This morning Politico published an excerpt from an upcoming book by the former interim chair of the Democratic National Party, Donna Brazile. In it, Brazile describes the inner workings of the Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential campaign and alleges that, through a series of unethical negotiations, Hillary Clinton ultimately controlled the party and its finances before she won the nomination.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most important claims:
- The DNC was in massive debt. When Brazile agreed to serve as interim chair of the party in July 2016, she had no idea of its financial woes. After the convention, she learned that the party amassed $25 million during the Obama years, which was being paid off primarily by the Clinton campaign. She also learned that the party needed to secure an emergency $2 million loan.
- Clinton essentially controlled the entire party. As part of a deal signed between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, Clinton was able to control the party’s victory fund, which was an account not to be touched by nominees before a winner is decided. What’s more, Brazile discovered a formal agreement between the party and the campaign, which gave Clinton ultimate control. Brazile writes: “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.”
- This party configuration was not normal. Brazile is not a political novice, and she writes that this Clinton-DNC setup was unprecedented. Usually, a party does not allow a candidate to exert control until after the nominee is chosen. When she ran Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, for example, he wasn’t able to bring his people into the DNC fold until June. Not so in Clinton’s case, writes Brazile: “This victory fund agreement, however, had been signed in August 2015, just four months after Hillary announced her candidacy and nearly a year before she officially had the nomination.”
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz drove the party into debt. Brazile does not like former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s leadership style. She writes that few people inside the party were privy to the inner-party decisions that Brazile ultimately discovered. Wasserman Schultz also let the Clinton campaign in Brooklyn essentially run the party, Brazile alleges. Worse, however, was Wasserman Schultz didn’t have a good handle over the party’s budget. Usually, between presidential elections, parties try to keep expenses to a minimum. Brazile writes that Wasserman Schultz did the opposite. “She had stuck lots of consultants on the DNC payroll, and Obama’s consultants were being financed by the DNC, too,” she writes.
- Brazile did not trust the polls. When Brazile called Bernie Sanders in September 2016 to inform him of her findings, she says he took the news stoically. He then asked whether Brazile thought Clinton was going to win. She was wary. “I had to be frank with him,” she writes, “I did not trust the polls.”
This piece will hopefully be a wakeup call to the Democratic Party. More importantly, it will hopefully help spur some much-needed campaign finance reform. These agreements between party and candidate may not have been illegal, but they sure seem very questionable.
Beyond all this, the real question swirling in my head is: Why did Brazile come out with these explosive allegations now? Perhaps there’s more to the story.