A release of Democratic National Committee emails from WikiLeaks shows Politico reporter Ken Vogel sent a pre-publication negative copy of a story April 30 to the DNC’s deputy communications director, so he and other staffers at the DNC along with Hillary Clinton campaign could coordinate a response.
“Vogel gave me his story ahead of time/before it goes to his editors as long as I didn’t share it. Let me know if you see anything that’s missing and I’ll push back,” wrote Mark Paustenbach in an email to his boss, Luis Miranda, who before taking over communications for the DNC worked for President Barak Obama’s White House outreach to Latinos, as well as other campaigns, including the Democratic 2000 recount operation in Florida.
The subject line of Vogel’s email: “per agreement … any thoughts appreciated.”
The actual story ran May 2: “Clinton fundraising leaves little for state parties: The Democratic front-runner says she’s raising big checks to help state committees, but they’ve gotten to keep only 1 percent of the $60 million raised.”
The story gave voice to complaints by the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D.-Vt.), who was Hillary Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination for president, that the DNC, 32 state political parties and the Hillary Victory Fund was a money laundering operation for the Clinton campaign. The HVF was a super-PAC, which because of its affiliation with the party was allowed under federal law to accept donations up to $350,000, but when it was time to split the funds the bulk of the money with to Clinton’s own campaign.
This excerpt shows how the deal worked with one of Vogel’s questions and Paustenbach’s reply to him in bold:
5.) Some state party sources have expressed concern that the arrangement could actually hurt participating state parties by keeping them from accepting cash from donors whose checks to the HVF counted towards their $10,000 limit to participating state parties that never got to spend the cash because it was transferred to the DNC. Does that concern you? (possible off-the-record answer) At this giving level, these are sophisticated donors; they know what they are doing. If they don’t want to give to a state party through HVF and would rather give direct they certainly can. They are allowed under the JFA agreement to omit any state they want to. Most state parties do not have access to the level of donors who are writing huge checks.
Vogel’s story was two months after Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D.-Hawaii) resigned as the DNC’s vice-chairwoman because she was upset by what she described as the committee’s tilt towards Clinton and against Sanders, who she then endorsed.
Paustenbach sent another email April 30: “Ken is closing his story this afternoon, so I got him our previous quote on the JFAs. Also, background about all that we are doing and have done to support the states, especially the points Amy made. Will keep folks posted.” Joint Fundraising Activities, or JFA, are the arrangements between the DNC and other political entities. Federal protects the position of the national parties in the political process by allowing them the virtually unrestricted ability to coordinate with other entities, while non-party committees must operate independently.
Given the heads-up that Vogel’s story is about to post, Miranda replies: “Absolutely, we’ll reinforce it.”
The DNC’s CEO Amy Dacey, who had been the executive director of Emily’s List, replied: “Guys I really want to be aggressive on this jfa raised $ to support general election efforts money is moving to states as we build up coordinated campaign structures We just have to make sure we aren’t letting any narrative that not supporting states efforts And really need to push our work here!”
Also on the thread, Paustenbach added that he was working with the Clinton campaign on a partnered response to the Vogel piece and that they agree to the DNC’s lines in the script: “They agreed that we should highlight all the ways the state parties benefit from DNC infrastructure improvements.”
The excerpt from a May 2 email shows that by the time The Hill’s reporter Jonathan Swan reached to the DNC for comment Miranda was more than ready:
“Hi Jonathan, per our call, here is a quote from me: ‘The suggestion there’s anything unusual about our joint victory funds has no basis in the law or reality, as recognized by numerous independent experts that have looked at this. The fact is both campaigns signed on to similar agreements. While only one campaign is currently using their joint victory fund we encourage both of our campaigns to identify opportunities to support the national and state Democratic parties now so that we can continue to build the infrastructure to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot in November.’ – DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda.”