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.