Donna Brazile, the “Rigged” Democratic Primary, and Relitigating 2016

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Long-time Democratic[1] operative Donna Brazile, interim chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) after Debbie Wasserman Schultz was defenestrated[2], has, like two other participants in the 2016 Presidential election and at least one set of observers, written a book, Hacked, and published a long excerpt from it four days ago, in Politico. Here is the key passage, in which Brazile paraphrases and quotes a conversation with Gary Gensler, former of Goldman Sachs and the CFTC, and then the chief financial officer of the Clinton campaign:

[Gensler] described the party as fully under the control of Hillary’s campaign, which seemed to confirm the suspicions of the Bernie camp. The campaign had the DNC on life support, giving it money every month to meet its basic expenses, while the campaign was using the party as a fund-raising clearinghouse. Under FEC law, an individual can contribute a maximum of $2,700 directly to a presidential campaign. But the limits are much higher for contributions to state parties and a party’s national committee.

Individuals who had maxed out their $2,700 contribution limit to the campaign could write an additional check for $353,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund—that figure represented $10,000 to each of the 32 states’ parties who were part of the Victory Fund agreement—$320,000—and $33,400 to the DNC. The money would be deposited in the states first, and transferred to the DNC shortly after that. Money in the battleground states usually stayed in that state, but all the other states funneled that money directly to the DNC, which quickly transferred the money to Brooklyn.

Yes, you read that right. Although the Hillary Victory Fund was billed as aiding the states, in fact the states were simply pass-throughs, and the money went to the Clinton campaign. (This is not news; Politico covered the Victory Fun in 2016: “The Democratic front-runner says she’s raising big checks to help state committees, but they’ve gotten to keep only 1 percent of the $60 million raised.”)

“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?”

Gary said the campaign had to do it or the party would collapse.

“That was the deal that Robby struck with Debbie,” he explained, referring to campaign manager Robby Mook. “It was to sustain the DNC. We sent the party nearly $20 million from September until the convention, and more to prepare for the election.”

After some research, Brazile finds a document (“the agreement”) that spells out what “fully under the control of Hillary’s campaign” meant operationally:

The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to [DNC lawyer] 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 had been wondering why it was that I couldn’t write a press release without passing it by Brooklyn. Well, here was the answer.

(Importantly, Gensler has not disputed this account, of which, assuming he’s not vacationing Antarctica, he must have been aware of, given the media uproar. We can therefore assume its accurate). Note two aspects of this passage, which I’m quoting at such length to ensure we know what Brazile actually charged. I’ve helpfully underlined them: (1) Brazile leads with the money; that is, the Clinton Victory Fund, and (2) Brazile describes the DNC as “fully under the control” of the Clinton campaign.

Predictably, an enormous controversy erupted, much of it over the weekend just passed, but I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow of the talking points. (Glenn Greenwald provides an excellent media critique in “Four Viral Claims Spread by Journalists on Twitter in the Last Week Alone That Are False“; all four have to do with this controversy[3].) I think the following three quotes are key, the first two being oft-repeated talking points by Clinton loyalists:

First, from the current DNC chair, Tom Perez:

“The joint fundraising agreements were the same for each campaign except for the treasurer, and our understanding was that the DNC offered all of the presidential campaigns the opportunity to set up a JFA and work with the DNC to coordinate on how those funds were used to best prepare for the general election.”

Question: Were the agreements “the same” for each campaign? (Perez focuses only on the JFA, but that omits a separate Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the DNC and the Clinton campaign, as we shall see below.)

Second, from 2005-9 DNC chair Howard Dean:

Question: Did the agreement apply only to the general election, and not the primary? (Dean says “this memo,” but he also omits the distinction between the MOU and the JFA.)

Third, from Elizabeth Warren. CNN:

“We learned today from the former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile that the Clinton campaign, in her view, did rig the presidential nominating process by entering into an agreement to control day-to-day operations at the DNC,” Tapper said, continuing on to describe specific arms of the DNC the Clinton camp had a say over, including strategy and staffing, noting that the agreement was “entered into in August of 2015,” months before Clinton won the nomination….

Tapper then asked, “Do you agree with the notion that it was rigged?” And Warren responded simply: “Yes.”

Question: Can we say that the 2016 Democratic primary was rigged? (Tapper uses the word “rigged,” and Warren adopts it, but a careful reading of Brazile’s article shows that although she uses the word, she does not actually make the claim.[4])

In this post, I’m going to answer each of these three questions by looking at the documents, plural, in question (Spoiler: My answers are “No,” “No,” and “Yes,” respectively.) Here is a timeline of the documents:

8/27/2015 (reported): The Clinton-DNC Joint Fundraising Agreement (JFA). Available for download at WikiLeaks, hilariously enough.

8/26/2015 (signed): The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU, or “memo”). Available for download at MSNBC. The MOU characterized by NBC as a “side deal,” specifies how the JFA is to be implemented. Hence, “the agreement” comprises both documents; the JFA cannot be understood without the MOU, and vice versa.

11/5/2105 (reported): The Sanders-DNC Joint Fundraising Agreement. I can’t find a copy online, but it’s described by ABC here. If there is an MOU that accompanies the Sanders JFA, it has not come to light, and presumably, by this point, it would have.

In summary, the Clinton JFA set up the Hillary Victory Fund scam, the MOU gave Clinton control of (much of) the DNC apparatus, and (according to Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver) the Sanders JFA bought their campaign access to the DNC voter list, and was never used for fundraising because the DNC never asked the campaign to do any. So to answer the our first question, we’ll look at the JFA. To answer the second, we’ll look at the MOU. And to answer the third, we’ll see how all the evidence balances out.

Were the Agreements “the Same” for Each Campaign?

Perez is wrong. The agreements were not at all the same, either formally or substantively.

Formally, the agreements were not the same because the Clinton JFA had an MOU (the “side deal”) and the Sanders JFA did not. ABC:

[T]he Clinton campaign Friday afternoon confirmed the existence of a memo between the DNC and their campaign, which specifically outlines an expanded scope and interpretation of their funding agreement…. [R]epresentatives from Sanders’ former campaign say they only signed a basic, formulaic fundraising agreement that did not include any additional language about joint messaging or staffing decision-making [as does the MOU].

Substantively, the agreements weren’t the same either. The substance of the JFA was a scheme enable the Hillary Victory Fund to collect “big checks” (as Politico puts it), supposedly behalf of the state parties, but in reality treating them as conduits to the coffers of the Clinton campaign. Page 3:

From time to time and in compliance with FECA, after expenses have been deducted from the gross proceeds, the Victory Fund will transfer the net proceeds to the Committees according to the Allocation Formula, as modified by any reallocation required.

“[T]he Committees” being the state party political committees, into whose accounts the contributions were deposited, only to be immediately removed and transferred to the Clinton campaign (at least for the states that signed entered into the agreement; a few did not).

However, the Sanders campaign wasn’t in the business of collecting “big checks,” being small-donor driven. Hence the substance of the agreement could not have been the same. ABC once more:

Former Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told ABC News Friday night that the campaign entered the agreement with the party in November 2015 to facilitate the campaign’s access to the party’s voter rolls. Weaver claims the DNC offered to credit any fundraising the senator did for the party against the costs of access to the party’s data costs, priced at $250,000. But, Weaver continued, the party did not follow up about fundraising appearances for the independent senator.

Instead, the Sanders campaign raised the $250,000 from small donors. WaPo:

Weaver said the Sanders campaign decided early on to ignore the joint fundraising program and raise small dollars on its own to pay for access to the voter file. “Who are the wealthy people Bernie was going to bring to a fundraiser?” Weaver asked. “We had to buy the voter file right before the primaries.”

