Reporter Notes: Exposing Corruption Within The DNC
The Iowa Caucuses were a total fiasco. Despite cronyism linked to an app used by the state party, Senator Bernie Sanders has surged in numerous polls. Corporate Democrats, particularly those in leadership positions in the Democratic National Committee (DNC), are quite nervous that Sanders may become the party’s presidential nominee.
The DNC changed debate rules in order to help a Republican billionaire, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, qualify for the next presidential debate. (Bloomberg contributed $800,000 to the DNC, and the DNC funneled $575,000 to 44 different state parties.)
A little more than a week ago, DNC Chair Tom Perez and party elites appointed a neoliberal cast of corporate lobbyists and foreign policy hacks to the 2020 Democratic National Convention committees. Only one well-known Sanders supporter was granted a spot on a committee.
Shadowproof played a role in exposing this DNC corruption so I’ll take a moment to memorialize our success.
Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez issued a list of individuals he nominated for the 2020 Democratic National Convention committees.
Let's examine some of the individuals. I'll initially focus on the nominees for the DNC Platform Committee.
— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) January 25, 2020
On Friday, January 24, Perez’s list of nominees was posted. “Some DNC members,” according to The Hill, referred to the list as the “midnight convention committee picks.” They were rubber-stamped by the DNC’s executive committee less than 24 hours later.
The following Saturday morning I wondered: Who are these people?
I recognized a few names from their roles in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign or their past work for President Barack Obama’s administration. But by and large, I was unaware of the vast majority of these people.
A Twitter thread I compiled started with the Platform Committee co-chairs. Denis McDonough, Obama’s former chief of staff, was granted a position. He pushed the Senate to speed up their confirmation of John Brennan to head the CIA, despite his past support for torture. He was one of Obama’s advisers, who helped the administration develop the process by which alleged terrorism suspects would be put on a kill list for assassination.
But I also stumbled on the Rework America Business Network that he launched in December 2018 with Heidi Capozzi, the senior vice president of human resources at Boeing. The network’s eleven founding members included Aon, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Boeing, Duke Energy, Kaiser Permanente, McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, and Walmart.
My Saturday afternoon was spent conducting research. By the evening, I was stunned at just how Republican these people seemed.
Danielle Gray, who was appointed to be a vice-chair of the platform committee, had a profile on Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s website. She is a senior vice president, chief legal officer, and corporate secretary for the health insurance corporation.
Note: Gray is not a politician who accepted contributions from a business that expects her to make policy on their behalf. It’s worse. She currently works for a corporation with an interest in preventing the expansion of Medicare to cover millions of Americans.
Meghan Stabler, who is on the board of Democratic Majority For Israel (DMFI), was appointed to the platform committee. The political arm of this dark money group launched one of the few ad campaigns against Sanders in Iowa and invoked his heart attack to make him seem “unelectable” to Iowans.
In researching the other committees, I found Representative Barney Frank, who was appointed to chair the rules committee, sits on the board of Signature Bank New York. Trump’s family has relied on the bank as a go-to lender.
I learned CNN contributor Maria Cardona, who was appointed to chair the rules committee with Frank, holds a position at the Dewey Square Group, a lobbying firm that represents corporate interests in their efforts to undermine progressive reforms. Two others from Dewey Square were appointed as well.
While the health reform debate unfolded during Obama’s administration, the firm placed letters to the editor in a newspaper “under names of elderly Massachusetts residents without their knowledge or consent.”
James Boland, who is the president of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) union, was appointed to the rules committee. I was stunned to find he is on the board of directors for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which President Ronald Reagan launched in the 1980s in response to the backlash against the CIA for its meddling in countries. By acting overtly, NED de-stigmatized and normalized many of the covert operations that once upset representatives and senators.
It was 11 pm on January 25, and I still had dozens of names of people to get through on the list of 93 appointees. Yet, already the outpouring of gratitude and shock at the Democratic Party establishment’s picks for committees was significant. “It’s a veritable who’s who of the Bernie-hating world,” Elizabeth Hamilton Argyropoulos, a popular Sanders supporter on Twitter, replied.
