Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is threatening to take the Democratic National Committee to court after Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) suspended his campaign from access to the party’s database.
Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, told reporters outside of their Washington headquarters that two months ago, “shortly after our digital vendor who conducts modeling for our campaign told us that there was failure in the firewall that prevents campaigns from seeing one another’s data, we contacted the DNC and told them about the failure.”
“We were concerned that our data could be compromised and we were assured at the time the firewall would be restored,” Weaver said. “Instead, we found out two days ago that once again, this sensitive and important data was compromised because the DNC and its vendor failed to protect it.”
“We have invested enormous campaign resources in acquiring the rights to use this proprietary information. But the DNC, in an inappropriate overreaction, has denied us access to our own data.”
Wasserman Schultz told CNN that the Sanders campaign admitted they “inappropriately accessed data to which they were not entitled.” She likened the vendor mistake to leaving a house’s door opened, and faulted the Sanders campaign for peeking inside.
Weaver stressed that “this is not the first time that the vendor hired by the DNC to run the voter file program, NGP VAN, has allowed serious failures to occur.”
“On more than one occasion, they have dropped the firewall between the data of competing Democratic campaigns. That is dangerous incompetence,” he said. “It was our campaign months ago that alerted the DNC to the fact that campaign data was being made available to other campaigns. At that time our campaign did not run to the media, relying instead on assurances from the vendor that the problem would be resolved. Unfortunately, the other day, the vendor once again dropped the firewall between the campaigns for some data.”
Weaver noted that after discussion with the DNC “it became clear that some of our staffers irresponsibly accessed some of the data from another campaign.”
“That behavior is unacceptable to the Sanders campaign and we fired the staffer immediately and made certain that any information obtained was not utilized,” he said. “We are now speaking to other staffers who might have been involved and further disciplinary action. Clearly, while that information was made available to our campaign because of the incompetence of the vendor, it should not have been looked at. Period.”
The fired staffer told CNN that nobody used the data in a way that would have benefited the campaign and they were just trying to figure out what was going on.
“Rather incredibly, the leadership of the DNC has used this incident to shut down our ability to access our own information, information which is the lifeblood of any campaign,” Weaver said. “This is the information about our supporters, our volunteers, the lists of people we intend to contact in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere. This is information that we have worked hard to obtain. It is our information, not the DNC’s.”
“In other words, by their action, the leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign. This is unacceptable. Individual leaders of the DNC can support Hillary Clinton in any way they want, but they are not going to sabotage our campaign – one of the strongest grassroots campaigns in modern history,” Sanders’ campaign manager stressed.
“We are announcing today that if the DNC continues to hold our data hostage, and continues to try to attack the heart and soul of our campaign, we will be in federal court this afternoon seeking an immediate injunction.”
Weaver called for “a full and independent audit of the DNC’s handling of this data and its security from the beginning of this campaign to the present, including the incident in October that we alerted them to.”
When pressed about the campaign’s demands, Wasserman Schultz told CNN that they DNC has been trying over the last few days to get an analysis of what happened from Sanders campaign “that they have refused to provide.”
“Unfortunately, the Sanders campaign doesn’t have anything other than bluster at the moment that they can put out there,” Wasserman Schultz said.
When asked if the DNC debate scheduled for Saturday night and this latest debacle underscore the complaints of Sanders and former Gov. Martin O’Malley that the DNC is trying to stack the deck for Hillary Clinton, Wasserman Schultz laughed.
The 2008 campaign co-chair for Hillary said the DNC is simply “trying to make sure that we can credibly access our vote file.”
Wasserman Schultz said they could restore the Sanders campaign’s access to the datbase “as quickly as possible” — but first the DNC wants Bernie’s agreement to participate in an independent audit.