“Incompetence”

“Heavy-handed … unprecedented”

“Stolen by the DNC”

“Taking our campaign hostage”

“Death sentence”

Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, pulled absolutely no punches throughout Friday in responding to the DNC’s actions to shut down the Sanders’ campaign access to VAN, the campaign’s main voter file. It was the culmination of months of frustration with the DNC, which the Sanders campaign and many others see as being biased toward Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Some of it was certainly justified, but what was notably lacking in most of the Sanders campaign’s response was any sense of contrition.

Their national data director (not, as they tried to play it off earlier, a “low-level” staffer) took advantage of a breach in the VAN’s firewall to access sensitive and valuable proprietary data from the Clinton campaign. While the Sanders campaign called this act “unacceptable” and quickly fired the staffer, they also consistently framed it in a larger complaint against the DNC and the VAN.

Then, in what is perhaps the most irresponsible fundraising email I’ve ever seen, the Sanders campaign actually tried to raise money off it. And that’s where this went from an embarrassing press day for Democrats to a seriously dangerous moment for the Democratic Party’s chances in 2016.

In an email entitled “Urgent: DNC tipping the scales for Hillary Clinton,” the Sanders campaign accused the DNC of trying to “undermine” their campaign by shutting down their database access. They framed the situation as being caused by “a fault in [the DNC’s] own technology platforms.” At absolutely no point in the email did they mention in any way that one of their top staffers improperly accessed Clinton data and was fired for it.

In fact, they tried to pass themselves off as the heroes of this situation in their press conference and press release. The Sanders campaign discovered a glitch in the VAN’s software back in October, they say, and brought it to the attention of the DNC then. They were being punished when they were the ones who found the problem, a line their die-hard supporters repeated non-stop throughout the day.

Just one problem: NGP VAN says they were never alerted to such a problem, and in interviews on Friday afternoon, the former Sanders data director, Josh Uretsky, says the glitch being referred to wasn’t even with the VAN. It was a different program. So not only did the Sanders campaign commit a lie of omission in their fundraising email, it appears they outright lied about the earlier problem to the press. Or, at the very least, this was yet another instance where many people inside the Sanders campaign don’t seem to be on the same page. [Update: However, Wasserman Schultz seemed to indicate in an interview in CNN last night that they did know about the October issue, and seems to imply it was with the VAN. I’ll check to see if this is really the case, or if she didn’t understand which database she was talking about. Update 2: I’ve confirmed the October issue was not the VAN]

And even if that was the case, that still in no way excuses their staff accessing the Clinton data. If anything, it makes it worse. If they knew that VAN occasionally drops the firewall, they should have had procedures in place to immediately contact VAN to make sure the Clinton campaign couldn’t see their data.

And while the DNC’s VAN shut-off was a very drastic move that essentially froze the Sanders campaign, there was a legitimate, serious concern that top Sanders staffers were trying to steal important Clinton data. Uretsky claimed in several media interviews that he was only trying to document the problem for VAN, another line that Sanders backers quickly picked up to use in their defense (and seem to ignore the fact that he was fired). But looking at the VAN audit that was provided to Starting Line and other news outlets, it’s clear that was not the case.

I’ve worked with the VAN since 2003, back since its very early years in Iowa. But you don’t even need that much experience to realize that the searches Uretsky and his deputy were conducting were designed to ascertain specific modeling and targeting data from the Clinton campaign. Running multiple searches for 40 minutes of Clinton turnout and persuasion scores in key early states is an obvious attempt to glean valuable data from your rival.

It does not appear they were able to export any of these lists, but serious damage was still done. Just knowing the size of these potential universes is critical knowledge. Running lists of turnout scores can tell you how many people the Clinton campaign believes will turn out to caucus. Querying their persuasion scores can get you a rough estimate of how many supporters they think they have in a state. That’s extremely valuable information the Sanders campaign may now have.

