As promised, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Democratic National Committee on Friday night.
The 12-page complaint charged breach of contract over DNC leadership deciding to yank the Sanders’ campaign’s access to the invaluable voter database after a vendor created a security hole that a Sanders staffer — who has since been fired — peeked into.
It notes that at the end of the October, Sanders and the DNC signed an agreement regarding access to the data — with the understanding that the DNC must “use security measures, with respect to the Campaign Data, that are consistent with good practices in the data processing industry” and “take all measures necessary to protect the secrecy of, and to avoid disclosure and unauthorized use of” confidential information.
The security hole opened on Wednesday by a software update from vendor NGP VAN was resolved in four hours. Sanders’ now-former data director, Josh Uretsky, told MSNBC he was only looking at the data “to document and understand the scope of the problem so that we could report it accurately.”
NGP VAN — which in 2008 turned inappropriate information over to the Clinton campaign in what was said to be another glitch — said that even with the bug one campaign would not be able to export the data of another campaign — contradicting DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who told CNN that Sanders staffers “not only viewed it, but they exported it, and they downloaded it.”
Sanders’ camp confirmed in the lawsuit that “staffers who viewed the Disclosed Information were not able to save or copy the Disclosed Information due to restrictions and controls in the NGP VAN software.”
“The Campaign should not be punished for the carelessness of the DNC and its third-party vendor,” argues Sanders’ lawsuit.
The campaign estimated donation losses would be $600,000 a day. The DNC suspension came in the same week that Sanders passed two million donations — compared to Clinton’s 600,000 — and snagged endorsements from the Communications Workers of America and progressive group Democracy for America.
“The DNC’s unwarranted, unilateral suspension of the Campaign’s Voter Data access directly impacts one of the nation’s most important electoral races, and carries political implications on a national scale,” says the lawsuit. “The DNC should not be permitted to tip the scales of the Democratic presidential primary without clear justification and contractual cause. The fairness of this pivotal national election should not be compromised because of security flaws introduced by the DNC and its vendor.”
Sanders sought “immediate restoration” of access to the database and damages exceeding $75,000.
The campaign was planning to file a separate motion for injunctive relief later Friday. But as the deadline neared for the hearing on the emergency injunction, the DNC — which faces the prospect of its deck-stacking for Clinton engulfing Saturday night’s debate — “capitulated,” in the words of the Sanders camp.
But Wasserman Schultz argued that it was the Sanders camp that gave in, providing the DNC with information for an investigation.
Nonsense, said Sanders’ campaign manager.
“We are extremely pleased that the DNC has reversed its outrageous decision to take Sen. Sanders’ data. The information we provided tonight is essentially the same information we already sent them by email on Thursday,” said Jeff Weaver.
“Clearly, they were very concerned about their prospects in court. Now what we need to restore confidence in the DNC’s ability to secure data is an independent audit that encompasses the DNC’s record this entire campaign,” he said. “Transparency at the DNC is essential. We trust they have nothing to hide.”
Even Democracy for America, which is led by Howard Dean’s brother, lashed out at the DNC for attacking “the campaign that figured out the problem, rather than go after the vendor that made the mistake,” a move that serves to “bring its neutrality in the race for president into question.”
In a statement issued by the DNC, Wasserman Schultz said “the Sanders campaign has now complied with the DNC’s request to provide the information that we have requested of them.”
“Based on this information, we are restoring the Sanders campaign’s access to the voter file, but will continue to investigate to ensure that the data that was inappropriately accessed has been deleted and is no longer in possession of the Sanders campaign,” she said. “The Sanders campaign has agreed to fully cooperate with the continuing DNC investigation of this breach. The fact that data was accessed inappropriately is completely unacceptable, and the DNC expects each campaign to operate with integrity going forward with respect to the voter file.”
Clinton’s campaign, which accused Sanders’ team of stealing their data, softened its tone a bit close to the time of the DNC’s capitulation, saying Sanders should have access restored but they demanded “a full, independent accounting of the Sanders campaign’s actions, as well as assurances that no data or strategic insight from this act of intrusion will be used by his campaign.”
“This was an egregious breach of data and ethics,” added Hillary’s press secretary, Brian Fallon.
The Republican National Committee even stepped in on the side of Bernie — or, more accurately, on the side against Clinton.
“Every candidate has equal access to our superior data file at the RNC because we believe primaries should be a process free from party interference and that puts voters and campaigns first,” said Chief Strategist & Communications Director Sean Spicer. “That’s why it is so troubling to see the DNC engage in such heavy-handed favoritism benefitting Hillary Clinton, a pattern which will continue tomorrow night with another debate deliberately scheduled to limit viewership.”