A second difference in substance: Let’s remember that for Clinton, the JFA enabled her campaign to circumvent contribution limits for large donors (Brazile: “Individuals who had maxed out their $2,700 contribution limit to the campaign could write an additional check for $353,400”). The Sanders campaign, by contrast, had no issue with maxed out donors: “During fall ’15, 99.8% of Bernie donors could give again” (because it’s awful hard to max out $27 at a time).

Suppose you were comparing two mortgages on different houses: One mortgage has a side deal attached, the other does not. One is for a lavish facility and demands a complex financing arrangement involving a third party. The other is for a fixer-upper and a lump sum is paid in cash. Would you say those two mortgages are “the same,” or not? Even if they both had the word “Mortage” at the top of page one?

Did the Agreement Apply Only to the General Election, and not the Primary?

We now turn our attention to the MOU. Howard Dean, sadly, is wrong. The MOU contains two key passages; the first describes the relationship between Hillary for America (HFA; the Clinton campaign) and the DNC (Brazile: “fully under the control of Hillary’s campaign”), and the second is language on the general election. Let’s take each in turn. On control, pages 1 and 2:

With respect to the hiring of a DNC Communications Director, the DNC agrees that no later than September 11, 2015 it will hire one of two candidates previously identified as acceptable to HFA.

2. With respect to the hiring of future DNC senior staff in the communications, technology, and research departments, in the case of vacancy, the DNC will maintain the authority to make the final decision as between candidates acceptable to HFA. 3. Agreement by the DNC that HFA personnel will be consulted and have joint authority over strategic decisions over the staffing, budget, expenditures, and general election related communications, data, technology, analytics, and research. The DNC will provide HFA advance opportunity to review on-line or mass email, communications that features a particular Democratic primary candidate. This does not include any communications related to primary debates – which will be exclusively controlled by the DNC. The DNC will alert HFA in advance of mailing any direct mail communications that features a particular Democratic primary candidate or his or her signature.

That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? Personnel is policy, as they say, and the Clinton campaign has made sure that the DNC’s Communications Director and new hires in the senior staff in the communications, technology, and research departments will be acceptable to it. The Clinton campaign will also review all mass email and communcations (which explains why Brazile, as interim DNC chair, couldn’t send out a press release without checking with Brooklyn. Since the notorious debate schedule was already controlled by Wasserman Schultz, there was no point messing about with it, I assume.) There is one place in this passage where the general election is mentioned, so let’s look at it:

Agreement by the DNC that HFA personnel will be consulted and have joint authority over strategic decisions over the staffing, budget, expenditures, and general election[-]related communications, data, technology, analytics, and research.

At the most generous reading, the Clinton campaign has “joint authority” with the DNC over “strategic decisions over the staffing, budget, expenditures.” At the narrowest reading, given that the “general-election[-]related qualifier applies only to “communications,” the joint authority applies to ”strategic decisions over the staffing, budget, expenditures, and … data, technology, analytics, and research.” And given that the Clinton campaign is writing the checks that keep the DNC afloat, who do you think will have the whip hand in that “joint authority” relationship?

Now to the clause that supposedly says the agreement (JFA + MOU) applies only to the general election. Here it is, from page 3:

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

(Pause for hollow laughter, given Wasserman Schultz’s defenestration, Brazile passing debate questions to the Clinton campaign, etc.). First, even though Hoho seems to think it’s exculpatory, the clause is an obvious fig leaf. Glenn Greenwald explains:

DNC and Clinton allies pointed to the fact that the agreement contained self-justifying lawyer language claiming that it is “focused exclusively on preparations for the General,” but as Fischer noted that passage “is contradicted by the rest of the agreement.” This would be like creating a contract to explicitly bribe an elected official (“A will pay Politician B to vote YES on Bill X”), then adding a throwaway paragraph with a legalistic disclaimer that “nothing in this agreement is intended to constitute a bribe,” and then have journalists cite that paragraph to proclaim that no bribe happened even though the agreement on its face explicitly says the opposite.

Second, the DNC itself does not believe that it has any “obligation of impartiality and neutrality” whatever. From Wilding et al. v. DNC Services Corporation, D/B/A Democratic National Committee and Deborah “Debbie” Wasserman Schultz (as cited in Naked Capitalism here), the DNC’s lawyer, Mr. Spiva:

MR. SPIVA: [W}here you have a party that’s saying, We’re gonna, you know, choose our standard bearer, and we’re gonna follow these general rules of the road, which we are voluntarily deciding, we could have — and we could have voluntarily decided that, Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way. That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right, and it would drag the Court well into party politics, internal party politics to answer those questions.

Third, look at the institutional realities from point one on control. The Clinton campaign had control over the Communications Director slot and major strategic decisions from the moment the agreement was signed. Are we really to believe that they were behaving as neutral parties? (One obvious way to have shown that would have been to release the MOU either when it was signed.)

Can We Say that the 2016 Democratic Primary Was Rigged?

Brazile herself says no. She says, of “rigging”:

I found no evidence, none whatsoever. ‘The only thing I found, which I said, I’ve found the cancer but I’m not killing the patient,’ was this memorandum that prevented the DNC from running its own operation,” Brazile added

I think Brazile is either overly charitable, or overly legalistic (perhaps confusing “rigged” with “fixed,” where only in the latter case is the outcome absolutely determined). I also think she’s wrong. The dictionary definition of rigged is:

to manipulate fraudulently

There’s ample evidence of rigging in both the JFA and the MOU. The JFA enabled the Hillary Victory Fund, which was a fraudulent scheme to allow big donors to contribute to the Clinton campaign by using the states as passthroughs. And the MOU enabled to Clinton campaign to fraudulently manipulate the public and the press into the belief that the DNC was an independent entity, when in fact it was a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of the Clinton campaign.


I know we’re not supposed to “relitigate” the 2016 campaign; we’re supposed to look forward and not back. However, the demand not to “relitigate” assumes that the case is closed; as Brazile shows, we’re hardly through with the depositions, let alone prepared to render judgment. So, when you hear “relitigate,” think “silencing tactic,” and ask yourself who and what silence serves. And perhaps this post will provide a basis for further discussion.


[1] Although the name “Democratic Party” is a misnomer, I understand that some are triggered by the more accurate “Democrat Party,” and so I am adopting the older locution for this post.

[2] WaPo: “Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida was forced aside by the release of thousands of embarrassing emails among party officials that appeared to show co­ordinated efforts to help Clinton at the expense of her rivals in the Democratic primaries. That contradicted claims by the party and the Clinton campaign that the process was open and fair for her leading challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.”

[3] Institutionally, this shows that the cozy relationship between the Clintons’ Democrat faction and many members of the press, shown so vividly in the Podesta emails, continues unabated.

[4] Brazile writes:

I had promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton’s team had rigged the nomination process, as a cache of emails stolen by Russian hackers and posted online had suggested.


I had tried to search out any other evidence of internal corruption that would show that the DNC was rigging the system to throw the primary to Hillary, but I could not find any in party affairs or among the staff. I had gone department by department, investigating individual conduct for evidence of skewed decisions, and I was happy to see that I had found none. Then I found this agreement.

“This agreement” being the MOU. She characterizes the MOU as “not illegal, but it sure looked unethical,” and “the fight” as not “fair.” The MOU was not “criminal,” but “compromised the party’s integrity.” Brazile’s definition of “rigging” seems to me to be unduly high.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Moocao

    Another reason why it will be a long time until I can vote Democrat again. The betrayal of trust is enormous.

