Bernie Sanders Sues The DNC For Access To Party's Voter Database. This Isn't Good For Democrats.
In a lawsuit filed Friday, Bernie Sanders' campaign sued the Democratic National Committee in federal court over the DNC's decision to block the campaign from accessing its voter databases. The DNC revoked Sanders' access to the database on Thursday when it was revealed that members of Sanders' campaign, allegedly exploiting a software glitch, had tapped into Hillary Clinton's private files on prospective voters. Now, Clinton is calling for an independent review to make sure Sanders' campaign didn't keep any of the data it accessed. No matter how this turns out, it's a bad development for the Democratic Party.
Here's what's going on: The DNC has an enormous database on potential Democratic voters and volunteers, and it rents this database out to individual candidates' campaigns to help with their voter outreach. This is extremely valuable information for candidates and a central part of all of their campaigns. In addition to this, each campaign individually collects its own voter information to add to that database. While all candidates are allowed to access the DNC's master list, they are not allowed to access information gathered by the other campaigns.
Normally, all of this information is protected by firewalls. However, the third-party vendor that manages security for the DNC apparently screwed up on Wednesday while updating its software; as a result, all of the Democratic campaigns were briefly able to access each others' databases. At least one Sanders staffer did so, and while he was summarily fired by the campaign; the DNC nevertheless responded by revoking Sanders' campaign's access to the its voter database. Sanders is suing to regain that access.
But things are getting messy. A Sanders' spokesperson has accused the DNC of attempting to "sabotage" the Vermont senator's campaign, suggesting that the national party is doing the bidding of Clinton's campaign. This dovetails with previous allegations that the DNC, and especially its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, are in Clinton's pocket. It's been suggested, for example, that the organization intentionally scheduled the Democratic debates to take place on Saturdays in an attempt to shield Clinton from unwanted public exposure. A spokesman for the DNC tells Bustle that "broadcast networks insisted on Saturdays" for both the Democratic and GOP debates.
Meanwhile, Clinton has requested that the Sanders campaign submit to an independent review to ensure that it didn't keep any data it might have accessed during the breach. That's not an unreasonable request — but it also doesn't make the Democratic Party look like a unified, professional party. As Jamelle Bouie at Slate points out, the DNC's punishment of Sanders was draconian and extreme: The Iowa primaries are six weeks away, and losing access to the organization's database is a serious, non-trivial setback to Sanders' campaign.
Ultimately, nobody comes out of this looking good. Sanders looks shady for having accessed Clinton's private data. The DNC looks bad for levying such a severe punishment, and Clinton looks bad for essentially siding with the DNC. Every day that this feud persists is a good day for the Republicans running for president.