Sanders Campaign Sues DNC For Shutting Off Access To Voter File

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign is suing the Democratic National Committee over the party’s decision on Thursday to revoke the campaign access to data maintained in its national voter file.

In a complaint filed in federal court late Friday, the Sanders camp claims that the DNC failed to give proper notice before suspending access to the file — a move which the campaign says will cost it at least $600,000 a day in lost donations.

The suspension has touched off a long-simmering battle between the Sanders campaign and the DNC. Sanders supporters, as well as those of former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, have claimed that the party is doing everything it can to ensure that Hillary Clinton wins the party nomination.

The party’s refusal to hold more debates — as well as its scheduling of a debate for Saturday, a week before Christmas — is seen as evidence that the DNC and its chairwoman, Florida Rep. [crscore]Debbie Wasserman Schultz[/crscore], are in the tank for Clinton.

The DNC announced that it was suspending the Sanders campaign’s access to the national voter file a day after several Sanders staffers accessed voter information that was accidentally released by NGP VAN, a third-party vendor that maintains a database of Democratic voters.

According to CNN, the Sanders staffers conducted searches of the database that could yield useful information about potential voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, and other crucial primary states.

Two searches which were conducted included: “Show me all the Clinton people rated higher than 60” and “Show me all the people rated less than 30.” Such a search would allow the Sanders campaign to pinpoint which voters they would solicit for support — ignoring those who gave Clinton a high rating.

But the Sanders campaign claims that in suspending its access to the file, the DNC’s move violated an agreement between the two parties. The complaint also pins blame for the data leak on the DNC and on NGP VAN.

The complaint cites the two parties’ Oct. 26 agreement, which states:

Either party may terminate this Agreement in the event that the other party breaches this Agreement; the non-breaching party sends written notice to the breaching party describing the breach; and the breaching party does not cure the breach to the satisfaction of the non-breaching party within ten (10) calendar days following its receipt of such notice.

The Sanders campaign claims that the agreement “does not permit either Party to terminate or suspend the Agreement without notice, or without providing the breaching Party with the requisite opportunity to cure.”

According to the complaint, on Wednesday morning, NGP VAN released a modification of the voter data file which contained a bug “that allowed the Campaign and other presidential candidates to view Confidential Information disclosed by competing campaigns.”

The bug was resolved within four hours, but four Sanders campaign staffers had by then viewed confidential voter information for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The campaign claims that the staffers who viewed the information were not able to save or copy it because of restrictions in place on the NGP VAN software. The complaint also asserts that “most of the staffers” viewed the information “inadvertently.”

After the bug was brought to the attention of senior Sanders campaign staffers, an internal investigation was conducted which revealed that one staffer “may have repeatedly accessed Disclosed Information.”

The staffer, Josh Uretsky, was fired on Thursday. He said in interviews that he and the other staffers were not trying to download the data, but merely hoped to find out what was causing the data breach.

“The Campaign should not be punished for the carelessness of the DNC and its third-party vendor,” the complaint reads.

The voter file provides crucial campaign information, the complaint reads. The campaign stands to lose at least $600,000 per day in lost contributions.

“However the damage to the Campaign’s political viability, as a result of being unable to communicate with constituents and voters, is far more severe, and incapable of measurement,” it states.

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