The former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee wrote that she searched for proof that the 2016 Democratic presidential primary was “rigged” for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, and said, “By September 7… I had found my proof and it broke my heart.” Yet on Tuesday, Brazile appeared on CBS News, where she said the contest was fair. “I found no instances that the party rigged the process, and I wanted to make sure Bernie and his supporters understood that,” she said. The contradiction is so clear that even Chris Cillizza was able to spot it.
…Brazile wrote that she had occasionally threatened the Clinton campaign with removal when she felt disrespected, but it doesn’t sound as though she was ever really close to trying to do so after Clinton’s illness.
…The DNC had needed a $2 million loan, which the [HRC 2016] campaign had arranged.”
But Brazile is almost certainly mistaken about the loan. The DNC did have $2 million in debt on its books, but that loan dated to 2014—before the Clinton campaign existed, meaning the campaign couldn’t have arranged it. It was with the DNC’s usual bank. And despite Brazile’s statement that then-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz hadn’t informed party officers like her, the loan was disclosed in FEC filings that Brazile (and anyone else) could view.
…By the time Brazile was named interim chair in July 2016, Clinton was already the de facto nominee, days away from formal nomination. It’s customary for the nominee to effectively control the party apparatus from that point.
…But more than anything else, the book has kicked off a battle over the question of whether the primary process was in fact rigged in Clinton’s favor. In particular, that debate has focused on some pretty arcane stuff—the joint-fundraising agreement that the Clinton campaign struck with the DNC in August 2015. While the details are somewhat confusing, the discussion crystallizes the differences between Clinton and Sanders neatly: one the unshakeable party woman, fiercely devoted to institutions and willing to bend the rules a little to get what she felt needed to be done done; the other an outsider, with no strong attachment to the party but a fierce [self-purported] sense of principle and propriety.
…The joint-fundraising agreements (or JFAs) were almost custom-tailored to produce a conflict.
…The JFAs serve to create another stream of revenue for the election. There’s a federal maximum amount that individuals can give to any candidate, but a major donor can also write a large check to the party, which can use the money to boost its candidates. Such agreements are standard, and while Brazile quoted a Politico piece that described the arrangement as “essentially … money laundering,” that’s a little misleading. On the one hand, they’re designed to allow donors to give extra money, and if, like Sanders, you’re a critic of the campaign-finance regime, you may feel that this is a bad idea. They are, however, legal.
The Clinton campaign signed its JFA in August 2015. …It has not been uncommon for candidates to sign JFAs during the primary.
…The party was in dire financial straits, saddled with debt from the 2012 campaign that President Obama had never bothered to retire, led by a chairwoman who was widely viewed as listless, and looking at fundraising that lagged behind expectations. The JFA with Clinton was a way to get a quick infusion of cash from a proven fundraiser.
…The DNC agreed to hire a communications director (the post had been vacant) within a couple weeks, choosing from two Clinton-campaign-selected options. The Clinton team also had input on senior staff in several departments it viewed as central to the general-election effort, and the Clinton team would “be consulted and have joint authority over strategic decisions over the staffing, budget, expenditures, and general election related communications, data, technology, analytics, and research.”
There’s no obvious way to reconcile neutrality with the provisions [unless other JFA’s historically included similar provisions or the opportunity to have similar input was offered to both candidates in the form of a JFA agreement.]
…In fact, Sanders did sign a JFA roughly two months later, at the start of November. Longabaugh …said Sanders didn’t want to sign, but was told that it was a condition of getting access to the DNC’s voter file.
…“The DNC came to our campaign and said, ‘We need help. We’re not prepared for the general election,’” [Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook] said. “The purpose of the DNC while a primary is going on is to hold Republican candidates accountable, and nobody was filling that post.”
But although Clinton was a loyal Democratic insider and wanted the party to be in good shape for the general election, her campaign wasn’t a charity. It wanted to get something in return for funneling millions toward the DNC, and given stories of DNC mismanagement …it wanted to ensure that the money went to things that would help Clinton in a general election.
The peanut gallery thinks Donna Brazile is a impressive, smart woman.
…Which is part of reason we have always thought Brazile’s post-2016 conduct to be, well, bizarre. It almost begs for speculation as to what her underlying agenda and private thought process was.
Getting money and the influence it buys out of politics is certainly a laudable goal, albeit an aspiration one.
The peanut gallery recalls the union activist who has touts goal and thinks about all of the money it costs to organize and advocate for unions and union interests. Perhaps working on making the system of money’s influence in politics more open and fair would be a good step towards someday getting the influence of pay-to-play out of politics. Or, at the very least, a good strategy in the meantime.
Speaking of money in politics and ‘in the meantime,’ the peanut gallery finds itself more interested in framing the discussion of money in politics in terms of the current and existing system and how best to navigate it. It just seems to the peanut gallery that if we don’t work with what we have now, we have little chance of getting to a place where there might be an actual opportunity to get money out of politics. The peanut gallery is cynical that way.