Could there have been better communication between the DNC and the Sanders campaign? It sure looks like it. Could the DNC have held a behind-the-scenes discussion with Sanders staff to resolve the issue better? Probably, and it looked like the Sanders lawsuit had real merit in that they were supposed to have been given time to correct any improprieties. A lot of this is a result of poor management of the Democratic primary on Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s part, something which I’ve criticized her repeatedly this year for.

But looking at the larger, long-term picture, the way the Sanders campaign spun this ordeal for their supporters was incredibly irresponsible and downright dangerous for the party. Trying to convince your supporters the DNC took your data “hostage” simply because they don’t like you is utterly insane and disingenuous. The Sanders campaign committed real, serious transgressions. Their data director attempting to steal data worth millions of dollars from their rival’s campaign was an unprecedented attempt of campaign theft at the highest level. To think there would be no consequences is ridiculous. And using a defense that turns out to apparently not even be accurate shows their campaign doesn’t seem to know what’s going on in their own headquarters.

This all is actually more dangerous than hitting Clinton for more centrist views in the past or for her ties to Wall Street money. The Sanders coalition is made up of people who are frustrated with “politics as usual.” Convincing them the game is rigged is much more likely to depress Sanders supporters’ turnout in the general when/if Clinton is the nominee than any attack on Clinton’s slow decision to oppose the Keystone Pipeline ever would be.

They are certainly correct that the DNC has acted favorably toward Clinton. The debate schedule is ridiculous and cynical. Wasserman Shultz needlessly antagonizes in these types of situations in her media appearances. But the Sanders campaign has acted no better and now risks turning their political revolution into a group of angry voters who sit out the 2016 election.

Look, Bernie Sanders is a great Senator, lifelong progressive and champion for many issues ignored by the party and mainstream media. He has accomplished tremendous things this year for Democrats and political activism in general. Economic inequality and Wall Street reform has returned to a place of prominence in the party, ensuring more finally gets accomplished on those fronts. The excitement he generates in young people is inspiring.

His campaign does not live up to his example or stature. If there’s another point Sanders supporters should be frustrated with, it’s that their candidate’s message and candidacy is being undermined by a dysfunctional campaign.

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 12/19/15

57 thoughts on “Sanders Campaign’s Reckless Reaction To Data Breach Is A Danger To All Democrats

  1. This is hyperbolic, false reporting. For the writer to suggest they know the intentions of the staffer is irresponsible and flatly untrue. Further, Rynard is selectively choosing which part of Uretsky’s story is true and which is not. If you want to readers to take you seriously, err on the side of facts, not theories.

    1. He included the facts – it is not conjecture:
      “Running multiple searches for 40 minutes of Clinton turnout and persuasion scores in key early states.” This is documented.

      1. Yes and he saved the search terms while investigating the breach inside of the VAN program he did not export any information. Running a search every two minitues not exporting or printing them(which would have been shown in the audit logs) Is quite an odd way to go about “stealing” data. In fact given the lag time between doing a search and seeing the results he really wouldn’t have had any time at all to look at them which meshes much better with the idea he was documenting the breach then otherwise.

    2. It takes a tremendous amount of chutzpah to look at the logs provided by NGP-VAN and accept Uretsky’s stated intent at face value. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter. What was gleaned was gleaned. Committing a misdeed to prove that it can be done … doesn’t excuse it.

      As for picking and choosing, the part of his story assumed to be true (not the VAN product reported in October) also jibes with the NGP-VAN statements about not having received any sort of notice about a vulnerability from the Sanders camp.. corresponding with what’s known. The part assumed not to be true (we were just checking out a vulnerability!) is assumed not to be true because it *conflicts* with what’s known.

