Sanders Haul: $33 Million

Bernie Sanders announced yesterday that he has raised $33 million in the fourth quarter of 2015, all of it for his primary campaign. By comparison, Hillary Clinton raised $37 million for her primary campaign, but also an additional $18 million for the Democratic Party in the general election. Sanders had a very high burn rate for the quarter, spending 96% of what he took in, around $31.7 million.

Fairly or unfairly, Sanders’ failure to raise any money at all for the party is a weakness, even given the recent hostilities between the campaign and the DNC. Party stalwarts already viewed the non-Democrat with suspicion, and this information won’t help. Money for the party is ultimately critical in the general election, not just for the nominee but for broader campaign activities as well. This passage won’t help heal the rifts, either.

While Clinton has coordinated with the National Democratic Committee to raise an additional $18 million, Sanders has not replicated those efforts, despite an arrangement with the national party that allows him to do so.

Sanders and the DNC have had a turbulent relationship in recent months, punctuated by a lawsuit Sanders filed against the DNC in the wake of a controversy over a breach in a DNC voter database committed by several Sanders staffers.

“We remain happy to work with them,” Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said Saturday, when asked about joint fundraising efforts. “The party hasn’t given us any dates for events.”

For the year, Clinton raised $112 million to Sanders’ $73 million. Clinton has $38 million in the bank heading into 2016, compared to Sanders’ $28 million.

One Last Piece On Voter Data 

Much of the commentary on the Sanders/DNC/VAN imbroglio was clearly ignorant of just how VAN works. If you’ve been a candidate (why yes, yes I have) or worked field on a campaign (yes, that too) then you know how it works. But if not, then you have no clue. There was a lot of cluelessness the past couple of days.

I just ran across this great piece at Washington Monthly by David Atkins. It explains what happened in plain, simple language that also sheds light on the word games played by the Sanders people (“downloaded” versus “saved,” for example).

The other important piece of information to note is the difference between a “saved search” and a “saved list.” NGPVAN’s voter tracking has the option of being dynamic or static, meaning that you can run dynamic searches of voters whose characteristics may change as NGPVAN’s data is updated, or you can pull static lists of voters who currently fit the profile you are seeking. Most voter data pulls within an NGPVAN campaign will be dynamic searches—and in fact, that is the default setting. You really only want to pull a static list if you’re doing something specific like creating a list for a targeted mail piece—or if you want a quick snapshot in time of a raw voter list.

However, merely pulling a search or a list doesn’t mean you can automatically download all the information on those voters. You can see topline numbers. You can take a few screenshots—though it would take hundreds of screenshots and the data would be nearly useless in that format. To download the actual data, you would need to run an export—a step that requires extra levels of permissions only allowed to the highest level operatives. Despite the breach that allowed them to run lists and searches, Sanders staffers apparently did not have export access.
However, the access logs do show that Sanders staff pulled not one but multiple lists—not searches, but lists—a fact that shows intent to export and use. And the lists were highly sensitive material. News reports have indicated that the data was “sent to personal folders” of the campaign staffers—but those refer to personal folders within NGPVAN, which are near useless without the ability to export the data locally.
Even without being able to export, however, merely seeing the topline numbers of, say, how many voters the Clinton campaign had managed to bank as “strong yes” votes would be a valuable piece of oppo. While it’s not the dramatic problem that a data export would have been, it’s undeniable that the Sanders campaign gleaned valuable information from the toplines alone. It’s also quite clear that most of the statements the Sanders campaign made as the story progressed—from the claim that the staffers only did it to prove the security breach, or that only one staffer had access—were simply not true. It’s just not clear at this point whether the campaign’s comms people knew the truth and lied, or whether they were not being told the whole truth by the people on the data team who were still making up stories and excuses to cover their tracks. I suspect the latter.
In this context, it made sense for Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC to suspend the Sanders campaign’s access to the data until it could determine the extent of the damage, and the degree to which the Clinton campaign’s private data had been compromised. As it turns out the ethical breach by Sanders operatives was massive, but the actual data discovery was limited. So it made sense and was fairly obvious that the DNC would quickly end up giving the campaign back its NGPVAN access—particularly since failing to do so would be a death sentence for the campaign and a gigantic black eye to the party.
This doesn’t mean that Wasserman-Schultz hasn’t, in David Axelrod’s words, been putting her thumb on the scale on behalf of the Clinton campaign. She clearly has been, judging from the intentionally obfuscated debate schedule and from her demeanor and reaction to this recent controversy. The Democratic Party would have been wiser to bring the campaigns together privately and resolve the matter internally. Instead, Wasserman-Schultz chose to take it public to attempt to embarrass the Sanders campaign, and merely managed to embarrass herself and the Party’s data security vulnerabilities in the process.
Still, the Sanders camp’s reactions have been laughable. It was their team that unethically breached Clinton’s data. It was their comms people who spoke falsely about what happened. The Sanders campaign wasn’t honeypotted into doing it—their people did it of their own accord. NGPVAN isn’t set up to benefit Clinton at Sanders’ expense—and if the violation by the campaigns had been reversed, Sanders supporters would have been claiming a conspiracy from sunrise to sundown. What’s very clear is that the Clinton camp did nothing wrong in any of this. Sanders campaign operatives did, and then Wasserman-Schultz compounded it by overreacting. And in the end, the right thing ended up happening: the lead staffer in question was fired, and the campaign got its data access back.

