January 29, 2016   |   ANTIMEDIA
Illegally appointed DNC officials are only the tip of the spear aimed at the heart of our Democracy.
Op-Ed by L. Deeds
January 29, 2016
(ANTIMEDIA) Don’t stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. To know who’s who, there are many links — political and digital — to follow.
For most of us, this was the start: Due to a data breach, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, President Obama’s 2011 appointee to chair the Democratic National Committee and co-chair to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, suspended access by Bernie Sanders’ campaign to a voter information database, purchased from NGP VAN.
When the news broke, Clinton White House veteran and NGP VAN CEO Stuart Trevelyan published a statement that originally read, “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.” It was widely reported the “view” had lasted 40 minutes.
The suspension lasted four days. During that time, the DNC publicly characterized the Sanders campaign as a “thief,” and the viewed data as providing an unfair advantage. Denial of access was deemed a necessary security measure. Even so, it ended swiftly once public outcry began.
DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz’s statement of resolution did not mention NGP VAN, or the fact that their flawed software patch had exposed the data. Per OSSwatch, “A software patch is a record of changes … Typically a patch will add a new feature (or) fix a bug ...”
Instead, with this patch, NGP VAN disabled the firewall separating the campaigns, allowing proprietary data to be seen. For the past decade or so, campaigns have purchased voter information and software for organizing it; the proprietary data are what a campaign adds: i.e., ‘voter bought a t-shirt’ or ‘voter might be recruitable.’
Remarks by DNC CEO Amy Dacey — appointed by Wasserman Schultz from Emily’s List, an organization which endorsed Clinton 2008, is endorsing Clinton 2016, and which recently received Clinton’s SuperPAC’s financial assets — reiterated that the DNC had done what it “had to.” In this same period, as Chair Wasserman Schultz gave numerous interviews, the Sanders campaign fired staff, suspended others, and filed an 11-page lawsuit.
The DNC eventually allowed the Sanders campaign back into the database.
But this story is not about the Sanders campaign.
Once upon a time — in the pre-digital days prior to the year 2000 — individual precincts maintained separate databases and hard-copy “voter rolls.” Today’s version of that system was conceived by Democratic strategists who saw a need not only for nationally compiled and compatible data, but an opportunity to control access to a powerful tool. They are controlling it to this day.
NGP VAN, an explicitly partisan and privately-held vendor, is the gatekeeper for voter data in this story. Its product, however, is the interface between the data and the campaigns: basically, a Facebook focussed on predicting how we’ll vote. Specifically, they make APIs (per webopedia, Application Program Interface — meaning, tools for building software applications.) Given that APIs are what they sell, it is odd that their user agreement forbids use or access by “anyone” wanting “to monitor the … performance … of Our APIs.”
The data is sold by Catalist LLC — but we’ll get to that.
Given the DNC’s selection of NGP VAN and protection of it — despite a high profile security failure — questions must be asked:
- Who is running NGP VAN? Why weren’t they held accountable?
- Who is running Catalist LLC? What is their role in selling our data?
- Could another firewall fall and expose our data publicly? (Answer: It already has.)
- Who empowers the DNC? Does their Charter and Bylaws, amended in 2015, explain?
- Given President Obama’s appointment of Debbie Wasserman Schultz to DNC Chair, what are the ramifications of Bylaw Article Five, Section 2 National Chairperson: The National Chairperson … shall be elected …”
Nowhere in the DNC’s current Charter and Bylaws, nor in the 2009 edition, is Presidential Appointment cited as a valid way to fill this influential position.
As is often the case, instead of providing answers, questions lead to more questions:
- Does President Obama’s circumvention of an electoral process render this DNC invalid?
- Is Wasserman Schultz’s appointment of Amy Dacey to CEO (Bylaw Article Four, Section 2: The Executive Committee shall be elected…”) also invalid?
- Is the “sanctioned” Debate schedule, a disappointment to many, without authority?
- Since the DNC revised the Charter and Bylaws in 2015, is every member complicit in fraud?
