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Last year, following the publication of hacked emails, the chair of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz infamously stepped down as the party's convention started in Philadelphia.
Donna Brazile, a longtime Democratic operative, took over as acting chair the week that Clinton was formally nominated, and weeks after she was considered the party's presumptive nominee.
On Thursday, Politico published an excerpt from Brazile's new book, Hacks. In the excerpt, Brazile describes an expansive agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC:
When I got back from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, I at last found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.
The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.
I had been wondering why it was that I couldn’t write a press release without passing it by Brooklyn. Well, here was the answer.
That excerpt has sparked just the latest bitter dispute about the Democratic primary and whether the party favored Clinton too much (a dispute that largely began in 2015 when the DNC announced a very limited debate schedule).
The background is a little complicated.
The DNC, as Brazile describes and was reported at the time, struggled during the later Obama years, especially financially (something people attribute to everything from Wasserman Schultz's mismanagement to a Democratic White House ignoring the committee to the party apparatus being out of step with the base).
In the summer of 2015, the Clinton campaign signed a joint-fundraising agreement with the DNC. Bernie Sanders's campaign later signed one at the end of 2015, though they never used it.
Joint-fundraising agreements generally allow campaigns to raise much larger sums of money. The Federal Election Commission regulates how much money donors can give to different kinds of campaigns; individuals can donate A LOT more money to the DNC and the RNC than they can give to an individual candidate like Clinton or Sanders. Because of the higher dollar threshold, campaigns form what are often called "victory funds" with the committees, allowing more efficient high-dollar fundraising.
For example: Two months before Donald Trump officially became the Republican nominee, he signed a joint-fundraising agreement with the RNC that allowed individual donors to donate as much as $449,400.
Generally, when a candidate (Republican or Democratic) becomes the party's presumptive nominee, that person's campaign takes over the committee for unified messaging, organizing, and communication.
Brazile's excerpt suggests that Clinton's takeover came too early, as NBC News put it on Thursday. (They also reported that Clinton sources said they had not taken over control of the DNC itself until June 2016, when Clinton became the presumptive nominee.)
On Friday, NBC News published the agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC. The Clinton campaign agreed to donate a minimum of $1.2 million per month to the DNC:
HFA is prepared to raise and invest funds into the DNC via the Victory. In return for this financial support, HFA requires the appropriate influence over the financial, strategic, and operational use of these JFA-raised funds.
("JFA" means the joint-fundraising agreement.) The memo does describe the campaign having input into hiring decisions at the committee:
With respect to the hiring of future DNC senior staff in the communications,
technology, and research departments, in the case of vacancy, the DNC will maintain the
authority to make the final decision as between candidates acceptable to HFA.
The agreement stipulated, for instance, that the DNC would hire a new communications director in the fall of 2015 from a list of candidates that the Clinton campaign had "previously identified as acceptable."
On the other hand, the agreement also came with a caveat: The DNC could enter into agreements like this with other candidates:
Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to violate the DNC's obligation of impartiality and neutrality through the Nominating process. All activities performed under this agreement will be focused exclusively on preparations for the General Election and not the Democratic Primary. Further we understand you may enter into similar agreements with other candidates.
The whole memo can be read via NBC News and the debate over whether the DNC too heavily favored Clinton, and in which ways, will rage on Twitter.