A new batch of emails released by Wikileaks from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta have confirmed what many long suspected about the Democratic Party primary debates: that they were rigged to protect and support former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.
On April 27th, 2015, Podesta received an email titled, “Revised debate memo,” written by Clinton campaign chief administrative officer Charlie Baker. The memo explained how the Clinton campaign wanted the debates to be setup to help their candidate.
The revised memo, which was also sent to Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook and longtime Clinton advisor Ronald Klain, details the objectives of the Clinton campaign regarding debates. It discusses how they had worked with the DNC to get what they wanted and box out Clinton’s primary opponents.
Through internal discussions, we concluded that it was in our interest to: 1) limit the number of debates (and the number in each state); 2) start the debates as late as possible; 3) keep debates out of the busy window between February 1 and February 27, 2016 (Iowa to South Carolina); 4) create a schedule that would allow the later debates to be cancelled if the race is for practical purposes over; 5) encourage an emphasis on local issues and local media participants in the debate formats; and 6) ensure a format that provides equal time for all candidates and does not give the moderator any discretion to focus on one candidate.
Baker says these objectives, to limit the debates and keep them out of the public eye as much as possible, have been part of discussion with the DNC. Baker also notes that the DNC was on board and working with the Clinton campaign to jam her opponents’ attempts to get both more and more visible debates.
Through discussion of these goals with the DNC their current plan is to begin a debate schedule that would commence in early October, with one debate a month, one each in the early primary and caucus states, and the remaining 2 post South Carolina (we will need to push them to post March 1 and then the later 2 debates would be cancelled if the race ends). The DNC’s current plan is to release the attached press release (which lacks this specificity but confirms the number and start window for the debates). The other campaigns have advocated (not surprisingly) for more debates and for the schedule to start significantly earlier. Mo and Anita believe that this announcement prior to the actual entry into the race of other candidates will strengthen their hand as they lock a schedule in with local media partners and state parties.
That’s right, coordination right down to a Clinton campaign pre-approved press release. The game was over before it began.
It should be recognized that most observers understood the DNC was not playing fair. Senator Bernie Sanders and many of his supporters explicitly accused the DNC of rigging the debates on behalf of Hillary Clinton. As we now know, that accusation was right on the money.
Then-DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz pushed back on the accusation by Sanders and others, saying, “I did my best to make sure, along with my staff and along with our debate partners, to come up with a schedule that we felt was going to maximize the opportunity for voters to see our candidates.”
Wasserman-Schultz was later forced to resign as DNC Chair after emails from the DNC, also leaked by Wikileaks, showed her plotting behind the scenes to sabotage Sanders’ campaign. The DNC Chair, Donna Brazile, has also been implicated in sabotaging Sanders’ campaign while working at CNN.