Sanders campaign threatens legal action against DNC – CNN
Shortly after Weaver’s press conference, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said suspending the Sanders’ campaign’s access was the only way to ensure the voter file was properly safeguarded.
“That is the only way that we can make sure that we can protect our significant asset that is the voter file and its integrity,” Wasserman Schultz said on CNN.
She said “multiple staffers” from the Sanders campaign downloaded information that they did not have the right to collect.
“They not only viewed it, but they exported it and they downloaded it,” Wasserman Schultz told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “We don’t know the depth of what they actually viewed and downloaded. We have to make sure that they did not manipulate the information.”
She added, “That is just like if you walked into someone’s home when the door was unlocked and took things that don’t belong to you in order to use them for your own benefit. That’s inappropriate. Unacceptable.”
The DNC also sent out a message from Wasserman Schultz to its members accusing the Sanders campaign of improper conduct.
“… over the course of approximately 45 minutes, staffers of the Bernie Sanders campaign inappropriately accessed voter targeting data belonging to the Hillary Clinton campaign,” Wasserman Schultz said.
“Once the DNC became aware that the Sanders campaign had inappropriately and systematically accessed Clinton campaign data, and in doing so violated the agreement that all the presidential campaigns have signed with the DNC, as the agreement provides, we directed NGP VAN [the vendor that supplies access to the database] to suspend the Sanders campaign’s access to the system until the DNC is provided with a full accounting of whether or not this information was used and the way in which it was disposed,” she added.
The revelation is emerging ahead of the third Democratic presidential debate of the campaign season on Saturday night and poses a major setback for Sanders, who is mounting a liberal challenge to Clinton. The database is a goldmine of information about voters and being blocked from it could complicate Sanders’ outreach efforts. The timing is also challenging, just weeks before Clinton and Sanders are slated to compete in the Iowa caucuses.
The Sanders campaign moved quickly to contain the damage, arguing that the vendor who runs the database made errors. The campaign also fired Josh Uretsky, its national data director.
“After discussion with the DNC, it became clear that one of our staffers accessed some modeling data from another campaign,” Briggs said. “That behavior is unacceptable and that staffer was immediately fired.”
NGP VAN issued a statement Friday saying the DNC had instructed the company to remove the Sanders campaign’s access to the database.
“We are confident at this point that no campaigns have access to or have retained any voter file data of any other clients; with one possible exception, one of the presidential campaigns,” the company said, adding that it was investigating the breach and would report back to the DNC.
“Our team removed access to the affected data, and determined that only one campaign took actions that could possibly have led to it retaining data to which it should not have had access,” the statement continued.
The database breach was first reported by The Washington Post. Clinton’s campaign hasn’t commented on the incident.
Sanders supporters and liberal groups have reacted to the news of Sanders’ campaign being punished by questioning the neutrality of the DNC, hinting that the body is in the tank for Clinton.
“The Democratic National Committee’s decision to attack the campaign that figured out the problem, rather than go after the vendor that made the mistake, is profoundly damaging to the party’s Democratic process,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, a liberal group that endorsed Sanders this week.
“DNC leaders should immediately reverse this disturbing decision before the committee does even more to bring its neutrality in the race for President into question,” he added.
Uretsky, the fired Sanders staffer, told CNN Friday morning that he was not trying to access Clinton voter data.
Instead, he said he was just trying to “understand how badly the Sanders campaign’s data was exposed” by the software error.
“We knew there was a security breach in the data, and we were just trying to understand it and what was happening,” Uretsky said.
He added that to the best of his knowledge, “nobody took anything that would have given the (Sanders) campaign any benefit.”
According to DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda, NGP VAN alerted the DNC about the issue Wednesday.
He said “all users on the system across Democratic campaigns were inadvertently able to access some data belonging to other campaigns for a brief window.”
The vendor was instructed “to identify any users who accessed data, the actions they took in the system, and to report their findings to Party and affected campaigns.”
The DNC is currently working with the campaigns and the vendor to more fully understand the extent of the breach and to “ensure that this isolated incident doesn’t happen again.”