    1. David, by the lake

      Likewise, confirms my decision to wash my hands of the party. If, by some miracle, a candidate acceptable to my priorities is nominated, I will still vote for him/her, but the party isn’t getting any default support or any $.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      People need to stop conflating the DNC with the Democratic Party. I realized I was doing so and stopped.

      The DNC is an organization for raising money to support Democratic Party candidates for US President; its subsidiaries are, of course, the DCCC and the DSCC. The only reason they have power to dictate to the actual party is because they hold the purse strings. That Bernie and others have run successful campaigns, to one degree or another, without their “help” is one of the reasons they’re fighting so hard to maintain the status quo. If they’re shown to be redundant, the power of those who currently run it evaporates.

      Saying “I’ll never vote Democrat again” is, as my sainted mother used to say, cutting off your nose to spite your face. Right now, if we’re going to at least slow down the rocketing juggernaut that is GOP/plutocratic ownership of our governments, we need to elect progressive candidates. There’s no time to create a third party that can compete, so we need to vote for the candidates who are advancing a non-neoliberal/neocon agenda whatever party they run under. It’s mostly Democrats, at the moment, but a social media acquaintance spoke of a clearly progressive candidate running for a local office as a Republican because that’s how she’s registered.

      One of the ways the GOP was so successful in conning the working people and small business owners and others into buying their hogwash was by demonizing “the Democrats.” Now, their message that “Democrats” are nothing but crazy-headed hippies who want to take their money and give it to other people is so deeply ingrained it’s a hard row to how convincing them just how big a lie it is. Indeed, I suspect I shocked a raging right-winger the other day when I told him we agreed about Obama and Clinton, because his Fox-muddled mind firmly believes a Democrat thinks Obama rules the heavens.

      If we don’t “vote Democrat” in the upcoming primaries, then the establishment local and state parties are going to throw more New Democrats against the GOP and lose. That can’t happen.

      1. Vatch

        Yes, thank you! People need to vote for the progressive candidates in the Democratic primaries. If they don’t, then the establishment candidates will easily win, and the national government will continue to be dominated by both Republican and Democratic lap dogs of the billionaires. And if there are a few progressive Republicans out there, sure, vote for them, too.

        I often wonder whether some of the people who admonish us to stop voting for Democrats are really employed by one of the many Koch brothers organizations. Not all of them, of course, and I’m not making an accusation against anyone who is commenting here. But if people don’t vote for progressive Democrats, the billionaires and the corporate advocates of financialization will win.

        1. nippersmom

          You’re presupposing the presence of “progressive democrats”. In many races, they don’t exist.

          1. Elizabeth Burton

            And that’s what happens when people are so determined to throw out the entire party and haven’t joined the effort to at least use it to save what we can.

            Of course there are “progressive Democrats.” And progressive candidates smart enough to understand their best chance of winning is to run as a Democrat. In several states, the progressive caucuses have made major inroads into party establishments, and are on the track to do so in the rest of the states.

            Here’s a short list that barely begins to cover what’s going on:

            Tony Evers, running for governor in Wisconsin

            David Gill, running in IL-13

            Dan Canon: IN-09

            Brent Wilder: KS-03

            Jon Grant: Seattle City Council

            Chris Perri: TX-25

            Derrick Crowe: TX-21

            Tom Wakely: TX governor

            Ginger Jentzen: Minneapolis 3rd Ward (Running as a socialist, and out-gunning her opponents in both parties)

            Jabari Brisport: NYC City Council Dis. 35

            Amy Viela: NV-04)

            Dotty Nygard; CA-10

            John Heenan: MT-At-Large

            Peter Jacob: NJ-07

            Roza Calderon: CA-04

            Shall I go on? Or just check in with Our Revolution and Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress.

            1. bronco

              No progressives for me to vote for in MA. The democrats have the state legislature locked up and they are all snakes. I think every Senate president in my lifetime has either been thrown in jail , or was Whitey Bulger’s brother.

              We have Warren yippee , she’s pulling down 300G for a no show job but she understands the little people.

              1. Vatch

                This web site says that the primary filing deadline for Massachusetts is May 1, 2018. It’s not an official state web site, so I’m not sure whether this is correct, but if it is, it means that a lot of people could enter some races over the next few months. Maybe some of them will be progressives.


                Here’s some additional information:


                I’m not sure where you get the number 300G. The salary for U.S. Senators is $174,000. The only exceptions are the President Pro Tempore, the Majority Leader, and the Minority Leader, who each get $193,400. Source:


                If you can afford it, you can send a contribution to one of the candidates that Elizabeth Burton listed.

                1. bronco

                  While shes a Senator she has a job “teaching” 1 course and pulls in over $300,000 .

                  Hopefully if I were to take her class she would show up but its pretty tough to do that from 500 miles away.

                  1. SpringTexan

                    She works hard in the Senate and on public policy issues and your kibitzing is totally unfair. She’s a worthy progressive.

                    It’s important to recognize friends. If you don’t, you are part of the problem. Politics is about power. We need to grab power and we can’t do that by not recognizing realities.

                    If you can’t tell the difference between Warren and $200,000/speech-to-Wall-Street Clinton, and who’s worked for people and who hasn’t, well, you are not moving things in the right direction and not about to. But plenty of us are.

            2. animalogic

              Of course, appearances can be deceptive: Obama ran as a progressive candidate….
              As a quick ready-reckoner — the more a candidate bloviates on Identity issues, the less likely they are (should they be elected) to be “progressive” on issues of substance: the economy, tax, war/imperialism

          2. ArcadiaMommy

            Right! Where are these progressive democrats? I would love to support one other than Bernie Sanders (yes I know he is not perfect and he is too old). But they don’t seem to exist at the national level. There seem to be mayoral and other municipal candidates on the right track – just have no idea how to move those ideas onto the state or national level. Maybe I am just cranky and pessimistic right now.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              > they don’t seem to exist at the national level

              They need to come up from the state and local levels, exactly in the same way that happened with conservatives, especially Christians on the school boards.

              1. BoycottAmazon

                Here, here!

                TYT did several interviews of “Justice Democrats”, newbies running on a progressive platform. Some of the interviews you could see Cenk Uynger almost cringing, and the usually voluble Jimmy Dore very quiet as the candidates lacked public speaking skills, and demonstrating a probable lack of political smarts necessary to maneuver any bureaucracy.

                Without trial by fire at lower levels, learning how to run a government and get results, then there is no way to judge the candidates.

                Unless candidates like Roza Calderon a faster learn that is apparent at this point, they the Justice Democrats can only win when “anyone but him/her” applies ,

        2. witters

          Progressive Democrats. Square Circle. 2+2=5. “We Can Make it Happen!” All we need? “The Audacity of Hope”.

          1. Elizabeth Burton

            No, our guiding message is the People’s Platform and “Together We Win.” And I, too, have to wonder what motivates those who prefer to intellectualize about the condition of the Democratic Party instead of putting their money, their time and their effort where their keyboards are. I can only assume the disaster that’s going on doesn’t affect them directly.

            And that’s rhetorical, not aimed at anyone here or anywhere else. Given it was apathy that has allowed the current situation to develop, it scares me that people are apparently prepared to let the bad guys win.

            1. witters

              So it was our apathy that did it.

              It was our moral failure.

              “Really,” says Algernon, in The Importance of Being Earnest, “if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility.”

      2. bronco

        no your democratic party is also a party of plutocrats . Thats why it needs to be burned to the ground.

      3. annenigma

        There’s an important difference between being and voting Democrat. Actually, we already have a defacto 3rd party, Independents/Unaffiliated, a larger block of voters than either Republicans or Democrats.

