On the Saturday before Christmas, voter data made its debate-night debut in a big way. That evening, Bernie Sanders publicly apologized to Hillary Clinton and to his supporters for the actions of his former national data director, Josh Uretsky. Who thought political data would ever barge onto a presidential debate stage?
But that's not the weird part. As Yahoo News reported on Christmas Day, a Sanders campaign advisor has taken the data spat one step farther. The anonymous advisor hinted at outright collusion between the DNC and NGP VAN, suggesting that they might have planted Uretsky on the Sanders campaign to set up the breach. We’ve got a full-throated conspiracy theory on our hands, folks.
I'm willing to believe just about anything in the campaign world, but the idea that Uretsky was a double agent seems like a stretch. Even if he were, why act on the plot when Clinton is up more than 20 points? The potential blowback for pulling the trigger on a stunt like this would seem to outweigh any benefits.
Regardless of whether black opps were involved, this fight isn't over. While Sanders suspended (with pay) two more staffers, he hasn't withdrawn his lawsuit. In fact, even as he was preparing his debate-night apology, his staff continued hurling harsh rhetoric in the direction of political reporters. Here's how we know voter data has become an integral part of politics: It's at the center of a scandal.
Jeb Bush Will Leave Your Inbox Alone For $25
A couple of weeks back, Jeb Bush tried a fascinating fundraising tactic: he sent at least some of his supporters an email promising not to send them any more messages for two weeks. The catch? You had to send him $25 first. A mere $25 dollars to avoid campaign fundraising pitches? If only the cease-fire would apply to every campaign, PAC and party committee on both sides, because I'd happily pay up to give my inbox a breather.
Laying off supporters who've just donated is a common practice for nonprofit fundraisers, but I can't remember hearing of an organization or campaign making it an explicit promise. Of course, the message may have been an isolated test. Or perhaps it only went out to a specific segment of Bush's list. But while the email may have raised a few dollars, it doesn't seem like something that's exactly going to inspire confidence in a campaign. It almost sounds like a protection racket. "Nice Gmail account you have there. It'd be a shame if anything happened to it." On second thought, it sounds more like tone-deafness — or desperation.
Strength In Numbers
The activist Left was shocked in December by the collapse of progressive communications consulting firm Fitzgibbon Media, which shut down after founder Trevor Fitzgibbon was accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault by several women. In response, activists Beth Becker and Sarah Burris have created a Tumblr called Strength in Numbers for women (and men) in the progressive movement to tell their stories of similar behavior anonymously. Plenty of accounts have already surfaced involving firms, nonprofits, members of Congress and consultants. In most cases, the perpetrators skated free of consequences because the victims feared damage to their reputations and careers.
Now, bad behavior and politics are no strangers, but there's a big difference between consensual frivolity and outright predation. We can't tolerate this kind of behavior, folks — on either side of the aisle. Democrats don’t have a monopoly on sexual harassment. Kudos to Beth and Sarah for creating a platform to bring it out into the open. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, I've heard.
Colin Delany is founder and editor of the award-winning Epolitics.com and a 15-year veteran of online politics. See something interesting? Send him a pitch at email@example.com.