On the Latest Clinton “Scandal”

I know, I know, I have other things and more important things I should be working on. But I went to so much trouble typing this up, it seemed fitting to share over here too.

Anyway, yesterday Donna Brazile posted an excerpt from her book on Politico, where she made some damning claims.

The Saturday morning after the convention in July 2015, I called Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign. He wasted no words. He told me the Democratic Party was broke and $2 million in debt.

“What?” I screamed. “I am an officer of the party and they’ve been telling us everything is fine and they were raising money with no problems.” […]

“Wait,” I said. “That victory fund was supposed to be for whoever was the nominee, and the state party races. You’re telling me that Hillary has been controlling it since before she got the nomination?” […]

When I got back from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, I at last found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising 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.

I was pointed to the story shortly after it was published, but decided to bide my time. It smelt too good to be true, and I was sure other people would start digging into the details. Indeed, it wasn’t long before someone found a draft of the Joint Fundraising Agreement for 2015, because (ironically enough) WikiLeaks posted it as part of their email dump. If you scan over it, you’ll find nothing to support Brazile’s claims.

Then today I spotted a Twitter thread by someone with knowledge of the workings of the Hilary Victory Fund. Long story short: thanks to her high profile, decades of experience, and a Supreme Court decision, Clinton raised a whopping $530 MILLION for herself and the DNC. Alas, Sanders wouldn’t concede the race, and Clinton’s agreement was that she’d share it once she was the official nominee, so she couldn’t fork over the DNC’s share of the cash. This led to Sanders and a few reporters claiming Clinton was greedy, because she was sitting on a giant pile of cash and refusing to share it!

When Sanders finally threw in the towel, Clinton started distributing the funds to the cash-strapped DNC: $158 million for her campaign, $107 million for the federal DNC, and the remaining $264 million for all the state-level DNC parties. How that translates into “less than half of 1 percent of the $82 million they had amassed” is something only Brazile can answer.

But the most convincing argument arrived late this afternoon when MSNBC posted the memo which is supposed to be the “smoking gun” for Brazile. There is a section in there where they talk about hiring a Clinton-approved communications director, but that’s undercut by some language which appears near the end:

Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to violate the DNC’s obligation of impartiality and neutrality through the Nominating process. All activities performed under this agreement will be focused exclusively on preparations for the General Election and not the Democratic Primary. Further we understand you may enter into similar agreements with other candidates.

Fun fact: the DNC pursued and signed a similar Joint Fundraising Agreement with Bernie Sanders. He had very different fund-raising tactics, though.

Nowhere in the piece does Brazile mention that Politico reported the fundraising agreement between the DNC and Hillary when it happened, nor does she mention that the Sanders campaign also signed a joint fundraising agreement with the DNC. Bernie could have raised more money through that agreement, which would have helped the DNC financially and also arguably helped down-ballot Democrats, but he chose to raise money through small donations.

Now, maybe there are some amazing revelations hidden within Brazile’s book which upend everything I’ve mentioned. Alas, it isn’t available for sale; everything you’ve read has been an excerpt, and the full book won’t be available for weeks. That’s a bit of a problem, as in four days there’s a critical election in Virginia. The Democrat, Ralph Northam, is roughly tied with the Republican, a very Trump-ian Ed Gillespie. The DNC has actually done well after the 2016 election, roughly 10-15 points better than expected, but due to rotten luck and gerrymandering that hasn’t been enough to flip many seats to their side. They’re desperate for a high-profile victory, and up until recently this Virginia election looked like their best shot.

Except by choosing to publish sensational excerpts with explosive allegations against Clinton and the DNC days before the election, with the full context only to be revealed after the election, Brazile and/or her publisher may have handed the Virginia race to the Republican on a platter. This not only hurts the DNC, but the reformers trying to improve the DNC, and makes the latter look like sensationalist conspiracy theorists who are willing to sabotage the party if it’ll line their own pockets.

Overall, I have to side with Josh Marshall’s latest Twitter rant on this.

I think a fair read is that they wanted control over things for the general, which is fair and normal. But they also wanted control over the building of what they expected to inherit for the general. That’s not unreasonable in itself but also meant having a lot of veto power over things that were happening during the primaries, hiring of key staff. So while it says these things apply exclusively to the general, they were also getting veto rights over organizational decisions *during* the primaries even if they weren’t abt the primaries. There are also some lines in their abt rights to review emails etc that are a little unclear to me and might create more control.

The upshot is that this is significantly different from what [Donna Brazile] claimed. But it also includes levels of control pre-general election that wld have come as a surprise to many. As I said in my post this morning, there’s nothing remotely here that qualifies as “rigging” the election. That’s inflammatory, frankly a smear. Indeed, it makes no sense if you have any real understanding of what the dnc even does it can do. The schedules are set up way in advance, long before people at the DNC had any idea Sanders would run such a strong campaign. The DNC doesn’t administer the primaries, the states do. Basically the DNC cldnt rig the process even if it wanted to.