        With even greater numbers of Independents/Unaffiliated, we could be a force to be reckoned with. Actually, we should recognize and own our power right now because we could decimate the ranks of the Duopoly and make room for an actual third party. We can still vote for Democrats of course, but they’ll realize that they can’t continue to take our votes for granted.

        There’s actually no good reason to remain a registered Democrat. You can still vote for Democrats as an Independent/Unaffiliated voter. It’s only for some presidential primaries and caucuses that party registration is a limitation. If you live in one of those states, you can temporarily register as a Democrat to vote, then revert to independent/unaffiliated afterwards. Other than that, all other elections are open without regard to affiliation.

        The Democrats and Republicans are two wings of the same bird of prey, and we’re the prey only because we haven’t yet learned to fly to escape their talons. If we start owning our power as free agents/Independent voters, that can change. While deep pocketed donors may have the power to make the wheels turn for the Duopoly, those wheels can’t go anywhere without our votes. Since we don’t have the power of money, we can at least exercise our political power to stay out of their talons.

        Independence is the way to fly. It’s not just leverage, it’s also the only way to clear more space and demand for official third parties. Since the Duopoly refuses to change their ways and repair the rigged system they created to keep only themselves in power, we can and should abandon them in droves.

        Let’s spread our wings and fly.

        1. mrsyk

          In order to vote in the New York State Democrat party primary you must be a registered Democrat. In NY the primary is where most seats are won and lost. Being registered as a Democrat is a neccessary evil in some cases.

          1. SpringTexan

            That’s absolutely true. In a state like mine, people don’t register as Democrats or Republicans but which primaries they can vote in are determined by the first primary they vote in each year. So as an independent I have sometimes voted in the Republican primary. (I actually wish ALL Democrats and independents would go vote there but you can’t get them to do it, we could wield power if we did.) I make the choice strategically each year.

            But in a state like New York — yep I’d call myself an independent and register as a Democrat. You have to be practical to try to have your vote have maximum effect.

      4. JE

        This trope that “there’s no time to create a third party that can compete” is the kind of thinking that the faux-two-party system loves to perpetuate via any means. Similar to the preemptive surrender of universal health care as viable in any “serious” debate on health care reform. Ideas planted for, hothouse grown, and broadcast by the keepers of the status quo.

        The undercurrent takeaway in my opinion of this Brazile book tour is that Bernie almost succeeded without the help of and with much hindrance of the DNC and might well have had a chance going as a third party candidate. Certainly an independent run would have decimated HRC’s chances, hence why he wasn’t allowed to. In the digital age a third or fourth or fifth party is not only just what we need but within reach as well.

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          Those who think one can get a party with sufficient political clout in place in the next three years, much less by next November, really need to read some history. And understand how the electoral process works on a state-by-state basis.

          We cannot allow the current Congress to continue for another two years. We may not be able to flip it to the Democrats and install a fair number of new members for the Progressive Caucus, but we can’t if we waste time talking about how both parties are corrupt and anyone who votes for either one is an idiot (“deplorables,” anyone?).

          And yes, no one says anyone has to be a lifelong member of either party to help. Register as one or the other to vote in states with closed primaries, and at the same time work to get those primaries open. It’s precisely because the established parties are so smug and self-satisfied that we can take control of the situation. I fully expect to see a viable third party in place within the next decade—maybe sooner if those insisting it’s the only option actually get involved in the process of creating it.

          Talk’s cheap, y’know. :-)

          1. N

            Those who think participation in these stage managed elections is going to change the country really need to read some history!

            1. Vatch

              In 2015, Jeb Bush was widely expected to be the Republican Presidential candidate. If the election had been stage managed, that would have happened. Instead, the surreal Donald Trump won the nomination and the general election.

              Between now and the general election in 2018, there will be primary elections. I strongly urge you to vote for good candidates in your primary.

              Don’t just read history; make history!

          2. cm

            You seem to post on this topic quite a bit. In your opinion, how could a third party realistically create itself in the United States?

          3. Oregoncharles

            We’ve been here before. You’re insisting that there isn’t ALREADY a 3rd party to carry progressive values. That’s untrue. There is one in most states. In Oregon, there are several.

            As it stands, that party is too small to be “viable.” But, for example, if Bernie’s primary campaign and support had been transferred to the Green Party, he would have been a very serious contender, in part because a 3-way split lowers the necessary plurality, potentially to 34% – even less, as the number of candidates increases. That’s a flaw in the system, but it’s also an opportunity.

            A “viable” party consists of a few million people and, preferably, a few million dollars. Even the legal barriers to ballot access in certain states fall when you have those. Bernie’s campaign already was one. He chose not to make that run, in part because he isn’t really progressive enough for the Green Party. But we picked up a lot of his supporters – just not enough. Fear of the unknown still rules.

            The foundational work has been done. The longer you insist on trying to save the Democratic Party, the longer you spin your wheels – as the years since 1968 have proven over and over. The mire is only getting deeper.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              It has never been clear to me why a hostile takeover of the Democrats, followed by a management purge and seizure of its assets, should be framed as “saving” the Democrat Party. I think that’s what a lot of Sanders people would like to do. It’s also not clear to me why people think the Democrats can simply be by-passed, and don’t need to be assaulted, and if from the inside, all the better.

              As readers know, my experience with the Greens was poor (as it has been with others I have talked to). This is especially sad since the GP in Maine had seemed to be viable. So, my fear of the Greens is not fear of the unknown, but fear of the known; I worked at dysfunctional non-profits before, and I don’t need to do it again. Others, especially CP activists, may differ in their experience, but that’s mine. (Note that I was reinforced in my priors by Stein’s lawyer adopting the “Russian hacking” meme in Stein’s post-election lawsuits.)

            2. Vatch

              if Bernie’s primary campaign and support had been transferred to the Green Party, he would have been a very serious contender,

              I agree. But Sanders couldn’t join the Green ticket, because he made a promise to support the Democratic candidate, and unlike some politicians, he tries to keep his promises.

              So what did the Greens do? Instead of actively trying to gain the support of Sanders primary voters, they nominated ideological purist Ajamu Baraka as their Vice Presidential candidate, and he would not back down from unrealistic insulting criticism of Sanders. In effect, the Greens chose to fail.

          4. todde

            I am not interested in keeping the two party system.

            Either the country breaks apart, or we will have regional parties that can compete with the Democrats and the Republicans.

      5. Audacity of Hope

        How many clowns can dance on the head of a pin? Debating whether it feels better to have a donkey or an elephant standing on your neck is a fools errand. Neither the Democrat or Republican party is democratic or representative of any more than a handful of families from the Billionaires Club. While they may favor different individuals in the ruling class, neither faux-party has the slightest interest in the rabble who don’t line their pockets and provide protection against electoral defeat.

        Elections are a stage managed charade in our kleptocracy. Expecting them to change anything that matters, or alter the course of the Warfare State is pure delusion. First we must have Collapse, then Chaos before we can have Change that we can believe in.

        1. animalogic

          “First we must have Collapse, then Chaos before we can have Change that we can believe in.”
          You are right — although hopefully mere “crisis” will be sufficient for radical change rather than complete collapse & chaos…. Collapse & chaos may void any chance of organised positive change. Having said that the signs are not good: see
          for the less than cheery news on ecosystem breakdown.
          Both parties must be revealed unambiguously to the whole public as the completely morally bankrupt, treasonous & vicious entities that socialists & progressives have known them to be for decades.

      6. zapster

        The big problem with the Democrats is that they just kicked all the Progressives out and actively oppose them. Voting for blue dogs doesn’t get us anywhere.

          1. SpringTexan

            Thanks, Vatch. Yes, we have to work on what unfortunately is a “hostile takeover” of the Democratic Party and its valuable access to the ballot.

