Democratic National Committee Restores Bernie Sanders' Access To Voter Data

The deal doesn't end the Sanders vs. DNC lawsuit.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the Democratic National Committee reached an agreement regarding the Democratic presidential candidate's access to a crucial voter database Friday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the Democratic National Committee reached an agreement regarding the Democratic presidential candidate's access to a crucial voter database Friday.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- The Democratic National Committee agreed Friday night to reinstate Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) presidential campaign's access to its voter database, which had been suspended following a data breach.

The DNC blocked Sanders' access to the data Friday morning, after Sanders campaign staffers wrongly accessed voter information from rival Hillary Clinton's campaign on Wednesday.

Sanders' campaign claimed that the DNC "capitulated" as a deadline neared for a court hearing on a request for an emergency injunction that the Sanders campaign sought after suing the DNC in federal court Friday afternoon.

Sanders' lawsuit sought the "immediate restoration" of the campaign's access to the database, arguing that the campaign would lose roughly $600,000 a day in donations without it. The campaign said in a statement that its access to the database should be restored by Saturday morning.

“We are extremely pleased that the DNC has reversed its outrageous decision to take Sen. Sanders’ data,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement. “Clearly, they were very concerned about their prospects in court. Now what we need to restore confidence in the DNC's ability to secure data is an independent audit that encompasses the DNC's record this entire campaign."

A person close to the situation said that the Sanders campaign would not be dropping its lawsuit against the DNC, despite the agreement.

The DNC had demanded that Sanders' campaign prove it no longer possessed any data from Clinton's voter file before it restored Sanders' access to his campaign's own voter information. In a statement early Saturday, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Sanders' campaign "has now complied" with the committee's request to provide the information it had requested.

"Based on this information, we are restoring the Sanders campaign’s access to the voter file, but will continue to investigate to ensure that the data that was inappropriately accessed has been deleted and is no longer in possession of the Sanders campaign," Wasserman Schultz said. "The Sanders campaign has agreed to fully cooperate with the continuing DNC investigation of this breach. The fact that data was accessed inappropriately is completely unacceptable, and the DNC expects each campaign to operate with integrity going forward with respect to the voter file.”

Schultz added that the DNC would continue to work with the data vendor, NGP VAN, "to ensure that a breach of this nature never, ever happens again and that our data is secure.”

Clinton national press secretary Brian Fallon tweeted early Saturday that the campaign was "pleased" with the firm hired to conduct an independent investigation into the data breach.

Lawyers for the Sanders campaign alleged in their lawsuit that the DNC “failed to implement reasonable data security measures,” which led to “the inadvertent disclosure” this week of the Clinton campaign's confidential voter information.

But Clinton's campaign and the DNC told a different story.

"This was not an inadvertent glimpse into our data and it was not, as the Sanders campaign has described it, a mistake," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said in a press call with reporters Friday afternoon.

Audits of the NGP VAN program show that four accounts linked to Sanders made 24 separate efforts to save the Clinton data within the system and one effort to export the data to a spreadsheet.

Clinton's press secretary tweeted after Sanders' suit was filed that "if you are so proud of your grassroots organization, you should not need to resort to stealing campaign data."

The Sanders campaign fired its national data director, Josh Uretsky, earlier on Friday, and said it was considering disciplinary action against other staffers who may have been involved in the breach.

Schultz defended the DNC's decision to suspend Sanders' database access, arguing that the move was an appropriate response to the agreement the campaigns had with the committee to not access one another's proprietary information.

Clinton's campaign criticized Sanders for sending a fundraising email off of the breach, titled "Urgent: DNC tipping the scales for Hillary Clinton," arguing that it was fanning the flames of the dispute to raise cash.

Sanders' campaign manager, in turn, accused the DNC of "actively attempting to undermine our campaign" to help Clinton.

Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley are participating in the Democratic primary's third debate Saturday evening in New Hampshire.

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