Some Questions Donna Brazile Must Answer

As I wrote yesterday, Donna Brazile published an explosive excerpt from her book yesterday at Politico. It focused on the Hillary Victory Fund, which raised money for the Clinton campaign, the DNC and state parties. Here is the portion of Brazile’s account that added to what we had previously heard.

The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to 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.

During an interview with Sen. Elizabeth Warren yesterday, Jake Tapper asked if the Democratic nomination process in 2016 had been rigged. She said, “yes.”

Now the president and the entire right wing media establishment are responding with glee that Brazile and Warren both said the Democratic primary was rigged.

Be that as it may, looking into this story a bit deeper raises some questions that Brazile must answer. In her own account, she says this about how the process usually works:

When the party chooses the nominee, the custom is that the candidate’s team starts to exercise more control over the party. If the party has an incumbent candidate, as was the case with Clinton in 1996 or Obama in 2012, this kind of arrangement is seamless because the party already is under the control of the president. When you have an open contest without an incumbent and competitive primaries, the party comes under the candidate’s control only after the nominee is certain. When I was manager of Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, we started inserting our people into the DNC in June. 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.

So it is not unusual for a nominee to exert control over the DNC once they have been chosen. As CNN reported, that transition began in June 2016, when Clinton had secured enough votes to win the nomination. Brazile’s own account of her conversation with Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign, happened after the Democratic Convention—meaning that the transition had already taken place.

Brazile does, however, suggest that the agreement she reviewed in August 2016 had been signed in August 2015. It has now become apparent that she needs to share what she saw with the public, because in releasing John Podesta’s hacked emails, Wikileaks provided the final template for the 2015 agreement between the Clinton campaign, the DNC and state parties. The emails to which the document were attached include talking points to share with state parties encouraging them to sign up. Nowhere in the text of the agreement is there any reference to the kind of control of the DNC by the Clinton campaign that Brazile wrote about.

All of this raises the question of whether or not the agreement Brazile reviewed in August 2016 might have actually been the revised version that was agreed to after Clinton secured enough votes to win the nomination—something Brazile herself says would be standard practice.

Beyond that, Brazile also recounts the concerns raised about the Hillary Victory Fund by Politico in May 2016 about money from the fund not getting to the states that had signed the agreement. But take a look at the documentation from Open Secrets on revenue raised by HVF and the beneficiaries:

Amount raised – $529,943,912

Beneficiaries:
Clinton campaign – $158,200,000
DNC – $107,533,318
State parties – 38 states each received between $2,494,000 and $3,423,484

At this point I will defer judgement until Brazile addresses the discrepancies between her account and documents that are available in the public domain. That is precisely what Sen. Warren should have done as well.

UPDATE: DNC Chair Tom Perez sent out an email to members last night that included a statement that clearly contradicts what Brazile wrote.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.