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Book Reveals Clinton Campaign Effectively Controlled DNC As Early As 2015

Democratic party chairperson Donna Brazile talks with audience members before the debate between Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., in Oct. 2016.
Joe Raedle
Democratic party chairperson Donna Brazile talks with audience members before the debate between Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., in Oct. 2016.

Updated at 5:10 a.m. ET

Hillary Clinton's campaign gained significant control over the Democratic National Committee's finances and strategy more than a year before the election in exchange for helping the party retire lingering debt from the 2012 presidential campaign, according to a new book by a former party chairwoman.

The disclosure comes from an excerpt of Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House, by Donna Brazile, published in Politico magazine. Brazile took over as party chairperson in July 2016 in the wake of hacked emails showing that many DNC staffers were openly rooting for Clinton in the primary. Brazile says that when she took over as interim chair, she set about trying to untangle the financial web that had grown up around the campaign.

She says what she learned was that the DNC had made a deal with Clinton's people in August 2015 to clear up the party's debts.

"This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party's integrity," Brazile writes in the book due out next week.

The DNC has responded in a statement, which reads in full:

"The DNC must remain neutral in the presidential primary process, and there shouldn't even be a perception that the DNC is interfering in that process. Joint fundraising committees were created between the DNC and both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in attempt to raise the general election funds needed to win in 2016. Clinton was the only candidate who raised money for the party through her joint fundraising committee with the DNC, which would benefit any candidate coming out of the presidential primary process.

"Under the new leadership, the DNC has signed a joint fundraising agreement with all 50 states and DC well ahead of the presidential primary process in order to support our state parties and win at the state, local and national level in 2017, 2018 and beyond. This is unprecedented. We are no longer a party that is only focused on electing Democrats every four years. We're a party that elects Democrats every year and in every single zip code."

Brazile, a former campaign manager for Al Gore and adviser to President Bill Clinton, stepped in as interim head of the DNC after Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., was forced out over the email controversy on the eve of the party's convention.

"As Hillary's campaign gained momentum, she resolved the party's debt and put it on a starvation diet. It had become dependent on her campaign for survival, for which she expected to wield control of its operations," Brazile writes.

In a phone call she placed to Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Clinton's campaign, just after the party's convention in July, "He described the party as fully under the control of Hillary's campaign, which seemed to confirm the suspicions of the [Vermont Sen.] Bernie [Sanders] camp. The campaign had the DNC on life support, giving it money every month to meet its basic expenses, while the campaign was using the party as a fund-raising clearinghouse," she adds.

The Washington Post writes:

"Charlie Baker, the chief operating officer of the Clinton campaign, said that in 2015 the campaign agreed to raise money for the parts of the DNC that were going to be most crucial to the general election, including data, research, communications and the like. The agreement also gave the Clinton campaign some say over personnel. If there was a vacancy for a position in one of these departments, the DNC had to consult the campaign on the three finalists but could make the final decision itself.

'We never tried to be presumptuous,' Baker said. 'We were literally trying to make sure the DNC had the resources it needed, whoever was the nominee.' "

Brazile's account appears to contradict the DNC's repeated assertions that it wasn't favoring Clinton over Sanders and it bolsters charges from the Sanders camp that the primary itself was "rigged."

During the campaign, Sanders had repeatedly charged that the DNC was working in league with the Clinton campaign to ensure her victory in the primary.

"The idea that the DNC was willing to take a position that helped a candidate in the midst of a primary is outrageous, and there is no justification for it," Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign, was quoted in the Post as saying.

After the excerpt of Brazile's book was published on Thursday, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, speaking with CNN, called the revelations a "real problem" and said the party needs to be held accountable.

President Trump responded on Twitter, suggesting that Brazile's book tells the "real story on Collusion" — as opposed tothe investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.

"People are angry," he tweeted. "At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper. The American public deserves it!"

Using mocking nicknames, he acknowledged Warren's interview and accused Clinton of buying the DNC and rigging the primaries to defeat Sanders.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.