Wisconsin’s top elected Democrat, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, said Friday that Democratic National Committee failures “led to an unfair process” in the 2016 primaries that made Hillary Clinton the party’s White House nominee.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairwoman Martha Laning, meanwhile, said state party officials did not “put our thumb on the scale” for Clinton or any other candidate in the 2016 primary.
Baldwin and Laning were responding to what Laning called “really disturbing” claims from former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile, who wrote that Clinton’s campaign secretly controlled much of the DNC’s operations during last year’s primaries.
But both commented Friday before a memo surfaced about the connection between Clinton’s campaign and the DNC’s fundraising apparatus.
A memo governing the relationship, revealed late Friday by various news outlets, showed that the fundraising arrangement was focused on preparing for the general election.
The memo also didn’t preclude the DNC from entering into similar agreements with other candidates and included language saying it was not intended to upend the committee’s pledge of neutrality during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, when Clinton was locked in a spirited race with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
However, the Clinton-DNC deal also called for Clinton’s campaign to oversee the hiring of new DNC staffers immediately after it was signed in August 2015 — well before primary voting took place.
Baldwin, D-Madison, said in a statement issued earlier Friday that “the new DNC leadership needs to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Brazile’s claims reflect arguments by supporters of Sanders that the DNC failed to remain neutral, favoring Clinton long before she became the party’s nominee.
President Donald Trump took advantage of the claim, tweeting earlier Friday that “Bernie Sanders supporters have every right to be apoplectic of the complete theft of the Dem primary by Crooked Hillary!”
Baldwin was an early Clinton endorser, backing her at least as early as 2015.
Brazile’s claims were published Thursday in Politico in an excerpt from her forthcoming book. She divulged that the DNC, under the leadership of her predecessor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, signed what Brazile called an “unethical” joint fundraising agreement with the Clinton campaign that allowed it to control the party’s funding and strategy. The DNC is the national umbrella organization for the Democratic Party, overseeing the presidential nominating process and helping to raise funds for down-ballot Democratic candidates.
The agreement was signed in August 2015, nearly a year before Clinton became the Democratic presidential nominee. Its existence was publicly reported at that time, but Brazile wrote that she unearthed a document in 2016 that gave new insight into the implications of the agreement.
Laning said the Democratic Party of Wisconsin took pains during the primary to make its resources equally available to the Sanders and Clinton campaigns. Sanders soundly defeated Clinton in Wisconsin’s primary, 57 percent to 43 percent. Clinton failed to keep the state in the Democratic column in the general election, losing by about 22,000 votes to Trump.
Both Laning and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, said they think the current leadership of the DNC will operate fairly.
Pocan said earlier Friday that he had not read the excerpt from Brazile’s book.
“If the party clearly had a preference for one candidate, that’s wrong,” Pocan said. “They have to be neutral in primaries, period.”