The Democratic National Committee (DNC) tried to hide the fact that Hillary Clinton's campaign allegedly benefited from a controversial joint fundraising project her team claimed was helping down-ticket candidates, according to leaked emails.
The emails, released last week ahead of the Democratic National Convention, are "validating concerns raised by campaign finance watchdogs, state party allies, and Bernie Sanders supporters" about the Hillary Victory Fund, write Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel and Isaac Arnsdorf.
For three months after concerns were raised about the fundraising venture, officials at the DNC and on Clinton's team were publicly defending the scheme, but privately working to shut down "questions raised by reporters, as well as Sanders' since-aborted campaign, about the distribution of the money."
State officials were urged to ignore questions about the transferring of money between the fund, state parties, and the DNC. When Politico emailed Ohio Democratic Party communications director Kirstin Alvanitakis to inquire about the trajectory of two donations—which went from the Hillary Victory Fund to the Ohio party to the DNC within a day—Alvanitakis emailed the DNC stating, "I would prefer not to respond to this. There is no reason to share that level of strategic information with a reporter. Please let me know if you would like to proceed differently."
In another instance, the DNC's deputy communications director Eric Walker emailed a group of officials in late April:
Messages coming in from lots of state parties now.
He’s asking about FEC reports that show transfers from state parties to the DNC of exact dollar amounts raised by the HFA / state party JFAs. So in other words, let’s say HFA raised 300k for PA Dems… PA Dems sending that money back to DNC.
Clinton's allies have long claimed that the extravagant donations the committee solicited that paid for large portions of Clinton's presidential run also contributed to campaigns of down-ticket Democrats from 40 states—but in reality, those parties "kept less than one half of one percent of the $82 million raised" through the Hillary Victory Fund, Politico reports.
Vogel and Arnsdorf write:
The emails show the officials agreeing to withhold information from reporters about the Hillary Victory Fund's allocation formula, working to align their stories about when—or if—the DNC had begun funding coordinated campaign committees with the states. They also show one official blaming Sanders for putting the DNC between "a real rock vs hard place" by forcing "a fight in the media with the party bosses over big money fundraising."
The emails have scandalized the Democratic party and forced the ouster of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who came under particularly harsh scrutiny after it was revealed that the committee worked to sabotage Sanders' campaign from the beginning.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings show that state parties who are engaged with the Hillary Victory Fund received $7.7 million since the fund's inception, but within a few days of most transfers, $6.9 million of that money went straight to the DNC in chunks of up to $300,000 at a time, Vogel and Arnsdorf report.
The only instance in which state parties received donations from the fund and didn't hand it over to the DNC was the day that Politico published a story in May exposing the setup.
In that case, state parties received $10,000.