This agreement isn’t nothing. No candidate shld have this kind of say during the primaries even if it’s abt things for the general. But it’s very different from what Brazile describes and it doesn’t remotely mean anything [was] “rigged”. That’s a smear intended for political effect.

Donna Brazile’s descent into fantasy continues.

Brazile describes in wrenching detail Clinton’s bout with pneumonia. On Sept. 9, she saw the nominee backstage at a Manhattan gala and she seemed “wobbly on her feet” and had a “rattled cough.” Brazile recommended Clinton see an acupuncturist. Two days later, Clinton collapsed as she left a Sept. 11 memorial service at Ground Zero in New York. Brazile blasts the campaign’s initial efforts to shroud details of her health as “shameful.”

Whenever Brazile got frustrated with Clinton’s aides, she writes, she would remind them that the DNC charter empowered her to replace the nominee. If a nominee became disabled, she explains, the party chair would oversee the process of filling the vacancy.

Josh Marshall spotted this and did his homework.

I have long known that once nominated, a prez nominee has to resign from the ticket or die to be replaced. But I’d never actually looked up the rules in the DNC charter and bylaws. So I thought I’d take a look. It turns out they’re even more limited than I’d understood. My quick review of the charter suggests that nothing can happen unless there’s a ‘vacancy’ and the decision is in the hands of the full committee. I think by definition that means only resignation or death can lead to replacement. So while I had assumed incapacitation cld lead to replacement that is not actually clear. In practice, if a nominee had a stroke and had not regained consciousness, I suspect the full committee wld meet and rule that the position was vacant through incapacitation. My point in noting this is hat I think Brazile’s claims may be even more baseless than I’d realized.

But while he was doing said homework, something interesting happened to that Washington Post story.

Whenever Brazile got frustrated with Clinton’s aides, she writes, she would remind them that the DNC charter empowered her to initiate the replacement of the nominee. If a nominee became disabled, she explains, the party chair would oversee a complicated process of filling the vacancy that would include a meeting of the full DNC.

There’s no correction notice, as I type this. So who got it wrong, Brazile or the reporter? I have a theory.

geri: Why did U release info now-U may have destroyed DEM chances at VA elections-No hurry to get this out
Stop litigating 2016

Brazile: There are major elections all across America. Get out and help us. Thanks for your service! We must win in Virginia, New Jersey and more.

It’s one thing to pivot when you’re asked a question in person, because the situation demands an answer of some sort. But it’s quite another to volunteer to answer a question, then blatantly fail to do so. Brazile has faced a barrage of people asking her the same question for the last day, and this is the best answer she can come up with. In other words, she knows people are demanding answers from her, but she has no answer she’s willing to say in public. As Josh Marshall put it,

This is all pure fantasy. She’s married a non-existent power with a highly improbable prescience to create a kind of retrospective, fantasy football version of the nomination in which the momentous and weighty decisions all fell to her. It is highly reminiscent of the agonizing call in which she purportedly informed Bernie Sanders that he’d been right all along and the nomination race had been “rigged”.

This and other claims from Brazile’s book which have come out in the last few hours only confirm me in thinking that her claims are at least self-serving, in other cases highly improbable and in some cases literally impossible.

Brazile is not thinking about what’s best for the Democrats, she’s thinking about what’s best for herself. By timing the book excerpts to come out days before the Virginia election, she’s brought far more attention to her book than it would have earned otherwise. This might cost Democrats a governor seat, but Brazile would rather have a Trump-style Republican in charge than help an organization she views as deeply corrupt.

This is a problem when her views have only a loose connection to reality.


Sorry, but I’ve gotta rage for a bit, because many people are missing the bigger picture.

Today we mourn the horrifying terrorist attack in New York City, just blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center. A man drove a truck into a pedestrian bike path and murdered eight people, and injured very, very seriously at least 11 more. […]

My administration is coordinating closely between federal and local officials to investigate the attack and to further investigate this animal who did the attacking. And updates will be provided as available. […]

We want a merit-based program where people come into our country based on merit. And we want to get rid of chain migration. This man that came in — or whatever you want to call him — brought in, with him, other people. And he was a point — he was the point of contact — the primary point of contact for — and this is preliminarily — 23 people that came in, or potentially came in with him. And that’s not acceptable. So we want to get rid of chain migration, and we’ve wanted to do that for a long time. And I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. And we’ll be asking Congress to start working on it immediately. […]

That was a horrible event, and we have to stop it, and we have to stop it cold. We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now. They’ll go through court for years. And at the end, they’ll be — who knows what happens.

