An excerpt from Brazile’s upcoming book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House, partly confirms an old theory: The Democratic National Committee stacked the deck in favor of Hillary Clinton. As Brazile tells it, this “rigging” took the shape of a fundraising agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America:
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.
When Brazile took over as interim chair from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she found the party $2 million in debt. The Clinton campaign had placed it on an allowance. But beyond this, the agreement had troubling, anti-democratic implications: Party officials struck this agreement with the Clinton campaign in August 2015, mere months after she and Sanders declared their candidacies for the party’s nomination.
Put another way, the arrangement preempted the primary process. It supports the complaint that the party anointed Clinton its nominee before the votes were even cast. Brazile’s revelations will only further damage the party’s relationship with its own base.
As Brazile notes, it’s not unusual for a presidential candidate to take control of their party. But it is unusual for a primary candidate to clutch the reins quite as early and as tightly as Clinton did. Brazile’s conclusion—that the funding agreement is legal, but unethical—is correct. This would remain true if Clinton had won the presidency, but it is particularly troublesome when you consider what a flawed candidate Clinton turned out to be.
And there’s not much evidence that party leaders have learned from their mistakes. Wasserman Schultz, who Brazile singles out for criticism, is no longer chair of the DNC. But her successor’s tenure is similarly troubled. Tom Perez recently pushed out allies of Rep. Keith Ellison from important DNC committees: Ellison, a Sanders surrogate, had competed against Perez, a former Obama administration official, for leadership of the DNC in a race interpreted by many as a continuation of the Sanders v. Clinton primary wars. Perez’s move reads like another attempt to sideline the Sanders wing of the party.