            We’d like to do a “friendly takeover”, but a lot of those in power in the party are anything but friendly.

        1. Oregoncharles

          No, he wasn’t. He was beholden to the Rockefellers (who then were liberal Republicans) and Kissinger for his political career. The Trilateral Commission was their toy.

          That’s why he let the Shah into the country, precipitating the hostage crisis that wrecked his presidency. He was also mostly cosmetic in his environmental efforts, started US intervention in Afghanistan, and began the neoliberal slide.

          The strange thing is, I think he knows it, and has spent the rest of his life trying to make up for it. Consequently, he has been a sterling EX-President.

          1. pretzelattack

            he got wrecked by the party insiders, kneecapped for opposing the conservatives both within his own party and among the republicans. if he was the chosen rep of the elite, he wouldn’t have been sabotaged from within the party. trying to promote action on climate change, criticising the death squads in el salvador, cutting off some support, “giving back the panama canal so to speak”, talking about an inordinate fear of communism, all these positions were opposed by the elites, and carried considerable political risk at the time, and he paid for it in due course; then reagan came in and the elites were happy again. so were the democrats, who went on their merry way to becoming ever more like republicans. the first democrats to actually change parties were the southernors who bitterly hated carter, but the ones that remained were determined that people like carter and mcgovern could never win again. it is not clear to me why carter is being singled out for letting the shah into the country; he didn’t overthrow the iranian government to install him, nor was he nearly as interventionist as the presidents that preceded him, ike, kennedy, lbj (except for ford, who had a rather brief term so didn’t really get the chance) or the presidents that followed him. the us has been meddling in other countries affairs since the beginning. carter didn’t start that either.

          2. Vatch

            You are correct about Carter. Zbigniew Brzezinski was a creature of the Rockefellers, and he was Carter’s Special Assistant for National Security. Prior to becoming President, Carter was a member of the Trilateral Commission.

    3. ABasLesAristocrates

      The only reason to be a member of a party that has openly admitted that primary voting means nothing and they’ll pick whoever they damn well please is if you assume you will be the beneficiary of that process. I.e., if you are an obscenely wealthy Hollywood/Silicon Valley/Wall Street/etc. type.

  2. sharonsj

    The rigging was obvious from the start. When nearly all the super delegates declared for Clinton before a single primary was held, I read numerous reports that said the reason was quid pro quo. The super delegates were to be given campaign money in exchange for their support. The agreement proves it.

    That, and what the DNC did to Bernie supporters during the convention, made me swear I’d never give them a penny. I have only donated to specific candidates directly. Meanwhile, the Dem establishment stubbornly remains clueless as to why it cannot regain the House and Senate.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I have seen portions of the agreement (not sure if JFA or MOU) characterized as a “slush fund” for consultants. Naturally, of course, but one might also wonder if that slush fund was used to purchase any superdelegate votes. Pure speculation I didn’t have time to run down, so I left it on the cutting room floor.

      1. John k

        Too juicy to leave there… hope you can spend some time on this, helpful (for their primary opponents) to show some of those guys were bought before the primaries began if the evidence exists.

    2. G

      Do you have any of those articles about giving super delegates campaign money handy? Would be very curious to read.

      Also, what happened to Bernie supporters in the convention?

      1. SpringTexan

        G, a lot happened to Sanders supporters at the convention, too much to recap but you can probably find stories about it. Many walked out but their seats were filled by paid seat-fillers so the hall didn’t look empty, also from what I understand paid seat-fillers sometimes didn’t let them take their seats. Signs were blocked, white noise was used to muffle boos, etc.

        Before the convention, many of the primaries had a lot of funny business (not all, I know of no problems here in Texas). But California, Arizona, New York, Puerto Rico, Nevada and others all had SERIOUS problems with things such as efforts to prevent Sanders supporters from voting, questionable vote counting (such as at Nevada caucuses), efforts to make voting difficult by having few poll places, etc., etc.

        1. nonclassical

          ..actually, while all you intone is accurate, we did clearly hear the boos from Senator Sanders supporters…of which I was one.

        2. Vatch

          I think there were irregularities in Illinois, too. I recall that 6 counties did not have enough Democratic ballots, and the Democratic Attorney General, a Clinton supporter, sued to prevent voters in those counties from voting after election day.

          In Massachusetts, Bill Clinton illegally electioneered near or in a polling place. But the authorities let him get away with it.

          1. todde

            I know several polling places that ran out of Democrat ballots during the primary.

            All down state.

            One Republican polling place ran out of ballots.

          2. redleg

            The New York Board of Elections just before Halloween settled a lawsuit for their misconduct in the 2016 primary. The settlement included an admission of breaking the law.

  3. Steve from CT

    Great article Lambert. TheGreenwald article was helpful but yours is the icing on the cake. Hopefully many will read this so that they do not get confused with all of the Clintonista response to Brazile. Howard Dean must be suffering from early Alzheimer’s to write such a lie. But he has done it before.

  4. Fiery Hunt

    It’s hard for me to believe anyone can, with a straight face, suggest the 2 agreements are equal.

    How can you have more than one agreement giving “the authority to make the final decision…” ??!!
    Final means last, no?


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > It’s hard for me to believe anyone can, with a straight face, suggest the 2 agreements are equal.

      Well, “Sanders was offered the same agreement” was the talking point that was immediately propagated. It was everywhere, not just from Dean.

      So, a lot of straight faces!

  5. hemeantwell

    I know we’re not supposed to “relitigate” the 2016 campaign; we’re supposed to look forward and not back. However, the demand not to “relitigate” assumes that the case is closed; as Brazile shows, we’re hardly through with the depositions, let alone prepared to render judgment. So, when you hear “relitigate,” think “silencing tactic,” and ask yourself who and what silence serves.

    Well said. Regular contact with the centrist MSM recently is like being subjected to hypnotism routines from 50s movies. “You are thinking forward, forward, forward. When I snap my fingers you will feel fresh, eager to believe in the promises of the party of Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama.”

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      A case could be made that the party of FDR is not the same one as the party of Barack Obama. :-)

      1. nonclassical

        …and yet FDR stood by while his own “Senator Sanders” – Henry Wallace was sidetracked from his vice-presidency and legacy as FDR’s successor (to the chagrin of Eleanor, among many) by corporate dems James Byrnes, stooge for big oil and U.S. steel, who replaced Wallace with Truman at 1944 dem convention…

        However, there certainly is no comparison, as you note, between obama’s complete lack of “transparency, oversight, accountability” regarding bush-cheney war crimes, Wall Street frauds, destabilization of entire Middle-East, leading to republican trump administration, and FDR…

        Most authors-historicans I have encountered believe FDR had no real idea how ill he was…

  6. jsba

    A while ago, I read a story about the DNC’s misuse of unpaid interns. The story itself was barfy enough, but what really shocked me was an aside asserting that even official elected DNC members were barred from viewing the DNC’s budget. (

    “Surely that can’t be true,” I said to myself. But it is! I looked up the DNC’s charter and bylaws and the standing budget committee is specifically exempted from article 9 section 12, which says that all official meetings of the DNC and its committees must be open to the public and cannot involve voting by secret ballot.

    “WTF kind of an organization is this?!” I thought. How on earth is that even legal?

    Well, after the Brazile disclosure of the Clinton MOU, I went back to look at the DNC charter/bylaws. You’ll note on the first page the date the current version was adopted–2 days after the MOU was signed!

    Anyone wanna take a bet that the budget committee carveout was one of things that was changed?

    1. Anonymous

      jsba, suggest you use the Wayback machine or another internet archive and look at prior historical copies of DNC charter/bylaws, to identify the changes. Could be very illuminating as to (possible) criminal intent?

