Primary Error: Donna Brazile Mixed Up Two Different Clinton-DNC Agreements


Donna Brazile reopened 2016 Democratic primary wounds yesterday by publishing a portion of her new book, Hacks: The Inside Story Of The Break Ins And Breakdowns at POLITICO. Although the usual suspects leaped on her claims that Hillary Clinton “control[ed] the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised” in a 2015 document, by the evening it became clear that Brazile had misrepresented the reality.

There is absolutely nothing in the Clinton campaign’s 2015 Joint Fundraising Agreement that gave her any such “control” — not even in the draft version of that document hacked by Russian intelligence and published by WikiLeaks.

Whereas Brazile claimed that Clinton wanted to “wield control of [DNC] operations” in 2015, she never assumed any such powers until June of 2016, when the primary race was over and she was the official nominee. As Brazile acknowledges, it is absolutely normal for the nominee to take control of the party apparatus at that point.

It is also normal for the nominee to sign a whole new Joint Fundraising Agreement with the DNC, which is exactly what Clinton did. Brazile has two different Agreements mixed up in her mind — and her publisher has failed on a basic fact-check. Either someone is too lazy to read the actual DNC documents for themselves, or they are lying on purpose.

Neither of these possibilities is comforting, and the latter seems all too likely, as Brazile is clearly hanging her narrative on other people’s bad information.

For example, a POLITICO hit piece last year described Clinton’s fundraising agreement with the state parties as “essentially … money laundering.” Brazile repeats this shady construction, saying that “the states kept less than half of 1 percent of the $82 million they had amassed from the extravagant fund-raisers Hillary’s campaign was holding.”

But that is not what the 2015 Joint Fundraising Agreement said — and it is not what happened.

Here are the facts: of the $529 million Clinton raised under the Agreement, more than $107 million eventually went to the DNC while state parties received about $264 million. She only kept $158 million for her own campaign.

It is true that Clinton ended up holding that money in a bank account for longer than she might have liked. But she could not disburse those funds until she was the official nominee, which did not happen until more than a month after the POLITICO hit piece.

Why the delay? It was because Bernie Sanders refused to stop running even after he was mathematically eliminated in the delegate race. In fact, his supporters screamed and hollered bloody murder when the Associated Press made that call, refusing to admit defeat.

As the acting DNC chair, Donna Brazile ought to be familiar with all these facts, and if her memory fails, she could just try doing a search at But why bother to know what you’re talking about when a popular lie will sell more copies of your book?

The most ardent Bernie believers on social media are also great for viral campaigning: Cenk “not good enough for MSNBC” Uygur and his Young Turks, the ever-hilarious trust fund brogressive H.A. Goodman, and the frustrating Shaun King all pushed Brazile’s falsehoods throughout the day. So did Glenn “I defended Citizens United until Hillary used it” Greenwald. Whereas these same people had denounced Brazile as a Clinton stooge for two years, suddenly she had become their heroine and truth-teller, and suddenly lots of progressives were interested in reading a book that promises to reinforce what they already believe.

There is plenty of room to legitimately criticize Hillary Clinton. But without her support, the DNC would have collapsed a long time ago. Barack Obama was too busy being president to husband the party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz ran it into the ground, and Clinton was forced to carry the DNC on her back. It is hardly fair to pretend that she wanted this arrangement.

Nor is it clear just how either Joint Fundraising Agreement “rigged” the primary. Sure, DNC personnel clearly favored Clinton. Even though Clinton lost in November after winning all three debates with Donald Trump, one can argue that the party should have held more than seven debates, and scheduled them all in prime time. But we are still waiting for the conspiracy theorists to answer one simple question: show us on the ballot where the DNC touched your vote.

Because regardless of what we may think of Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton won the nomination with a margin of four million Democratic voters — a wider gap than her popular vote win in November. The DNC didn’t do that. Clinton did. If she really, truly had the power to “rig” elections, Clinton would be the president of the United States right now instead of Donald Trump.

This may be the “post-factual era” where John Kelly can lie about someone, then refuse to apologize when videotape proves that he lied, but America cannot afford to have Democrats follow Republicans down that road. Donna Brazile needs to fix her errors and admit she got her facts wrong. Otherwise, she is just one of the “hacks” in the title of her book.

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Featured image via Tim Pierce Flickr under Creative Commons license

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