Trump said that a few days ago, sans the bolding. The president of the United States openly dehumanized a murder suspect, probably on the basis of his skin colour and religion, and yet the primary focus of media reports has been on visas, dual standards, hypocrisy, or pretty much anything else. Have we all forgotten about the toxic effects of dehumanization and its tendency to promote hatred and violence? Has two years of this shifted the Overton window so far that “dog megaphones” don’t even register as noteworthy?

I might have stayed silent, except this isn’t an isolated case. Take this from the same news conference:

We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place. And I think I can speak for plenty of other countries, too, that are in the same situation. […]

Q Mr. President, do you want the assailant from New York sent to Gitmo?

THE PRESIDENT: I would certainly consider that, yes.

Q Are you considering that now, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I would certainly consider that. Send him to Gitmo — I would certainly consider that, yes.

To be absolutely crystal clear on this, the president of the United States was saying the justice system of his own country is ineffectual, to the point that he is weighing in on matters of justice and basic fundamental rights. This isn’t a one-off, either, let’s take to his Twitter feed:

NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!

Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system…

…There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed. Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!

Sorry for sounding like a broken record, but I have to emphasize this: the executive branch of the United States is attempting to dictate what the judicial branch of the US should do. Repeatedly. This violates the right of the accused to a fair trial, which has already had concrete effects.

President Trump’s harsh criticism of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his Army post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban, will weigh in favor of a lighter sentence for the sergeant, a military judge said on Monday. “I will consider the president’s comments as mitigation evidence as I arrive at an appropriate sentence,” the judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance of the Army, said during a hearing at Fort Bragg. The judge is expected to sentence Sergeant Bergdahl in the next few weeks.

The judge rejected a request that he dismiss the case or cap the length of the sentence on the grounds that the president’s comments had precluded a fair hearing. The judge said he had not been influenced by the remarks and that the public’s confidence in the military justice system had not been undermined.

This has the potential to become a vicious spiral: Trump angrily tweets inflammatory and dehumanizing statements about someone, the judicial system lightens sentences or rules that makes a fair trial impossible, which angers Trump more. These are not the acts of a president, but a dictator.

The President is saying that he would like to interfere in ongoing investigations. He is saying that he would like to order up investigations of his political opponents. He is announcing that he is a corrupt actor who does not believe in the rule of law. He is a man who is capable of firing his FBI Director because he will not aid him in these endeavors and to threaten his [Attorney General] and his [Deputy Attorney General] and the special counsel over the inconveniences they pose him. Even as I type this, he is tweeting about how DOJ should be investigating Clinton. (For example: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/926403023861141504…) In these comments, he is announcing frankly how badly he wants to corrupt the DOJ.

And yet, he is “frustrated.” Why? […] It’s because the norm of independent law enforcement—which he is menacing—is actually strong enough to constrain him—at least right now. It’s strong enough that he can fulminate all he wants about investigating Clinton and still Mueller does his job, and the FBI does its job, and the men and women of the DOJ do their jobs, and none of their jobs, as our democratic polity has determined them, is to fulfill his undemocratic ambitions to loose investigators on people he doesn’t like and to have the Justice Department protect him. It’s a stunning statement of presidential constraint: A president actually saying that he aspires to corrupt interference with law enforcement and can’t pull it off. Let it warm your heart. It sure warms mine.

Alas, Benjamin Wittes, it instead chills mine. Trump has so eroded democratic norms that he can dehumanize people and act like a dictator without facing immediate consequence. Instead, our best hope is that the judicial branch isn’t corrupted too quickly before the 2018 midterms, when the Democrats will hopefully gain a House majority and stay steady in the Senate and thus gain enough leverage to start impeachment proceedings.

That’s a lot of future hope to deal with an immediate problem. This should not be the norm. And yet, it appears to be.

MythCon Ain’t Over – Part Two

[CONTENT WARNING: Mythicist Milwaukee. Also, you’ll want to read part one first]

Before we get too far in, let’s sketch out a few hypotheses.

If you’re arguing that MythCon was a fluke, you’re arguing that the majority of people within the atheist/skeptic movement oppose giving problematic YouTube atheists/skeptics a platform. This would imply that people who opposed said YouTubers would be valued within the community, and you’d expect a net increase in their value on Patreon. If the majority of Patrons for these YouTubers were from the greater majority, you’d expect to see a drop in value as they took the stage and a net decrease in their Patreons. This is probably incorrect; as pointed out last time, the Patrons of someone likely agree with their views already. They are taking the stage, sometimes for the first time, and presenting their views to a fresh audience. Existing Patrons should see value in that and reward them, while we should also expect some new Patrons to arrive if they like what they see, also boosting the Patreon account’s bottom line. [Read more…]