  7. Di Modica's Dumb Steer

    As much as I’d like to switch parties (hah) so as to add to the greater numbers of fleeing formerly party faithful, I’m in one of those ‘closed primary’ states. My vote is already nearly worthless (though I exercise my right every chance I get); to switch to a third party would make sure I’m both excluded from the more interesting local party contests AND drowned out in national contests. Lose/lose. Maybe if something like Maine’s (currently under attack) Ranked Choice Voting existed all over, I’d be less sour about the whole thing.

    1. Wisdom Seeker

      There are enough unhappy Democrats to provide a critical mass for change. What needs to happen is to gain control and then rebrand the party.

  8. ChrisPacific

    While this is a good post, it’s essentially a long-form exercise in stating the obvious. I don’t see how anybody with a brain could look at the evidence presented and come to a conclusion different from Lambert’s, which means that the likes of Perez and Dean are not acting in good faith.

    1. Angie Neer

      I greatly appreciate people who make the effort to research, analyze, question and document the “obvious.” That’s one of the things journalists are supposed to do. There are far too many examples of people acting on what they consider obvious, but which is in fact false.

      1. Donald

        Yeah, you need people like Lambert willing to do the work. It is exhausting keeping up with the truths, half truths and lies promulgated in the press and trying to figure out what is true and what isn’t.

  9. EricT

    I find it interesting that the agreement involved control of the IT/data infrastructure of the DNC. Doesn’t the DNC administer the democratic party registry? And with that observation, wasn’t there a lot of illegal party switching that caused a problem for some Democrats voting in party restricted primaries that had their registration switched, so that they couldn’t take part in the primaries. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the switched parties were on the DNC record as donating to Bernie’s campaign? Fixed, indeed.

  10. Skip in DC

    Manipulations of the deplorable superdelegate system, with its covert quid pro quo payoffs after the Clintons take power, was part of a seamless fix. Premature coronation by media and party wigs after primary victories in red states no Democrat would win in the general election helped ice it.

    Perhaps revelations will turn up on mainstream media, from the Sabbath Gasbags to NPR, knifing Bernie with Hillary talking points at every opportunity, when he wasn’t being ignored. Thomas Frank wrote persuasively on WaPo’s bias in Swat Team in Harper’s, and there have been tidbits on off-record Clinton media cocktail parties and such. But I’d like to know how far up the editorial totem poles the fix went and how it was achieved. Certainly Jeff Bezos has a Washington wish list. I marveled at how many journalists suddenly sounded like breathless valley girl propagandists. And still do. What faster way to tank journalism’s credibility than that perception?

    I guess that’s why after catching headlines more of my reading time shifts to alternative offerings such as those presented here.

    1. Mark P.

      But I’d like to know how far up the editorial totem poles the fix went and how it was achieved.

      I worked as a journalist in America for over a decade. I cannot stress enough how unnecessary such a literal fix would be. (Though doubtless words were and are exchanged between concerned parties when needed.)

      The hive-mind position of most U.S. journalists — and especially of editors, who tend to be the most compliant with the power-structure and often the stupidest people in the room — was (and is) an automatical default to unquestioning support — even worship — of the Democratic Party, its elite, and Clintonite neoliberalism.

      I once wrote a long feature that got a crush-letter from Joe Lieberman’s office. The editors at the magazine in question were ecstatic and printed that letter as its own separate feature in the next issue. Personally, I thought Leiberman was scum, but kept my qualms to myself and was glad I used a byline.

  11. Samuel Conner

    It seems to me that the HRC campaign’s JFA was expressly designed to — and succeeded in its design — circumvent the statutory $2700 limit on direct campaign contributions. Yet I have not seen commentary that suggests any laws were violated.

    What am I missing?

  12. AnnieB

    To me, it seemed that the Democratic Party had already decided for clinton before the primaries, as at my local caucus the party had planted each neighborhood group with a party faithful, not from the neighborhood, who would argue for clinton and fear monger about Trump. I know this because I talked to the plant in my group, asked her where she lived, and discovered it was not in my neighborhood; it was a different town. Others reported the same.

    Also, a Dem party leader came up to me and said “Sanders is not going to be the nominee” and “When this is over (meaning the primary), then you’ll be supporting Hillary, right?” I told her to never assume anything.

    So, thanks to Brazile, no matter her motivation, for providing proof of what we already knew.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      You’d think that maintaining control over the party machinery would translate to winning elections. Apparently, it doesn’t. The skill sets must be different.

      1. Richard

        I think you don’t see that skill set very much in party leaders because they so rarely need for the party to win elections. They do need to be able to maintain control over their parties, so they’re great at being cutthroat and cheating. But apart from certain important individual elections, the success of the party as a whole isn’t a big priority for them. There are spoils to divide either way.

      2. nonclassical

        fyi, Lambert, the two political parties, while both far too corrupt, are different-your own false-equivalencies aside…

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I can hardly be expected to respond to such a generic comment; and I have consistently said that the two parties are not “the same.” Do you have specific “false equivalences” in mind?

    2. Sam Adams

      I worked on the Sanders primary campaign in my city. I watched as the state/regional leadership consistently tanked the gotv and other Sanders ground outreach while a few local leaders working in smaller areas worked their hearts out on the ground. Surprisingly (or not) the state/ regional leadership bailed to work on the HRC campaign within hours of closing the primary office.

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        After the primaries, I received an email from the state Dems crowing about what a great turnout there had been for Hillary. Down toward the bottom, in language that read as if it had been added only because they were afraid to alienate anyone in a red state like Texas, was a lukewarm thank-you to Bernie supporters for their effort at gotv and registration. It was hard not to infer that it had to be done because they were the only ones doing it.

  13. Nancy Sutton

    I swear, in one of her interviews on the past weekend, Brazile made a quick, underbreath, reference to ‘poor Seth Rich’ in recounting the death threats aimed at her. Glad someone has not forgotten that connection.

  14. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    it’s like, do we want to take over at this monopoly, orders delivered with drones, internet shopping website, or just go build our own internet?

  15. jalrin

    It has been a while since I handled a criminal defense case, but I am not sure that the agreement is not in fact, criminal. When the Sanders for President campaign signed an agreement and paid money in consideration of getting access to the voter file and when the state parties agreed to merge their fundraising efforts with the DNC and HFA, the commercial fraud laws applied to that relationship. Since the fundraising was done using interstate phone calls, letters, and emails and the voter file access was provided by electronic transmissions from servers in DC to end users in Burlington, Vermont that includes 18 USC 1341, 1343 and 1346 (mail, wire and honest services fraud). These laws do not just ban outright lying, but also the concealment of material facts that one has a duty to disclose.

    Considering the importance of voter file access, it is impossible to imagine that your chief competitor having joint authority over hiring the people who handle all your customer service and monitor your compliance with voter file contract is not a material fact. If, under DC contract law or FTC commerical regulations, these kinds of conflicts of interest are mandatorily disclosable (I do not practice in DC but I doubt DC applies caveat emptor to that degree), then 18 USC 1343 was broken and Jeff Sessions could indict everyone involved.

    It is even worse for the state parties agreement. The DNC arguably has a duty of loyalty to its state affiliates which makes agreeing to encourage them all to sign up even though it is concealing its knowledge that the money will be allocated in a way that will be bad for at least some of them seem utterly inconsistent with the honest services provisions of 1346. All in all, it is probably a good thing for the DNC that the Sessions aides I went to law school with paid less attention in criminal law that I did.

