Bernie's own breach bombshell ignored by media: Clinton's campaign could have potentially spied on his voter data, too

Bernie Sanders provided crucial context the media has largely ignored about about the DNC voter data scandal

Published December 21, 2015 4:30PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/AP/Jim Cole/Photo montage by Salon)
(Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/AP/Jim Cole/Photo montage by Salon)

Bernie Sanders provided important context to the recent Democratic National Committee voter data scandal in the third Democratic presidential debate Saturday night.

Stressing points that the media has largely ignored, Sanders speculated that the Hillary Clinton campaign could have also accessed his campaign's data in the software breech — while his campaign was the one that was blamed. He furthermore indicated that similar errors have happened in the past, which his campaign quickly and honestly resolved and did not politicize in order to attack Clinton's campaign.

After an error occurred with the software the Democratic National Committee (DNC) uses for its voter data on Dec. 18, the Sanders campaign was accused of accessing the Clinton campaign's voter data.

The DNC subsequently cut off Sanders' access to the crucial voting database. Clinton's supporters blasted Sanders, and the media portrayed his campaign as dishonest. Many media reports, however, ignored significant details — namely that this isn't the first time such an error has happened, that the error lasted only around 30 minutes, and that the DNC violated its own rules by barring Sanders' campaign from the data.

Sanders' campaign promptly sued the DNC for violating its own rules. Sanders' lawsuit noted that "the loss of DNC support could significantly disadvantage, if not cripple, a Democratic candidate's campaign for public office." It also pointed out that the DNC's voter data agreement stipulated:

"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."

In other words, the DNC was not allowed to cut off Sanders' access without first sending a written notice to his campaign and waiting 10 days to see if it obliged to the demands. And yet the DNC blocked Sanders' campaign immediately.

This scandal, the way it was distorted in the media, and its timing just before the first primary vote in New Hampshire — where Sanders has been leading Clinton in the polls — caused Sanders' supporters to accuse the DNC of acting on behalf of Hillary Clinton. These suspicions were compounded by the fact that DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is an ally of Hillary Clinton.

Saturday, Sanders and the DNC reached a deal, granting his campaign access again to the crucial voter data.

The New Hampshire Democratic presidential debate began Saturday night with questions about this scandal.

Sanders replied noting that similar data errors have happened in the past at least twice, and that his campaign dealt with them responsibly -- and, unlike Clinton's campaign, did not try to turn them into a scandal.

"On two occasions, there were breeches in information two months ago. Our staff found information on our computers from the Clinton campaign. And when our staffers said, 'Whoa, what's going here?' They went to the DNC quietly. They went to the vendor and said, 'Hey, something is wrong,' and that was quietly dealt with. None of that information was looked at. Our staffer at that point did exactly the right thing," Sanders explained.

"A few days ago a similar incident happened. There was a breach because the DNC vendor screwed up, information came to our campaign. In this case, our staff did the wrong thing -- they looked at that information. As soon as we learned that they looked at that information, we fired that person. We are now doing an independent internal investigation to see who else was involved," he continued.

Sanders said he recognized that this was a "problem," and apologized to Clinton on behalf of his campaign. "But what the DNC did arbitrarily without discussing it with us is shut off our access to our information crippling our campaign. That is an egregious act," he insisted.

In a point completely looked over by the media, Sanders also pointed out that Clinton's campaign could have participated in the same wrongdoing of which his campaign was accused.

"I look forward to working with Secretary Clinton for an investigation, an independent investigation, about all of the breaches that have occurred from day one in this campaign, because I am not convinced that information from our campaign may not have ended up in her campaign," Sanders emphasized in the debate.

He called for "an independent investigation," and asked Clinton to do the same.

"When we saw the breach two months, we didn't go running to the media and make a big deal about it," Sanders added. "And it bothers me very much that, rather than working on this issue to resolve it, it has become many press releases from the Clinton campaign later."

Breaking Down The Third Democratic Debate

By Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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2016 Democratic Debate 2016 Democratic Primary Aol_on Bernie Sanders Dnc Hillary Clinton