      1. Really how so. So he ran 24 searches, and saved bookmarks to the 24 searches in 40 mins. Given the amount of time it takes for the NGP-VAN to respond to some of the more complex searches he wouldn’t have had any time to look at the data before running a new one. The fact is the searches were saved inside the program not exported out of it. This actually meshes quite well with the idea of documenting a data breach rather then trying to steal and analyze data(you’d need more then 30 sec per search to do something like that)

    3. This is only ONE fact; a negative for the Bernie side, but it’s only one fact, and there are plenty of damning facts about the DNCs lies and misrepresentations in their awkward explanations.This was an inexcusable blunder by the software company. They had to TAKE DOWN THE FIREWALL in order to install a program fix. As a retired IT professional, I can state that that is very bad planning. They are either brain dead or they new they were opening up a possible liability. The DNC should sue them.
      One high level staffer did exactly what I would have done; He looked at the data returned by his search, ( you can’t tell who’s data it is without LOOKING at it) Looked then to see how extensive it was, made logs as to what he was looking at, and then deleted the data. He should not have been fired. Some lower level staffers got wind of the breach, and copied the data. That data is no longer in the hands of the Sanders campaign. Hopefully, these guys will be taken to the woodshed.

      Schultz and her assistant were both flustered and in disarray as they were being interviewed. They clearly had not expected a backlash.

      Well, there was a huge backlash. The public seems to think this was a dirty trick. It wasn’t, of course. It was just normal, nasty politics. And Bernie brought in over $1million in 24 hours.

      It was caused by an incompetent software vendor, and an ill-thought-out response by Schultz, an avowed Clinton supporter.

      1. “One high level staffer did exactly what I would have done; He looked at the data returned by his search, ( you can’t tell who’s data it is without LOOKING at it) Looked then to see how extensive it was, made logs as to what he was looking at, and then deleted the data. ”

        This is absolute nonsense. Look at the logs of the queries run, and the lists saved, and then come back and tell me it was just to check the extent of it.

        Here you go: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/12/18/merged_document.pdf

        1. He saved the searches themselves not the data… its like putting a bookmark in Chrome you still need to reload the webpage each and every time. The logs don’t show any data being exported… Sorry but no data was stolen only thing saved were the search terms to pull the data at a later time… which fits quite well with the idea that he was documenting an issue… the fact is that with the number of searches run and the time it takes the server to return the data he didn’t have any time to actually analyze any of the searches.

    4. NGP VAN issued a patch that opened the firewall BOTH WAYS. BOTH campaigns could access each others info.
      The Sanders staffer fired admits he poked around, knowing his actions would be tracked, to see what was exposed from the Sanders campaign, but denies accessing or downloading any Clinton info which NGP VAN confirms even though Wasserman-Schultz lied and said they DID download info.
      If you go to NGP VAN’s OWN website you will see Aharon Wasserman,Vice President, Creative & Marketing.
      https://www.ngpvan.com/about/team/aharon-wasserman
      Stu Trevelyan is the CEO and worked for 1992 Clinton-Gore war-room campaign and then the Clinton White House.
      http://www.fireandreamitchell.com/…/stu-trevelyan-ceo…/
      It is just as likely the Clinton Campaign accessed Sanders info. But we only have NGP VAN and Wasserman-Schultz’s word on that and Wasserman-Schultz was already caught lying!!!
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Pearlman
      Nathaniel Goss Pearlman (born October 7, 1965, in Manhattan, New York and raised in Boulder, Colorado) is an American political technology consultant aligned with the Democratic Party. In 1997, he founded NGP Software, Inc., a company which provides political software to a majority of federal Democrats including most Democratic candidates for President (including Dean, Gephardt, Kerry, Graham, Edwards, Obama, and Clinton) in both 2004 and 2008. He was chief technology officer for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and an early practitioner in the area of computers and politics.[1] In 2010, NGP Software merged with the Voter Action Network to become NGP VAN. [2]

    5. **********IMPORTANT**************
      This AUTHOR is biased…
      Are you aware that the author Rynard was a field organizer for Hillary in 2007 and 2008? This is an opinion piece from a partisan Hillary supporter, nothing more. Check his LinkedIn page.

      1. As mentioned earlier, all you need to do is check the About Us section on this website where I note my campaign background, which has been up there from day 1. And again, my regular readers know Starting Line has covered all the Democratic candidates fairly and equally throughout the primary. Perhaps you should go read some of my posts that criticize the DNC and Clinton’s campaign.

