In this Real News Network interview, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) responds to former interim chair Donna Brazile’s revelation that the Clinton campaign had effective control of the DNC. Gabbard was a vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee until February 28, 2016, when she resigned to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primary.
Brazile published her book excerpt in Politico, Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC. If you’ve yet to read it, don’t miss.
AARON MATÉ: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Maté. During the 2016 Democratic primary, supporters of Bernie Sanders complained that the Democratic National Committee was plagued by internal corruption, and rigging the nomination for Hillary Clinton. Well today, the former interim chair of the DNC has come out to say exactly that. Writing for Politico, Donna Brazile details a scheme wherein the Clinton campaign effectively took over the DNC. Facing a major funding shortfall, the DNC agreed to let the Clinton campaign control the party’s finances, strategy, donations, and staffing decisions in exchange for the Clinton campaign’s financial help.
But, this did not happen after Clinton became the nominee. In fact, this agreement was made in August 2015, months before a single primary vote was cast. Among many things, this meant that the DNC was able to act as a money laundering operation for the Clinton campaign. Tens of millions of dollars in donations to state democrats across the country ultimately was kicked back to Clinton headquarters in Brooklyn, well, earlier I spoke to someone who has been a prominent vocal critic of the DNC process from the start. Congressmember Tulsi Gabbard represents Hawaii’s second congressional district. She was vice chair of the DNC until February 2016 when she resigned to endorse senator Bernie Sanders. I spoke to her about Donna Brazil’s revelations. Congressmember Gabbard, welcome. Your response, what we’ve heard from Donna Brazile today.
TULSI GABBARD: I was not surprised to read what she was detailing in what was printed today. This was something that when I was vice chair of the DNC I didn’t have knowledge of the details, but it was something that some folks were actually talking about and were concerned about at that time
AARON MATÉ: I want to quote more from Donna Brazile. She writes “If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.” She’s referring especially to this financial arrangement in which the Clinton camp gives the DNC money but in exchange, the DNC hands over control of basically every single decision. Your thoughts on that? Were you surprised by her revelation?
TULSI GABBARD: Again, this is not something I wasn’t privy to the inner workings of how these decisions were made, because at that time the decisions were really ultimately coming from the chair of the DNC. But I had heard some concerns from folks from different state parties actually. Executive directors and chairs and people who were involved in the grassroots organizing and trying to again increase involvement in the process. Their concerns around this joint fundraising agreement that Donna Brazile talked about in her article and her book was that the funds that were being raised through this agreement were not actually benefiting the party, but they were kind of being used as a pass through for lack of a better word. Their concerns again were about getting more support for the work that parties do on the ground and grassroots organizing. Turning out the vote, going and knocking on doors. Doing all the things that happened on the ground in states all across the country. Again, this was not something that I was terribly surprised by in reading that Donna detailed, but it’s something that hasn’t been laid out in the way that she has in this way.
AARON MATÉ: Yeah. She provides a figure when it comes to the money element. She says that of $82 million that was raised in state fundraisers, less than half of 1%, half of 1% got to go to the state parties, and said the rest went back to Brooklyn for the Clinton campaign. What kind of difference do you think that made on the election outcome when it comes to democratic efforts at the state level?
TULSI GABBARD: It’s hard to say. I can’t exactly quantify that. But I do know that some of the state party officials who I had spoken to at different times during the campaign had actually expressed these concerns and decided not to sign onto this joint fundraising agreement for that specific reason. They saw at that point, look we’re not going to be used by anyone’s campaign. If you want to talk about how to help strengthen local parties, let’s have that conversation, but this was clearly not an effort in that direction.
AARON MATÉ: You recently spoke out about some more decisions by the DNC at the national level, in terms of their staffing of key committees. Can you comment there on what you were most upset by, and your thoughts on what should be done?
TULSI GABBARD: At a time when many people and many voices are calling for unity within the Democratic party, it was really disturbing to see that there was kind of a purge of party officials from both the at large committee, as well as the executive committee within the DNC. That really had one common thread of the people who were booted out of those seats that they had held. Some for decades. The commonality was that these were people who had either supported Bernie Sanders for president or supported Keith Ellison for DNC chair, or both. If the message is that we’re going to get rid of people who may have dissenting opinions, or may be calling for different kinds of reform or retaliating for positions that they’ve taken this is not the direction that the democratic party should be going in. The democratic party should be going in the direction of openness, inclusiveness, transparency, accountability, which is why I’ve been calling for two major but very basic kinds of reform. Getting rid of the non democratic superdelegates who make up one third of all of the votes cast that a nominee needs to secure the nomination, and to secure open or same day registration primaries so that again, open the doors. Let’s let everybody in and get involved in the process.
AARON MATÉ: In your statement about these recent DNC appointments, you said that we must put people over profits.
TULSI GABBARD: We must put people over profits and progress over special interests.
AARON MATÉ: In what way is the DNC right now or have they been putting profits over people?
TULSI GABBARD: You know, a friend of mine, Jim Zogby, he was the only Arab American there who was on the executive committee. He was someone who’s been very active in democratic politics probably for over two decades, and actually going out and organizing, and getting people more engaged and involved with the process. Connecting with minorities, whether they be religious minorities, ethnic minorities, minorities in underprivileged communities. He is somebody who was booted out and a lobbyist or someone else came in and took his place. I don’t have the full list in front of me, but the fact that you would take out somebody who has been so committed like Jim Zogby, again the only Arab American there, and replace him with somebody who is a lobbyist or a consultant for the DNC, to me it doesn’t represent democratic values.
AARON MATÉ: Finally congresswoman Gabbard, you resigned in February 2016 from the DNC as vice chair to openly endorse for Bernie Sanders. Do you feel betrayed that those who stayed behind were working behind the scenes to elect Sander’s opponent?
TULSI GABBARD: It’s not about me, Aaron. This isn’t about me or my feelings or what impact they’ve had on me. I think the important question here is what has the impact been on our democracy. That is the critical point. That’s what we should all be concerned about. I don’t care who you supported in the presidential election, whether it was Hillary or Bernie or somebody else. The point here is about strengthening our democracy and coming together to enact real reforms that will actually do that in a real way. I think the time for kind of pointing fingers and infighting and bickering is long past. There is so much at stake here. I’m just encouraging people whether you’re involved with Democratic politics in a very direct way or if you’re not involved at all, now is the time for us all to stand up and raise our voices and say this is the kind of democracy that we want and actually fight for those changes to make it happen.
AARON MATÉ: Congressmember Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii’s second congressional district, thanks very much.TULSI GABBARD: Thanks Aaron. Aloha.AARON MATÉ: Aloha and thank you for joining us on The Real News.