Bernie Sanders Campaign Regains Access to Their DNC Data

Bernie Sanders Gives Campaign Speech At Georgetown University
Is the DNC really out to get Sanders, or is his campaign just selling a fish story? Photo: Mark Wilson/2015 Getty Images

The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign has regained access to their DNC voter file data after having been locked out once it was discovered that campaign staff had searched and downloaded Clinton campaign data following the failure of an internal firewall at the DNC’s data vendor. The Sanders campaign immediately fired one staffer — their national data director — following the breach, and sought an emergency injunction in federal court on Friday against the DNC in an attempt to regain their critically important data access, further insisting that the episode showed how the DNC’s leadership both supported and was actively trying to grant an advantage to the Clinton campaign. Despite their perceived impropriety, the Sanders campaign also appears to be relishing the opportunity to highlight their underdog status against the Democratic Party Establishment.

Politico reports that the restoration of access around midnight Friday followed hours of negotiation during which the Sanders campaign agreed to an independent audit of all its data — though both sides are now claiming victory. “We are extremely pleased that the DNC has reversed its outrageous decision to take Sen. Sanders’ data,” said Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver in a statement, who further suggested that the DNC had “capitulated” after they realized their court case was too weak to continue the suspension. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, meanwhile, said in a statement that they only restored the data access after the campaign “complied with the DNC’s request to provide the information that we have requested of them” and indicated that their investigation into the matter was continuing. Weaver, however, had also insisted in his statement that the information they provided to the DNC on Friday night was “essentially the same information” they had sent them on Thursday. In addition, the Huffington Post reports that the Sanders campaign will not be dropping its lawsuit and still seeks an independent audit of the DNC’s data practices and their vendor, NGP VAN. The Sanders campaign had previously suggested that the DNC’s actions were part of a pattern demonstrating their support for Clinton. 

For its part, the Clinton campaign — and some of the architects of President Obama’s presidential campaigns — have been accusing the Sanders camp of foul play. Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook even suggested that the breach was a deliberate theft of valuable strategic data that was likely perpetrated by the Sanders campaign as part of a fundraising gimmick. (Following the data-access suspension, the Sanders campaign sent out a fund-raising email accusing the DNC of favoritism.) Tweeted Clinton campaign spokesperson Brian Fallon on Friday, “If you are so proud of your grassroots organization, you should not need to resort to stealing campaign data,” though Fallon sounded more diplomatic in his statement on Saturday: “We are pleased that the Sanders campaign has agreed to submit to an independent audit to determine the full extent of the intrusion its staff carried out earlier this week, and also to ensure that Sanders’ voter file no longer contains any of the proprietary data that was taken from us. We believe this audit should proceed immediately, and, pending its findings, we expect further disciplinary action to be taken as appropriate.” 

Just how valuable was the Clinton campaign data that was accessed? According to Politico:

Records show that during a 40-minute span that began at 10:40 a.m. on Wednesday, four Sanders staffers sifted through the Clinton campaign’s data and conducted 25 specialized searches, according to a person familiar with the breach. The most valuable information obtained, the source said, were lists of individuals the Clinton campaign has identified as its most hardcore supporters across 10 states, as well as lists of those individuals whose support for Clinton is wavering, and could therefore be convinced to support Sanders instead.

Meanwhile, in addition to fund-raising off the dustup, the Sanders campaign seems intent on leveraging the controversy to their political advantage as well. One campaign aide insisted to Politico that the DNC “couldn’t have given us a bigger favor,” while Sanders will also apparently be emphasizing his outsider credibility and these problems with the Democratic infrastructure at the presidential debate on Saturday night. 

Sanders Campaign Regains Access to DNC Data