating to protect her political prospects.
At this point, the facts that Brazile is confirming in her article are well-supported by other sources (e.g. Wikileaks, previous Politico supporting, and financial disclosure forms), but there is no such support for her personal feelings about the rigging or her motives for exposing it now.
It is inherently unproductive to make declarative claims about people’s internal motives when we don’t have enough information to do so, so I am not going to do that. That said, the Clintons are known for maintaining lists of people who have politically transgressed against them and those who have done them favors, so that they can reward or punish them in the future. Given this, it is interesting that Donna Brazile, who has just been appointed to the DNC Rules Committee, feels comfortable enough to release these damaging facts on the Hillary campaign and her DNC allies. It suggests that she believes that the political winds are moving against the Clinton loyalists who were installed at the top of the DNC as part of their agreement with the Hillary Campaign, and that the gains of exposing this corruption are high enough to justify the risk of retribution from the Hillary loyalists.
© Josh Sager – November 2017
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