Go read the rest. It’s worth the time whether you understand VAN or you don’t.

Nik Sushka On The Voter Data Flap

I think this is the best one paragraph assessment on the dustup between the Sanders campaign and the DNC that I’ve seen. Nik is the outgoing president of the Montgomery County Young Democrats(MCYD), and she authorized me to reprint this from her Facebook post of earlier today.

The way the Sanders campaign refused to take real responsibility for their staff’s actions (“it was a low level staffer” “we reported the issue months ago” “we didn’t save any data” “we were just probing the issue”) is a load of b.s. How do you blame the DNC and NGP VAN for your National Data Director conducting at least 24 searches of another campaign’s data (even while you fire him) and make this seem like a vast conspiracy to jettison your campaign? When your supporters think the Democratic Party is their greatest enemy, it does nothing to persuade me that a Sanders presidency will be able to respond to the basically 2/3 control of Republicans at state and congressional levels. Looking forward to hearing his take on the issue during the debate tonight.

BREAKING: Cooler Heads Prevail

Good lord, somebody actually did what I suggested. The 12 Hour War of the Lawyers is over.

Campaign staff for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders regained access voter data provided by the Democratic National Committee today after being blocked from using the database over allegations staffers accessed information from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The allegations over the data breach were expected to be a main topic of tonight’s Democratic debate as Sanders and Clinton staffers exchanged in a back-and-forth over what happened when a firewall separating the campaigns from each other’s data went down briefly earlier this week. In a statement issued late Friday, the DNC said Sanders’ campaign had complied with the DNC request to provide information amid its investigation.
“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,” the statement said. “The Sanders campaign has agreed to fully cooperate with the continuing DNC investigation of this breach.”
“We are glad that all parties are moving forward,” the statement continued, “and that the candidates and the party can refocus on engaging voters on the issues that matter to them: building on the President’s legacy of creating jobs, growing the economy, and a robust discussion on how we can keep Americans safe.”
Michael Briggs, a spokesperson for the Sanders campaign, later told ABC News staffers were able to see voter files Saturday morning.

Tonight’s debate ratings just went up, up, up. Says the cynic. Who is now going to watch. If it was a publicity stunt, mission accomplished.

Enter The Lawyers

Bernie Sanders has filed suit against the Democratic National Committee regarding the DNC’s decision to lock Sanders out of VAN, the party’s voter data system. It will be interesting to see the language of the contract - having been a candidate, one of the major things you’re told is don’t steal other people’s stuff.

If even a small piece of this article is true, the Sanders campaign is being totally untruthful.

According to an audit obtained by Bloomberg, Sanders staffers exploited a temporary glitch in the DNC’s voter database on Wednesday to save lists created by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In response, Sanders’ team fired national data director Josh Uretsky while the DNC stopped the campaign from accessing all of the DNC’s data.

The database logs created by NGP VAN show that four accounts associated with the Sanders team took advantage of the Wednesday morning breach. Staffers conducted searches that would be especially advantageous to the campaign, including lists of its likeliest supporters in 10 early voting states, including Iowa and New Hampshire. Campaigns rent access to a master file of DNC voter information from the party, and update the files with their own data culled from field work and other investments.

After one Sanders account gained access to the Clinton data, the audits show, that user began sharing permissions with other Sanders users. The staffers who secured access to the Clinton data included Uretsky and his deputy, Russell Drapkin. The two other usernames that viewed Clinton information were “talani” and “csmith_bernie,” created by Uretsky’s account after the breach began.

The logs show that the Vermont senator’s team created at least 24 lists during the 40-minute breach, which started at 10:40 a.m., and saved those lists to their personal folders. The Sanders searches included New Hampshire lists related to likely voters, “HFA Turnout 60-100” and “HFA Support 50-100,” that were conducted and saved by Uretsky. Drapkin’s account searched for and saved lists including less likely Clinton voters, “HFA Support <30” in Iowa, and “HFA Turnout 30-70″‘ in New Hampshire.