        1. Well, you said something bad about Senator Sanders. Ergo, you’re a Hillary shill who is cynically destroying Senator Sanders’ chances.

          As you’ve worried about in the OP, the Sanders supporters are now all radicalized. They’ve already crossed the “we don’t trust the media” Rubicon after being egged on by Sanders campaign, and their thought process and rhetoric are now indistinguishable from that of a Trump supporters or just Tea Party crazies in general.

    6. Well the writer did say he worked for the van. so I doubt he was trying to do anything other than painting the Sanders camp as completely faulted also you guys should read to on the latest news on the #DemDataGate. See who the guy that did the breach was, and who he was referred by. the damage being done to the democratic party is mostly coming from Debbie Wasserman Schultz. this guy even says she is bad at being the head. but like Schultz, he is painting a picture that is Deflecting the where the real problem is.

  2. You choose to undermine him by stating this on this date. The message is one playing into Hillary campaign. Love the onesided ethics just before debate.

    1. It’s bizarre. They troll Hillary’s Facebook page like a pack of wolves, recycling conspiracy theories, GOP talking points and attacks and bullying her supporters. All in the name of “progressive” values.

    2. I support #BernieSanders and I just want a fair primary and election. I’ve been a Democrat for 61 years, I am neither unhinged or fanatical.

      1. I support Bernie Sanders also and am not unhinged and fanatical. I have never before seen a candidate as deserving of the presidency as I see in him. His history speaks for itself. This software company is headed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s nephew and techies have said NEVER before do they remove FIREWALLS in the middle of the day. DWS also worked for HRC in 2008, has limited the amount of debates. This ENTIRE issue is SO rigged, it stinks. And… if the software co knew they had problems and the DNC was aware of them in October why didn’t they fix it then? Why did they run to the media? Why did they go against their own laws and not follow the 10day rule to fact check before they drastically cut of Sander’s campaign??
        Can anybody here really question a candidate such as Bernie Sander’s who has a reputation as being a person of the utmost integrity versus Hillary Clinton who has earned herself some major trust issues?

        1. I am not unhinged and fanatical.

          *spends the rest of the post rambling about DNC conspiracy*

          We really gotta come up with a name for you people. Truthers, Deathers, and Birthers were all catchy.

        1. His campaign staffs and supporters, however, appear to be adapting the “ethics be damned, we will win no matter what!” attitude. Pity. Senator Sanders seems like a really good guy. Too bad he’s surrounded by unethical and cynical jackals.

  3. Joseph, it’s pretty clear what the Sanders data director was doing by querying support/turnout data from the Clinton campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. He did not query this data for other states, but did grab some more basic data for a few others. He may well end up facing prosecution.

    If you want to argue against the author, I’d love to see your counterarguments, but it looks like you are just wishing for the facts to be the way you want them to be.

    1. Keith, I’m reposting this for you>
      This is only ONE fact; a negative for the Bernie side, but it’s only one fact, and there are plenty of damning facts about the DNCs lies and misrepresentations in their awkward explanations.This was an inexcusable blunder by the software company. They had to TAKE DOWN THE FIREWALL in order to install a program fix. As a retired IT professional, I can state that that is very bad planning. They are either brain dead or they new they were opening up a possible liability. The DNC should sue them.
      One high level staffer did exactly what I would have done; He looked at the data returned by his search, ( you can’t tell who’s data it is without LOOKING at it) Looked then to see how extensive it was, made logs as to what he was looking at, and then deleted the data. He should not have been fired. Some lower level staffers got wind of the breach, and copied the data. That data is no longer in the hands of the Sanders campaign. Hopefully, these guys will be taken to the woodshed.

      Schultz and her assistant were both flustered and in disarray as they were being interviewed. They clearly had not expected a backlash.

      Well, there was a huge backlash. The public seems to think this was a dirty trick. It wasn’t, of course. It was just normal, nasty politics. And Bernie brought in over $1million in 24 hours.