Grayzone editor-in-chief Max Blumenthal invited me to contribute an article. After figuring out who the corporate Democrats were on the credentials committee, I spent the rest of Sunday developing and writing a report.
“Thank you so much for this and the hard work put into it!” one person said. “Your research is invaluable. Hats off, friend!” I was grateful for all the appreciation shared with me. It inspired me to keep working even when I was tired.
From Monday to Wednesday, DNC appointments were the talk of online progressive media, and most shows relied upon my Twitter thread. The Real News interviewed me. “Around the Nation” with Jeff Waldorf, a show affiliated with The Young Turks, featured the thread. Hard Lens Media covered the thread. Papi Chulomin covered the thread.
Comedians Jimmy Dore, Stef Zamorano, and Ron Placone spent 20 minutes reading my thread on their hugely popular show. This incredible clip garnered over 100,000 views in a couple days.
The three did their best to get through most of the thread, but each name they read sucked more life out of their broadcast. Every unpleasant detail required them to dig deeper into the well to find humor in the moral rot within the DNC.
“Whew, have you had a bowl full of neoliberals yet? Wow, this is something,” Dore said. Referring to SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry, who endorsed Clinton early in 2015, Placone added, “So far, the one with the least horrible résumé is corrupt union leader…That’s like the one that is the least offensive.”
In terms of online print media, our friends over at Common Dreams showed Shadowproof a lot of love for exposing these DNC appointees. The New Republic relied on our reporting. My article for the Grayzone was republished at Consortium News.
Unfortunately, the progressive echo chamber did not push the establishment news media to focus more attention on the backgrounds of these individuals. Most reporting from establishment news media highlighted “Sanders supporters” or “Sanders allies,” who were angry. It was the “bros,” who were at it again, showing their dissatisfaction with Democratic leaders.
A follow-up report on the DNC appointments was published at Shadowproof and did rather well. It further demonstrated the hunger for reporting, which follows the money and documents clear conflicts of interest among Democrats who are aligned against Sanders and the progressive wing of the party.
Remarkably, by the end of the week, the thread reached figures in the DNC. James Zogby, founder of the Arab-American Institute, who is a Sanders supporter that was purged from the DNC’s executive committee in 2017, shared the thread.
“At every step along the way, when given an opportunity to heal the wounds of the party, the chair has, instead, chosen to rub in salt. This is another example & it’s disappointing. We’ll need everyone on board to win in November. Best time to start is NOW!” Zogby tweeted.
Ray McKinnon tweeted, “Please read this thread and understand why, as a DNC Member representing [North Carolina], I signed on to the letter to Chairman Tom Perez, imploring that we ensure there is faith in our process. Specific candidates aside, [Democratic] voters must have faith in us as leaders. This ain’t helping.”
He even urged Diane Robertson, a DNC member appointed to the rules committee, to look at the thread so she could better understand what was happening internally. (Which suggests there is a lot of dysfunction among leadership at the moment.)
Shadowproof picked up several new YouTube subscribers and some more members became regular donors. We grew our base of followers on Twitter, and the thread was recognized as a useful resource to rebut pundits or politicians, who downplay evidence that party elites are conspiring against Sanders.
This was an example of the power of independent media to reach people at the grassroots level and bypass the filters of establishment media.
Efforts to rig the primary against anyone but Sanders will make the Democratic Party’s nominee increasingly unelectable in the general election against Trump. On the other hand, if Sanders becomes the nominee, a tide will wash over corporate Democrats and wash them away. They will lose their influence, and their politics will be even more irrelevant. And that is why there is so much panic among the establishment right now.
If we understand the Democratic Party to be a corporate political party, a fake opposition party that puts capitalism before the needs of working people, then it is likely we are witnessing the death of the Democratic Party.
Out of the smoldering ashes will rise something even more venal, or the party will finally reconstitute itself as an organization supportive of progressive politics.