South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was “not a good manager” when she served as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and “let (Hillary) Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn do as it desired,” allowing the Clinton campaign to stack the deck against primary opponent Bernie Sanders.
Those are the words of the woman who replaced Wasserman Schultz as party chair during last year’s presidential campaign.
In a new book written by Donna Brazile, the longtime Democratic operative who took over as the DNC’s interim chair after Wasserman Schultz was ousted last July, says that a lack of leadership at the DNC allowed the Clinton c
ampaign to take control of the party’s finances.
Debbie was not a good manager. She hadn’t been very interested in controlling the party—she let Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn do as it desired so she didn’t have to inform the party officers how bad the situation was. How much control Brooklyn had and for how long was still something I had been trying to uncover for the last few weeks.
Brazile says when she took over as DNC chair she promised Sanders she would find out whether the Clinton campaign had rigged the nomination in favor of its candidate and against Sanders.
So I followed the money. My predecessor, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had not been the most active chair in fundraising at a time when President Barack Obama’s neglect had left the party in significant debt. As Hillary’s campaign gained momentum, she resolved the party’s debt and put it on a starvation diet. It had become dependent on her campaign for survival, for which she expected to wield control of its operations.
Brazile said shortly after the Democratic convention, Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Clinton’s campaign informed her the party was broke, not just broke, but in debt by millions of dollars. The party was forced to rely on contributions from Clinton supporters, with most of that money eventually making its way back to the Clinton campaign.
She said as an officer of the Democratic Party, she was led to believe everything was fine as far as party finances were concerned.
If I didn’t know about this, I assumed that none of the other officers knew about it, either. That was just Debbie’s way. In my experience she didn’t come to the officers of the DNC for advice and counsel. She seemed to make decisions on her own and let us know at the last minute what she had decided, as she had done when she told us about the hacking only minutes before the Washington Post broke the news.
Gensler informed Brazile the party needed a $2 million loan. Brazile couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“No! That can’t be true!” I said. “The party cannot take out a loan without the unanimous agreement of all of the officers.”
“Gary, how did they do this without me knowing?” I asked. “I don’t know how Debbie relates to the officers,” Gary said. He 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.
Donors who had maxed out on their $2,700 campaign contribution limit could donate another $353,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund, which was essentially a “fund-raising clearinghouse” for the Clinton campaign. Of that money, $10,000 would go to each of the 32 state’s parties that were part of the Victory Fund agreement. The remaining $33,400 DNC. Battleground states would keep their shares, but the rest would send their portions to the DNC which would then transfer it to the Clinton campaign.
Under Wasserman Schultz direction, the party was spending up to $4 million a month.
Brazile says Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, struck a deal with Wasserman Schultz. It was a deal to “sustain the DNC,” Gensler told Brazile. The party would send nearly $20 million to the DNC from September of 2015 until the convention.
When we hung up, I was livid. Not at Gary, but at this mess I had inherited. I knew that Debbie had outsourced a lot of the management of the party and had not been the greatest at fundraising. I would not be that kind of chair, even if I was only an interim chair. Did they think I would just be a surrogate for them, get on the road and rouse up the crowds? I was going to manage this party the best I could and try to make it better, even if Brooklyn did not like this. It would be weeks before I would fully understand the financial shenanigans that were keeping the party on life support.
Brazile concludes the agreement between the DNC and the Clinton campaign “was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical.” She writes that no campaign should control a party as long as the voters have yet to decide which candidate they want to lead their party.
“This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity,” Brazile writes.