    1. Jeff W


      It seemed to me that the nondisclosure of material facts and of conflicts of interest might, arguably, constitute some type of criminal activity and that Donna Brazile’s characterization of the agreement as “not a criminal act” was, perhaps, a bit too facile but I did not know the specific statutes or claims that might be involved. I really appreciate your detailed observations here.

    2. a different chris

      >that the Sessions aides I went to law school with paid less attention in criminal law

      Did they? Does it really make sense to destroy the Democratic Party and open up space for something new and dangerous? I would just make popcorn.

      PS: thanks for the excellent post, btw.

      1. Oregoncharles

        “Not a dime’s worth of difference.”
        When it comes to politics, it isn’t Russians we need to worry about, it’s Americans. That’s where the collusion is – between the parties.

        It was the Republicans’ turn, period. Jeff Sessions doubtless knows that.

  16. dk

    Rigged, fixed, defrauded… I like “compromised”.

    Just want to point out that the state-party=>DNC pass-through is not at all new. Has been active in some form and proportion in every presidential campaign since 1992 (mainly, or at least nominally due to changes in FEC regulation), but really ramped up in and after 2008.

    Pushback by states has decreased over time, as state party executive directors are now almost always (even in off-cycle years) routed in from DC, instead of staffing from the local pool of operatives.

    One of the important impacts is on state legislatures. Gutted of necessary funding, and discouraged (and sometimes contractually inhibited) from soliciting further funds on the national level, state parties have little left in their coffers to support their legislative candidates and committees (and forget about the bottom of the ticket).

    So this kind of money hoovering is a significant factor in the national net loss of Dem seats in state houses in non-“battleground” states.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the state-party=>DNC pass-through is not at all new

      I believe the amounts are new. Campaign Legal Center:

      During oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC three years ago, Justice Samuel Alito dismissed the Campaign Legal Center’s analysis showing how, absent limits on the total amount that donors could give to multiple political committees, candidates could use joint fundraising schemes to raise huge, potentially corrupting contributions.

      These scenarios, Justice Alito claimed, are “wild hypotheticals that are not obviously plausible.”

      Hillary Clinton, though, is proving that the Campaign Legal Center was right all along.

      I’m not at all a campaign finance expert. Perhaps readers will weigh in?

      1. dk

        Yes, the amounts are new. Just saying this was the direction things were going for a while already. Good will between DNC and state parties already at a low ebb, DWS a big part of that.

      2. Kris Alman

        As we know, the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allows corporations, individuals and labor unions to make unlimited contributions to independent organizations that use the money to support or defeat a candidate.

        Rules prohibit coordination between a candidate committee and an individual or organization making “independent expenditures.”

        Clearly this was not the arrangement between the HVF, State Democratic Central Committees participating in the PAC and the DNC. Hillary was pulling the strings at the DNC.

        But I’m just now appreciating that the Hillary Victory Fund is not a Super PAC.

        Joint fundraising is fundraising conducted jointly by a political committee and one or more other political committees or unregistered organizations. Joint fundraising rules apply to:

        Party committees;
        Party organizations not registered as political committees;
        Federal and/or nonfederal candidate committees;
        Nonparty, unauthorized political committees (nonconnected PACs); and
        Unregistered nonparty organizations. 11 CFR 102.17(a)(1)(i) and (2).

        The HVF was the first joint fundraising committee between a presidential candidate and the Democratic party since the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision McCutcheon v FEC. A horrible precedent at that!

        McCutcheon declared a total limit on how much an individual can give federal candidates and parties in a two-year cycle unconstitutional. Chief Justice Roberts opined, “The existing aggregate limits may in fact encourage the movement of money away from entities subject to disclosure.”


        The HVF demonstrates how rechanneling dark money from super PACs toward candidates and parties doesn’t stop unethical and undemocratic processes.

        That the HVF was needed to balance the Obama debt is one thing. That the HVF can pass through money from State committees to the DNC and then coordinate activities there while passing off as a joint fundraising committee is another thing.

        The rechanneling of hundreds of millions of dollars donated by rich D elites to bypass individual contribution limits was a brilliant financial engineering feat–one that the Rs will surely emulate.

        Before conducting a joint fundraiser, all participants must enter into a written agreement that identifies the JFR and states the allocation formula—the amount or percentage that the participants agree to use for allocating proceeds and expenses. 11 CFR 102.17(c)(1).

        What was the allocation formula of the joint fundraising committee?

        As the HVF fairy tale plays out, Clinton is the witch who lures Hansel and Gretel to the forest with a castle of confections, with the intention to eat them.

        Are Democrats capable of outsmarting the witches that want to cannibalize the party?

  17. pretzelattack

    very useful breakdown. this and greenwald article are my go to sources for info about this.

      1. Down2Long

        Thanks Lambert for this. As usual, you have seen around corners and cleared the mud from the water. Thank God you like crawling through this sh*t, so that I at least don’t have to.

        Our local radio host Warren Olney, on KCRW who started his show “To The Point” (which is syndicated nationally on Public Radio International) during the 2000 Bush v Gore Supreme Court crowning of Bush fiasco is doing a week long retrospective of the disintegration of Americans’ faith in “our” institutions (ha!) before he goes to a once a week podcast.

        I have listened to him for 17 years and I don’t know how he could stomach covering U.S. society, politics, and culture during those years of non-ending sh*t show. He was fair to all guests including some right wing loonies, but you never got the feeling he was going for “balance.” He always seemed to get the truth. Gonna sorely miss him.

        So glad you are still on the case, and loving it. You have my gratitude, and soon, a contribution.

        1. dcrane

          Thanks Lambert for this. As usual, you have seen around corners and cleared the mud from the water. Thank God you like crawling through this sh*t, so that I at least don’t have to.

          Indeed. I think that this article alone has guaranteed my next NC donation.

  18. Edward

    How much of the $250,000 the Sanders campaign paid for the DNC voter list went to the Clinton campaign?

    I am still wondering if this kind of thing has occurred in other elections?

  19. Deadl E Cheese

    As far as relitigating the primary goes, we should’ve had that fight back, if not in 2000, then definitely in 2004. After Team Clinton, people who justified their sellouts and perfidy with ‘we must never have another McGovern or Carter’, gave the GOP a gift of a unified government that should have been the permanent end of their credibility. Because while McGovern, Carter, and Mondale went down in flames they didn’t so thoroughly destroy the anti-reactionary institutions as badly as the Third Way did.

    The endless 2016 primary is our punishment for giving these centrist vipers a second chance.

  20. Hana M

    I appreciate Lambert going through these documents and laying out the timeline. One of the things that this read sparked for me was the realization the Joe Biden was elbowed out just as much as Bernie Sanders. I didn’t follow the Biden decision-making process at the time but checking back on the timeline it seems like Clinton pre-empted any attempt by dear old Joe to actually decide to run. Correct me if I’m wrong (as I may well be.

      1. Jen

        It doesn’t take much elbowing to oust someone who was polling in single digits in his home state. I donated to O’Malley’s campaign before Bernie got in, and, regrettably, am still on his mailing list.

  21. Altandmain

    The bottom line is that the political system is owned by the ruling oligarchy and that the Democratic Establishment is in bed with them. If a serious candidate from the left poses a challenge, they will rig the Primary against that candidate.

    The Democratic Establishment is pretty much paid to lose and to make the consultant class rich. Equally as importantly, they exist to co-opt the left.

    Sure there are a few voices talking that make sense like Tulsi Gabbard. They are the exception to a very corrupt party.

    A big part of why the middle class has declined is because of the total betrayal of the Democratic Party from the ideas behind the New Deal.

