This week Donna Brazile â? the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 2016 presidential election â? reignited a major controversy regarding the presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
In an excerpt from her forthcoming book, Brazile argues that the DNC provided the Clinton campaign with control over important decisions in exchange for financial support. In response, a number of political actors, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)Â and President Trump, have argued that this proves that the DNC âriggedâ the primary process against Sanders.
In reality, the situation is considerably more complex. Brazileâs claims show that two things are true. First, the DNC preferred Clinton over Sanders, and provided her campaign with power over the committee in exchange for financial support. Second, while the DNC preferred Clinton, this may have had little impact on the actual outcome of the primaries.
What does Brazile claim?
After becoming interim chair, Brazile promised Sanders that she would investigate the relations between the DNC and the Clinton campaign during the primary process. In doing so, Brazile found a document that she describes as a âcancerâ inside the DNC, and which she presents as smoking-gun evidence of Clintonâs control over the committee.
Under Brazileâs predecessor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC had agreed to form a shared fundraising committee with the Clinton campaign in summer 2015. This was beneficial to the DNC because, as political scientist Daniel Galvin has argued, President Barack Obama largely ignored the DNC and focused on his own group,Â Organizing for America. By 2015, the DNC was essentially broke.
Through the agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, the campaign could raise more money by simultaneously collecting donations for Clinton, the national committee and individual state party organizations.
In exchange, Brazile argues that the Clinton campaign also received considerable control over the DNC. Brazile writes that the fundraising agreement signed by the DNC and the Clinton campaign:
â .â.â. specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the partyâs 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.â
In her Politico article, Brazile does not explicitly state that the primaries were rigged. Nonetheless, she does point to the agreement as highly unusual.
What does the evidence show?
After Brazileâs piece appeared, there was some confusion as to what specific documents she referred. Since then, two 2015 agreements between Clintonâs campaign and the DNC have appeared.
The first concerns the fundraising agreement made between the DNC and the Clinton campaign. While this agreement does promise the Clinton campaign control over the DNCâs resources, it stipulates that this control only applies after the primaries, assuming Clinton won the nomination.
As several Democratic Party leaders â including former DNC chair Howard Dean â? have noted, this is relatively regular. Indeed, the Sanders campaign had been offered a similar joint fundraising contract.
However, the second document implies that the DNC and Clinton marketing campaign had an additional agreement which supplied the campaign with influence within the DNC well before Clinton gained the nomination.
Specifically, the particular campaign was given veto power within the selection of the new DNC communications movie director and other senior staff members in the committeeâs communications, technology and research sections â? should there have been vacancies.
What was, and was not, amazing about this?
As Brazile information, it is common for candidates to gain control over the national committee after they earn the presidential nomination.
It is less common, though known, for a national committee to line-up with a candidate before he or she benefits the nomination. One example was the 1992 Republican primary, when incumbent Chief executive George H. W. Bush confronted a primary challenge from Pat Buchanan and the RNC openly stated that will âthe chairman is 100 percent behind George Bush and so is the committee.â In most other cases, each national party committees refrain from freely supporting a candidate until they earn a majority of convention delegates.
But this does not mean party panel chairs and staff have no views. Certainly, the DNC emails that will leaked in the run-up to the 2016 Democratic National Convention show that many DNC staffers preferred Clinton more than Sanders. This is nothing new: When i show in a forthcoming article, panel chairs and staff frequently have got strong preferences over the direction plus candidates of the party.
It is also not surprising that powerful celebration leaders, including presidential candidates, may influence their partyâs national panel. Because the committees must work with these types of leaders to raise money and advertise the party, it is quite common to get leadersâ? preferences to be considered within decisions regarding the hiring of panel staff. At times, this can mean that the particular committee â? while officially not really taking sides â? is centered by staffers who have clear choices for one presidential primary candidate.
For example, Brazile states that will as Al Goreâs campaign supervisor, she did not start âinsertingâ staff members into the DNC until June 2000. While this is technically true, this misrepresents the level of control Gore currently had over the DNC before the 2000 primaries began: By 1999, the particular DNCâs senior staff was centered by Democratic politicos with long-standing relations to Gore â? which includes both co-chairmen, the finance seat and one of the senior advisers. Therefore, while the DNC did not endorse Gore, it clearly preferred him within the 2000 primaries.
Given Clintonâs standing as the favorite to earn the Democratic nomination, and the girl longtime role in the party, it is far from surprising that her preferences had been incorporated in the DNCâs decision-making procedures. What is surprising is that the DNC officially agreed to provide the campaign with vorbehalt power over some of its employing decisions.
This doesnât indicate the 2016 primaries were rigged against Sanders
Throughout the primary procedure, the Sanders campaign made many complaints about how the DNC disadvantaged all of them. On some issues â? like the timing of some of the primary competitions, or the way delegates were split over the states â? Clinton most likely received some benefits. However , because political scientist Josh Putnam has noted, these guidelines were decided in 2014 â? well before anyone expected a Clinton-Sanders primary contest.
Other issues may be more valid. For example , the particular Sanders campaign pointed to the time of the DNC-organized primary debates, which usually frequently occurred at times where a little audience was likely to tune in. It will be possible that some of these decisions were produced by Clinton-approved DNC staffers. If the DNC made these calls with the purpose of shortening the primary campaign procedure, it might have limited the Sandersâ? campaignâs ability to reach new voters.
But whether the DNC in fact succeeded in this is far from obvious. Clinton received 3. 7 mil more votes than Sanders do â? and it is questionable that this had been due solely to the timing associated with debates. For this reason, there is an important distinction between the DNCâs preferring one of the usa president candidates and its rigging the candidate selection process.
In short, 2 things can be true simultaneously: The particular DNC tried to help Clintonâs marketing campaign, but this did not have a lot impact on whether Clinton won the particular nomination.
Boris Heersink is definitely an assistant professor in political technology at Fordham University. (*************