- Since DNC members are Superdelegates (empowered to vote as they see fit, not representationally) should this DNC be dissolved before the primary?
- If this is happening in plain view, what is going on behind the scenes?
The public record —a laughable debate schedule, leadership by Clinton insiders, silence on the ongoing FBI investigation into Clinton’s term as Secretary of State, and scathing public judgement of the Sanders campaign — makes the bias of the DNC clear. Even so, it may still surprise you that NGP VAN, a theoretically neutral vendor serving both candidates, has publicly proclaimed support for Hillary: “We’ve productized many of the tools and concepts harnessed by Obama for America to provide an unparalleled edge tailored to the specific needs of Ready for Hillary.”
The DNC is run by people who have received direct financial reward from Hillary.
What explains the bias of NGP VAN?
Nathaniel Pearlman, technology officer for Clinton ‘08, founded NGP Software in 1997. Early clients included Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Rahm Emanuel. Though when and why Pearlman left is unclear — today’s NGP VAN is an international Democratic-establishment juggernaut staffed by Obama campaign veterans that enjoys a party-wide relationship with the DNC.
Following Obama’s victory by geek squad 2008, the voter analytics/software industry exploded. Since, numerous Obama programmer wunderkinds joined NGP VAN, and are now positioned to provide a real-world advantage to Clinton:
- NGP VAN VP Aharon Wasserman, canvasser for Obama ‘08, parlayed frustration with spreadsheets into the “game-changing” program with which he co-founded NationalField (acquired in 2013 by NGP VAN)
- Edward Saatchi, son of a multimillionaire aristocrat, moved to the U.S in 2008 to “help Obama win,” and co-founded NationalField
- Mitch Stewart, famous for delivering the 2008 Iowa caucus to Obama, co-founded 270 Strategies, which now works for Clinton 2016
- Dan Wagner, Obama ‘08 voter file manager, was hired by the DNC in 2010, and is now CEO of Civis Analytics
- Civis Analytics was bankrolled by Eric Schmidt, Obama 2012 veteran and Google/Alphabet multibillionaire CEO
- Eric Schmidt is also funding way-under-the-radar “thegroundwork,” — which keeps exactly what it does a secret — and whatever that is, does it exclusively for Clinton.
The spooky website of this billionaire-backed endeavor should be seen: thegroundwork.com — but proceed at your own risk, as simply looking at it appeared to run an analytics ghost on my machine.
All of which leads to more questions:
- Can the partnership of the DNC and NGP VAN be best described as an exercise in conflict of interest?
- Are financial elites and political insiders circumventing a fair nomination?
- Is Clinton their President-select?
- Is there anything we can do about it?
In a word: Yes.
The National Finance Council (NFC) was a critical part of Ready for Hillary. This coalition of the 1%, under the aegis of billionaire George Soros, pre-dates the Citizens United ruling. From the start, the focus was on “productizing” voter data — which they did by funding and founding one early bird data mining endeavor, in particular: Catalist. Although a complete listing of members was not to be found, the NFC included among its founders and and co-chairs:
- George Soros, whose relationship with the Clintons began in 1992, when he took a key role in establishing relations with the former Soviet Socialist Republic
- Steve and Amber Mostyn, Texas trial lawyers, who in 2012 gave $4.3 million to various SuperPACs
- Susie Tompkins Buell, Esprit clothing billionaire (and target of a Department of Labor sweatshop raid)
- and, in a tidbit too bizarre to omit, Sarah Palin, who earned a 2015 fundraising credit.
