DNC suspends Sanders campaign’s access to party voter file

Bernie Sanders’s campaign is cut off from the Democratic Party’s 50-state voter file following a glitch that gave a Sanders staffer unauthorized access to Clinton campaign data.

As Buzzfeed News reports, NGP VAN, the third-party vendor that manages DNC’s database of voter information, accidentally lowered the firewall between Clinton’s and Sanders’s voter files for a “brief window” — about 30 minutes — during which time a Sanders staffer accessed Clinton campaign modeling data. According to the Sanders campaign, this is the second time the firewall has been lowered incorrectly, and both times the Sanders campaign notified NGP VAN of the error.

Bernie Sanders, via AFGE / Flickr

Bernie Sanders, via AFGE / Flickr

However, given that a Sanders staffer committed a fire-worthy offense this time — accessing Clinton campaign modeling data — the DNC has cut off the campaign’s access to the database entirely until it can “prove” that it doesn’t have any of Clinton’s data.

The staffer in question told CNN this morning that he wasn’t trying to access Clinton’s data to gain an unfair advantage, but rather to “understand how badly the Sanders campaign’s data was exposed.” He added that, to the best of his knowledge, “nobody took anything that would have given the (Sanders) campaign any benefit.”

As the DNC’s standards of proof are unclear — How can you really prove a negative, especially with data that, once downloaded, can be copied and printed? — this could be resolved quickly, or it could be a huge and ongoing problem. A campaign simply can’t function without voter file access. Every phone call and door knock is recorded in “the VAN.” Every model is based on VAN data. Since VAN merged with NGP, fundraising information is stored there, too. As I used to tell my organizers, if it isn’t in VAN, it didn’t happen. Sanders’s field operations, among other campaign functions, have been effectively shut down until he gets his access back.

Which is why the DNC’s punishment over this data breach — which they themselves admit is their fault, as the buck stops with them as far as NGP VAN is concerned — is being interpreted by Sanders’s campaign and supporters as punitive and harsh. There clearly isn’t an attempt here by the Sanders’s campaign as a whole to gain an unfair advantage over Clinton, and the Democratic Party has effectively shut his entire operation down just six weeks before the Iowa caucuses. Sanders is also coming off of one of the strongest 24 hours of his campaign, having recently reached 2 million campaign contributions and scoring endorsements from Democracy for America and the Communication Workers of America.

The next Democratic debate is tomorrow night. If this isn’t resolved by then, it could be an issue.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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10 Responses to “DNC suspends Sanders campaign’s access to party voter file”

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  2. PDQ says:

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight: Sanders is now banned from the DNC databases. Does that now mean that he no longer needs to share any of HIS campaign donor info with the DNC??? I would think that’s only fair!

    Perhaps Bernie would be smart to go buy info from Organizing for Action. It’s probably much more accurate and comprehensive than what Hillary’s functionaries have. After all, Obama used it to beat her in 2008.

  3. Carly Marx says:

    Nathaniel Pearlman isn’t CEO, he’s founder and co-owner of NGP VAN and was chief technology officer for Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 campaign. Don’t forget, too, that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was co-chair of Clinton’s 2008 campaign.

  4. Edward WinterRose says:

    I can name that tune in one note. Nepotism. The people running the show at the firm were part of hill’s campaign in 2007 under DWS’ guidance.

  5. Edward WinterRose says:

    to shed more light on this: Check out @stutrev on Twitter. He’s CEO of the NGP VAN company that messed this all up. He also has countless retweets of Ready for Hillary tweets and worked for the Clinton Administration in the 90s (also, according to the one retweet, NGP VAN sponsored a Ready for Hillary campaign bus….) secondly, the CEO of the software, Nathaniel Pearlman, worked as the chief technology officer for Hillary in last election.

  6. Don Chandler says:

    Hillary should speak up. It does her no good to use this kind of nonsense. And the DNC needs to focus on their end.

  7. hauksdottir says:


    The DNC ought to be more than embarrassed, they ought to find another vendor that understands what a “firewall” is and does.

    The questions here are WHO lowered it and why this keeps happening. Who else discovered that the wall was down? Republicans? Foreign agents? Given that Mossad and other spy agencies already handle voter information, perhaps someone ought to look into the staff at NGP VAN and do some firing there.

    Meanwhile, the DNC is acting like a delinquent child, blaming someone else for its own incompetence.

  8. Max_1 says:

    DWS should explain why it is Sanders’ campaign’s fault for who she, as DNC Chair, hired as a lazy Tech firm. NO?

  9. nicho says:

    So the Hillary forces inside the party are already trying to find ways to sabotage Bernie. What did you expect? They will stop at nothing to make sure the queen is crowned on schedule/

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