Despite audit logs, Weaver said at the news conference that NGP VAN has told the campaign that no Clinton data was printed or downloaded. 

At this point, whatever point the DNC was trying to make had been lost. It clearly should never have been allowed to escalate to this point, as when all is said and done, there won’t be any winners here, except maybe the GOP. I’ve said previously that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is terrible and needs to go. I say it again now - get her out of there.

Additionally, and call me cynical, but my view is that this is a Sanders publicity stunt. I suspect that this is going to turn tomorrow night’s debate into a circus, and by the time it’s over, the New York Times will have made this all Hillary Clinton’s fault, despite the fact that it was her data that was hacked. None of this is good for anyone in the Democratic Party. Somebody needs to get this resolved quickly and effectively. Where are the cooler heads when they’re needed?

Sanders’ Very, Very Bad Idea

Having been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Bernie Sanders is now threatening to bring in the lawyers.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign on Friday threatened to sue the Democratic National Committee for suspending its access to the national voter database, saying the move threatens to undermine the Vermont senator’s presidential run.

Even as the campaign admitted its staffers had inappropriately reviewed Hillary Clinton campaign data made available as a result of a software error, it emphatically accused the DNC of sabotage.

“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,” Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver said at a press conference.

“The leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign. This is unacceptable,” he said. “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.”

This has all the trappings of a “courthouse publicity stunt.” He won’t win. He accessed data that he shouldn’t have, which violated the contract. Yes, VAN is critical - so don’t }^#*# violate the contract, dude.

Sanders Campaign Poaches Clinton Data, Blames Vendor

The Sanders campaign’s access to voter data through NGP VAN has been been suspended after at least four campaign accounts accessed private data from the Clinton campaign. The data was briefly available after a glitch in the system took down the firewall between generally available data and the private information gathered by individual campaigns.

The Democratic National Committee has told the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont that it was suspending its access to its voter database after a software error enabled at least one of his staff members to review Hillary Clinton’s private campaign data.

The decision by the party committee is a major blow to Mr. Sanders’s campaign. The database includes information from voters across the nation and is used by campaigns to set strategy, especially in the early voting states.

The breach occurred after a software problem at the technology company NGP VAN, which gives campaigns access to the voter data. The problem inadvertently made proprietary voter data of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign visible to others, according to party committee officials.

The Sanders campaign said that it had fired a staff member who breached Mrs. Clinton’s data. But according to three people with direct knowledge of the breach, there were four user accounts associated with the Sanders campaign that ran searches while the security of Mrs. Clinton’s data was compromised.

The Sanders response? “The vendor made us do it.” Uh, that’s not a good excuse.

In a statement, Mr. Sanders’s campaign spokesman, Michael Briggs, blamed the vendor for continuing to “make serious errors.”

“On more than one occasion, the vendor has dropped the firewall between the data of different Democratic campaigns,” he said. “Our campaign months ago alerted the D.N.C. 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.”

“Unfortunately, yesterday, the vendor once again dropped the firewall between the campaigns for some data,” Mr. Briggs said. “After discussion with the D.N.C., it became clear that one of our staffers accessed some modeling data from another campaign. That behavior is unacceptable and that staffer was immediately fired.”

He added that the errors had also “made our records vulnerable.” Despite repeated requests, the Sanders campaign did not provide information about the other user accounts that were involved.

Time for Plan B, Bern. Plan A really sucked. Per the Washington Post, you’re not getting your VAN access back until you come clean.

The DNC has told the Sanders campaign that it will not be allowed access to the data again until it provides an explanation as well as assurances that all Clinton data has been destroyed.

Can I Get A “Wow, You Were Right”?

I’ve argued for months that Joe Biden’s support in the polls was largely at the expense of Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders acolytes chased me with pitchforks and torches, saying no, no, there was a lot of Biden/Sanders synergy. In a word: horseshit.

With Vice President Joe Biden officially out of the running and the Benghazi testimony behind her, Hillary Clinton has surged to a 41-point lead in the first caucus state of Iowa, according to results out Tuesday from the latest Monmouth University poll surveying likely Democratic caucus-goers.

Clinton earned the support of nearly two in three likely participants in next February’s caucus, with 65 percent. Her next closest competitor, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, took 24 percent. In third place is former Gov. Martin O’Malley with 5 percent, and Harvard law professor Larry Lessig follows with 1 percent.

Can I get an amen? What what?

And yes, I know that Clinton’s Benghazi performance had something to do with her movement in the polls. But I do enjoy reveling in my rightness. I’m not above some situational narcissism, I admit it. And it feels GOOD.