      It was caused by an incompetent software vendor, and an ill-thought-out response by Schultz, an avowed Clinton supporter.

  4. Thank you for an excellent article. This incident has convinced me the Sanders campaign is not ready for primetime. I am beyond disgusted by his staffers’ damaging shenanigans yesterday. I was on the fence, but I will now be caucusing for Clinton here in Iowa.

    1. Are you aware that the author Rynard was a field organizer for Hillary in 2007 and 2008? This is an opinion piece from a partisan Hillary supporter, nothing more. Check his LinkedIn page.

      1. That figures… more COLLUSION and there are actually people here reading this nonsense changing their minds and votes for HER??? PLEASE read all of this and make an intelligent choice for the good of you, your family and this country. Hint… it is not Hillary.

  5. Apparently Sanders cant be trusted to employ honest staffers to work on a campaign, so how can we ever trust him to staff a WhiteHouse? Basically a washed-up Hippie on a geriatric ego trip, Bernie has proven himself to be grossly incompetent and now, possibly lacking integrity and character. He certainly is NOT executive material and should not be on our Dem ticket.

    1. You folks are whining back and forth for no good reason. We have known for a LONG time that there was an over the top person working for Bernie because of the trolls… but Hillary has trolls too. Claiming to have never been appraised of the security faux pas is disingenuous. The company in control knew it too. So quityerbeefin. Hillary is working with the DNC Chair to make this HER primary. This is worse than looking at her data. It is denying the citizens of the US a fair campaign with only one possible winner. We who support Bernie will continue to support him. WE don’t believe Debbie Wasserman Schultz… and want her gone. Hear that President Obama?

  6. The vulnerabiliteis remained and only one campaign was shut out of the system pending a patch. This measn that all other campaigns were then aware of the vulnerability and could view or download at will from any other camapign sharing the DNC database. Does this make any sense? In theory shutting off access to ALL campaings until a patch was deployed, or leaving it open to all campaigns but the selective nature of the DNC shut out is what i find most revealing.

  7. “perhaps the most irresponsible fundraising email I’ve ever seen” and “This all is actually more dangerous than hitting Clinton for more centrist views in the past or for her ties to Wall Street money.” Are you serious? Hyperbole is right. Not buying it. If a mistake was made in Sander’s camp that’s one thing, but no need to pump it up by showing how Clinton missteps pale in comparison. Blah blah blah.

  8. Naw, people weren’t forced to fundraise yesterday. We did it because we wanted to show DWS that Bernie has our support. I first saw the idea on reddit.

    “On Wednesday morning, there was a release of VAN code. Unfortunately, it contained a bug. For a brief window, the voter data that is always searchable across campaigns in VoteBuilder included client scores it should not have, on a specific part of the VAN system. So for voters that a user already had access to, that user was able to search by and view (but not export or save or act on) some attributes that came from another campaign.”
    http://blog.ngpvan.com/news/data-security-and-privacy#.VnRxJVbm-RA.facebook

    The information was available to every campaign, the staffer who caught and reported it was fired. I’d wait for an investigation before I’d start slandering his name for the conduct of the staff member he fired.

  9. The author should disclose at the outset of this opinion piece that he was a Hillary organizer. He is also lying by omission when he calls it “VAN” – when it’s real name is NGP-VAN – where the NGP is Nathan Pearlman, Hillary’s 2008 digital director and owner of NGP-VAN. In other words, this is a story by a former Hillary employee about DWS, another former Hillary employee, that hides the involvement of Pearlman – another Hillary employee. You may be in Iowa, but you have a future on K Street.

    1. Actually all my regular readers on this site are well-aware of my background. It has been listed on the site since day 1. My readers also know I consistently give fair and roughly equal coverage to all the candidates. You seem to be unfamiliar with Democratic campaign lingo in your criticism of how I refer to it as the “VAN.” That’s what the database is called. The company that runs it is called NGP VAN

    2. Pat Rynard is one of the very few political bloggers in Iowa that consistently gives equal and fair coverage to all Democratic candidates, and even GOP candidates when they are deserving. He also calls them out when they’ve done something that warrants it. He’s written positive & negative articles about each candidate based on his well informed experience. As someone who works in the campaign realm, I trust his analysis to be fair and un-biased.