  22. The Rev Kev

    The DNC got into the position of selling themselves to the Clintons as they were $20 million in debt, right? I have read that the major reason for these debts was that the DNC had not shrunk itself since the last campaign and was paying out a ton of money for consultants doing christ knows what. In fact, Obama also used the DNC to support a stack of his consultants as well as grifters gotta grift, right?
    My question is whether this was a deliberate ploy on Obama and the Clinton factions to put the DNC into such a vulnerable position before 2016 came along that when the time came, they had to take up an offer that they could not refuse. I have not heard if Obama has made any comments on this fiasco that took place on his watch and it seems nobody wants to call him out on it. In the Brazile case, it is not a matter of following the money but following the lack of money.

  23. Annotherone

    A real tour de force, this piece, Lambert, it helps straighten the knots my addled brain has acquired from reading about this issue elsewhere ! To my bookmarks it goes. Many thanks for your work.

  24. Summer
    By Andrew O’Hehir / Salon

    O’Hehir flails around until he nails it:

    “Both sides in the Democratic Party’s current faction fight, as I see it, are in denial about the true nature and scope of the problem…
    “Both responses are essentially utopian: They rest on the premise that the Democratic Party is still a functioning political organization and that the United States is still a functioning democracy.”

  25. VietnamVet

    Thanks. This was plain and simple money laundering to get around the Federal Election Commission rules and regulations. That no one has been brought to justice shows how corrupt the American political process is. It would great if you could post how you would reform it. I would start with paper ballots counted in public and halt corporations from buying elections.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > This was plain and simple money laundering

      If I understand the law correctly, this really wasn’t money laundering, since laundered money becomes dirty by virtue of its being the result of a crime (like drug dealers depositing cash at HSBC (IIRC)).

      Handling money in a complex and obfuscated way is not, in itself, money laundering. I’m not sure what the word is, though.

      1. John k

        Violating campaign laws is a crime. Circumventing can often be shown to be violating. Need a prosecutor willing to prosecute white collar crime, a rare breed for at least the last decade.
        But trump has been attacked by clintons, and he has Doj… odd nothing is happening.

      2. Clive

        “Obscuring the true source of funds” is how we normally refer to it in my TBTF. As you say, not in and of itself a crime. I’m going to keep an eye on this for what banks were involved — any bank which is (coughs) interested in protecting its reputation (coughs again, but they all want to at least be seen to be not aiding and abetting dubious flows of funds) — they should have as a minimum investigated or monitored these transactions internally.

        But unless they were sanctioned entities or individuals subject to sanctions (and these would have definitely showed up in the filing, if they had been so) while it’s not exactly going to be bringing you any awards for great morality, it’s not illegal either.

  26. MarkE

    “I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in here!”

    People seem to forget that Sanders was a life-long Independent until he decided to run for President. He caucused with the Democrats in the Senate, but didn’t want to be called one. Hillary had been paying her party dues, of all sorts, for over 40 years. Who do you think the DNC and the rest of the party organization was going to favor, with or without an MOU? And lawyers taking advantage of a loophole in the fund-raising rules – gosh, another shocker!

    If Bernie fans really want to have an impact, they have to get involved in the party in large numbers and make their message of economic justice and security the centerpiece of the party platform. Sulking won’t help. Borrowing someone else’s political party rarely works. Trump got away with it because he is rich, unscrupulous and ruthless. Bernie had none of those advantages.

    1. makedoanmend

      Some very good points are made here. Carping about the inequities of the Democrat Party establishment isn’t going to change their behaviour. Too much lucre. One needs to change the people running the party. From the ground up and with concrete regulatory features. Full stop.

      However, one might look to the UK Labour party to see how it reacted when J. Corbyn, a lifelong member and activist, became leader of the party through grandee miscalculation. The Thatcherist Blairites went ballastic and basically decided to destroy the party rather than let a fairly mild democratic socialist offer an alternative to their beloved neoliberal economic policies. Too much lucre. They almost destroyed Labour in Scotland and were intent on defenestrating Labour in England, whilst retaining some feeble structure as a mock substitute, so that the Tories would, in fact, become the one and only alternative.

      The forces aligned against the democratic tendencies of ordinary citizens are formidable and reach into every nook and cranny of our lives. They have the money, technological reach and hence the power of capital and its persuasive abilities.

      Ain’t going to be easy. Never is.

    2. pretzelattack

      i dont think a campaign had owned the dnc like that before. i think it had nothing to do with hilary being a good team player, and everything to do with money and juicy consulting/lobbying jobs. and pointing this out is not “sulking”. know your enemy, and don’t excuse their crimes and predations by an argument that “that’s just the way things are”.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      I agree! Party loyalty is far more important than humane policy or a winning candidate! Forward to 2018!

      * * *

      Although normally I deprecate this trope, Dorothy Parker said it best: “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make them think.”

      Of course, we’re not really talking horses here, we’re talking donkeys. I’ve heard that a liberal application of a 2×4 can gain a donkey’s attention. The donkey doesn’t have to like it, that’s hardly the point.

  27. audrey jr

    I am a Bernie supporter. He was pushed to the side by the Dem’s – a party to which I belonged for forty years – in a total panic when it was shown to the Dem’s that Bernie was able to reach disaffected party members as myself by raising a large amount of money through individual small donors.
    That Bernie accomplished this feat was a huge factor, IMO, in why and how my former party felt it necessary to malign and derail Bernie and his supporters before, during and after the Democratic -meh – Nominating Convention.
    The Dem’s should have just named the Hillary for America Fund the Hillary for Hillary Fund.
    Hillary cares only for and about Hillary. She’s the reason Trump is POTUS today.
    My family has been Democrat for many generations. Most of my family members have, unfortunately, BTFD on this one. I used to find them to be reasonable folk. Trump derangement syndrome has infected them all. This is a common complaint these days.

    1. nonclassical

      …truth of trump actions-legislation, appointees, is not “trump derangement syndrome”…trump has succeeded… in swamping the drain…

      and yes, it is obama’s fault HC opted for a losing, “more of same” campaign policy…

  28. audrey jr

    Forgot to thank Lambert for all of his great care and hard work in putting this together for us. Thank you, Lambert.
    In Brazile’s account I do believe I remember reading that my home state, CA, did not sign off on the agreement with regard to the HFV fund. But I seem to remember that Naked Capitalism, or perhaps in the commentariat here, did state that the Dem’s here in CA were in an uproar over Hillary Victory Fund taking all of the state party monies. Am I having a flashback or did I actually remember this wrong? Anyone know?

  29. JTFaraday

    I thought the most interesting thing about Brazile’s comments to date was that Obama left the DNC indebted and therefore more vulnerable to the highest bidder. Not easy to bail that out on $27 donations. So typical of these Goldmanite administrations, this use of finance as a political weapon.

    1. MLS

      a feature not a bug?

      Is it completely implausible that Obama deliberately left the party in shambles just so Clinton could ride to the “rescue”?

  30. George Phillies

    Massachusetts: “This web site says that the primary filing deadline for Massachusetts is May 1, 2018” That’s for running as a Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian. To run as a Green, Pirate, Green-Rainbow, or Progressive, you have for statewide office until rather later in the year. The secretary of the commonwealth has a very short, clearly written booklet explaining these things. If you are registered as D, R, or L now, and you want to run a as a major party candidate, you must stay with your major party. You can still switch and run as a minor party (our election laws have terms of art for these) candidate.

  31. Rob Kall

    I wonder if it’s possible to create an alternative organization for supporting Democrats– one that competes directly with the DNC. I was a Democrat for 40 years but I can’t imagine ever giving money to the DNC, DCCC, DSCC or, for that matter, Emily’s list. They’re all neoliberal organizations supporting neoliberal candidates. We need an independent organization that supports progressives and challenges neoliberals.

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