Bernie Sanders has settled a bareknuckled dispute with the Democratic Party over his campaign’s voter records, with the Democratic National Committee agreeing on Friday night to give the Sanders campaign back its access to its voter data.
Both the DNC and the Sanders campaign claimed victory, saying they had come away with what they wanted in the vicious brouhaha that unfolded late this week.
“The Democratic National Committee on Friday capitulated and agreed to reinstate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign’s access to a critically-important voter database,” the Sanders campaign said in a statement.
“The Sanders campaign has now complied with the DNC’s request to provide the information that we have requested of them,” DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.
After four Sanders campaign staffers were accused on Thursday of inappropriately accessing Clinton campaign data, the DNC barred the Sanders from accessing its own all-important voter data. Seeking relief, the Sanders campaign filed a lawsuit to challenge the DNC and won back access shortly before midnight.
Sanders’ access to the data would be restored by Saturday morning, the campaign said. The Sanders campaign did not say whether it would drop a lawsuit it filed against the DNC for monetary relief: the campaign estimated it would lose $600,000 a day without access to its voter file and its fundraising tools.
Now, the Sanders campaign will submit to an independent audit of its handling of the data it accessed, to ensure it no longer has the Clinton data it accessed. “We believe this audit should proceed immediately, and, pending its finding, we expect further disciplinary action to be taken as appropriate,” Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon said in a statement.
The Clinton campaign had called early Friday evening on the Sanders campaign submit to an independent audit. “The only thing that is being asked of the Sanders campaign is to provide an independent access and validation that they’re not still in position of Clinton campaign data,” said Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the situation “completely unacceptable,” and Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook called it an “egregious breach” that endangered the campaign.
But by playing hardball with the Sanders campaign, the DNC—and by extension, the Clinton campaign—risked arousing the anger of much of the Democratic base.
Indeed, progressive Democrats came out in force to support Sanders on Friday when his access to voter data was shut off. Some 250,000 people signed a MoveOn.org petition supporting Sanders, and Democrats for America (DFA) collected about another 100,000. Some prominent Democrats spoke out, and rejoiced over the DNC’s decision.
“Thanks to the swift response of hundreds of thousands of progressives all across the country, the Democratic National Committee’s absurdly heavy-handed attack on Bernie Sanders’ grassroots campaign has been halted,” Charles Chamberlain, executive director of DFA. “While the trust of grassroots Democrats in the DNC’s neutrality in the presidential race can only be restored with time and actions, the reversal of this disturbing decision is a good first step in the right direction.”
It is unclear how long the audit of the Sanders campaign will last, but the dispute threatens to overshadow the Democratic debate on Saturday night.