      You are of course entitled to your opinion, but to accuse Pat of being some kind of secret mole for the Clinton campaign really makes my blood boil. You are absolutely wrong about that.

  10. Ah, bullshit, I don’t even root for either of them, but seeing Sanders campaign operatives know how to turn this on the DNC was impressive. No matter that they transgressed a bit with their searching. The DNC run to the media to try and smear Sanders to benefit Clinton was such an over the top breach that this response was more than well deserved; they would have been pathetic in my eyes had they not responded such.

  11. His campaign does not live up to his example or stature. If there’s another point Sanders supporters should be frustrated with, it’s that their candidate’s message and candidacy is being undermined by a dysfunctional campaign.

  12. “Trying to convince your supporters the DNC took your data “hostage” simply because they don’t like you is utterly insane and disingenuous.”
    1) they DID take his info hostage
    2) clearly pro-Hillary, the only common sense reason that they broke their own rule by punishing Sanders without due course, is PRECISELY because they don’t like him. Same reason for the debate schedule. They don’t like him and don’t want him to be the nominee. So much for DNC neutrality.

    1. Time to drop some truth-bombs. Of course the DNC are pro-Hillary. Why wouldn’t they be? She’s a Democrat. That matters a lot in a Democratic primary. She’s been raising money for the DNC and Democratic candidates all over the country for decades. Do you think that is not taken in to account?

      Of course you’ll find ties to Hillary Clinton everywhere you look in the realm of Democratic political operatives. She’s been around a long time, and our world is not that big. About 1/4 of the people I’ve worked with in my career have worked for her or Bill at some point. And yes, they like her and want her to win. That’s not an Anti-Bernie conspiracy

      I love Bernie Sanders, and he was a great Senator, but last time I checked there has been an (I) next to his name for his entire political career. How much money has he raised for Democratic candidates? How many staffers did he send to battleground states last year to help with mid-term campaigns? As far as I know, the answer is zero. Yet I saw Clinton and O’Malley staffers pitching in across the board, fighting along side us even though their candidates weren’t yet on the ballot.

      These things matter. Pat is absolutely right to condemn the conduct of Bernie’s supporters, who have proven to be extremely thin skinned and defensive at every turn. I realize many of them are new to politics, and we do need to be patient. But if Bernie’s supporters want their candidate to be taken seriously they should stick to preaching his message, not attacking other candidates, the DNC, and anyone who has a positive word to say about Hillary Clinton.

  13. Back up, Back up … wait a minute here.. Why is no one talking about how Hillary Clintons “former” employee owns the company involved with the data scandal. NGP VAN founder Nathaniel Pearlman has had a very close relationship with the Clintons, and served as chief technology officer for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. The VP of NGPVAN is Aharon Wasserman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s nephew. At the very least, this was gross ineptitude, at worst it was orchestrated to discredit Sanders. The nepotism and corruption run deep at the DNC. Bernie Sanders entire campaign has been suppressed from the News Media which are beholding to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This entire occurrence has helped Bernie Sanders to expose the corruption that exists and if any REAL Patriotic American can’t see that now, then they have a real mental impairment.

      1. “The VP of NGPVAN is Aharon Wasserman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s nephew.”

        No.

        He was the Chief Tech oFficer of CLinton’s failed ’08 campaign. he is thisclose to clinton.

  14. Just remember, Pat Rynard, that if Hillary does secure the nomination, she will win the general election only if she sways the Bernie voters. This is by no means at all a ‘given’. This kind of deceitful hyperbole does not do anything to keep the different camps on friendly terms. I would consider ratcheting it down a bit.

  15. NGP VAN is a campaign contributer to Clinton.
    DWS is a Hillary Supporter
    NGP VAN CEO is DWS Nephew

    So many things wrong with this.

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