When Citizens United opened the legal door to SuperPACs and limitless corporate cash in 2010, the staggeringly wealthy group that would birth the NFC/Ready for Hillary had already been at work for five years. Democracy Alliance (DA) makes the NFC look transparent. A cadre of anonymous ultra-rich, it was founded in 2005 by powerbroker George Soros and Commerce Chief to President Clinton/former DNC strategist, Rob Stein. The DA can be joined by invitation only, and requires members contribute a minimum of $230,000 a year. It wields its money to manipulate politics worldwide, and hides its trail by forgoing non-profit status, instead soliciting money from unnamed million-and-billionaires directly to causes and candidates. Donors and recipients are prohibited from going public; but Keith Mestrich, President and CEO of employee-backed Amalgamated Bank —the bank of Ready for Hillary — is a self-identified member. He is also a DNC insider, having approved $15,000,000 in loans to the DNC under Wasserman Schultz.
Extremely secretive, most of what is known about the DA’s recent cash strategy comes from a Spring 2014 portfolio left behind after one of their closed-door meetings. Among the lucky receiving funding: Catalist. Catalist wasn’t the first for-profit voter databank, but now dominates the industry, supplying the data to NGP VAN’s campaign software. Its President is disgraced staffer under President Clinton, Harold M. Ickes.
A 50-year Democratic Party insider, dynastic Washington figure, and DNC member since 1988, Harold M. Ickes is a Washington kingmaker whose influence cannot be overstated. After delivering the Clintons the White House in 1992 and 1996, he resigned his post as Deputy Chief of Staff in 1997 to protect President Clinton from the finance scandal engulfing his administration.
In the years since, Ickes went backstage but remained loyal. In 2013, he returned to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, saying, “It is in my view the most important committee at the DNC because of its role in shaping the nomination process,” adding a bit mischievously, “The goal is to design rules to nominate the strongest candidate for the general election.” This year, he is again a Democratic Superdelegate — an Electoral College position designed to thwart the will of the people, a “super” can support any candidate, no matter whom voters choose in the primaries and caucuses. In absence of citizen-caucus participation, “supers” can decide the nominee.
Since serving in the Clinton White House in the 90s, Ickes spent the 2000s as senior advisor to both of Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate campaigns. In 2006 he co-founded Catalist with George Soros, the company today providing NGP VAN/The DNC with a database of “Clean and current data for 280 million individuals.” In addition to its unadvertised, but key, role as data-supplier to the DNC, Catalist is also a government contractor for something defined as “Library Services” — and has been paid $1,131,624 of our tax dollars to date.
Last year, Catalist became subject of a formal request for investigation to the Federal Election Commission. The request names the company’s clients, a who’s who of Democratic elite, including NGP VAN, Hillary, and the DNC. At its heart is the assertion that Catalist, officially a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), functions as a political organization.
Thanks to the long reach of Soros and Ickes, Hillary was President-select long before announcing her candidacy. In November, an Associated Press poll of Superdelegates revealed that of 712, 359 had already committed their support to Clinton.
The DNC’s position that the data breach gave an unfair advantage to the Sanders campaign is the opposite of the truth. Clinton is the blatant beneficiary of the unfair advantage. There is no ‘thumb on the scale’ — instead the weight of the entire party-apparatus has been applied. Many years and untrackable dollars have been spent to assure her the nomination — and it is working. The powers-that-be who have bet on her have little reason to fear, as the 40 year round robin of Reagan-Bush/Reagan-Bush/Bush/Clinton/Clinton/Bush/Bush/Obama/Obama-Clinton would seem to indicate a lack of will towards change on the part of the people.
Rigged as the process has become — and even as lack of citizen involvement has allowed it to mutate, our participation is needed to validate it; hence, the campaigns themselves, with slogans such as “Jeb Can Fix It!” or the late “Yes We Can!” Many who believed Obama’s cynical promise of “Change You Can Believe In!” may be reluctant to participate again.
But we must. Distracted and disenfranchised as we are; eroded as our rights and standard of living have become; tragically bedraggled as American Democracy is — things will only get worse for us all, unless and until we tear our government from the greedy hands manipulating it. They have the money — but we have the numbers.
This article (What You Need to Know About Hillary and the DNC Before Voting Starts on Monday) is free and open source. The views expressed are those of the author L. Deeds and do not necessarily reflect the views of Anti-Media. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.