Since 1992, when she was first elected to public office, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has had a remarkable political career. It was therefore hardly a surprise that during the primaries for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton named Schultz as her nationalcampaign co-chair. When running that campaign, Schultz became a close ally of Clinton, a relationship that has endured to this day. Schultz herself has smugly proclaimed that she and Clinton enjoy “a special relationship.”
Appointment as DNC Chair
In May 2011, Schultz was appointed Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), a position she continues to occupy. Schultz is believed to have been appointed to this position at the behest of Vice President Joe Biden, with whom she has had a longstanding relationship dating back to his time inthe US Senate and her time in college.
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As the cycle of the 2016 Democratic primaries got underway, it was expected that Schultz would deal evenly with all the candidates and focus on trying to advance the interests of the party. However, she has not shied away from openly siding with Clinton, stoking the ire of the other two candidates, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. Schultz has even appeared on television news shows on Clinton’s behalf, as exemplified by her interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” where she defended Clinton’s dubious claim that she was rejected by the Marine Corps.
Scheduling Democratic Primary Debates to Help Clinton
Of her own volition, Schultz limited the number of Democratic primary debates to six, as opposed to 26 that took place during the 2008 democratic primaries, clearly to help the Clinton campaign. If you consider that Clinton is well-recognized among voters, slashing the number of the debates could only help the former first lady because fewer debates would deprive Sanders and O’Malley of the opportunity of familiarizing themselves to the voters.
Half of the debates were scheduled on days when the television viewership is at the lowest. Two of the debates have already been held on Saturdays – one on November 14 and the other on December 19. Both the Saturday debates clashed with major football games. The December 19 debate took place on eve of the week of Christmas.
The next debate – scheduled for January 17 – is on a Sunday, which happens to be the eve of Martin Luther King Day. Sanders and O’Malley have cried foul, but Schultz has been unmoved. Clinton chose not to dispute the decisions made by Schultz, denoting her complicity.
As a result of Schultz’s inane scheduling of the Democratic debates, these debates have so far been watched by 31.65 million viewers, as against 92.55 million viewers who watched Republican debates. This has led to dramatically limiting the exposure of Democratic contenders compared to that of Republican candidates.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak, both vice chairs for the DNC, called for increasing the number of debates
Two DNC Vice Chairs, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and RJ Rybak, former mayor of Minneapolis, questioned the decision to reduce the number of debates, and Rybak expressed concern that Schultz was putting the Democratic Party’s position in the presidential race at risk.
Using DNC Data Breach to Malign the Sanders Campaign
Prior to the December 19, 2015, debate, a controversy arose between the DNC and the Sanders campaign that, thanks to Schultz’s machinations, escalated into a potential court battle. The controversy related to a glitch in DNC servers that exposed data belonging to all the Democratic presidential candidates.
Due to the glitch, some Sanders campaign staffers appear to have inadvertently gained access to Clinton’s campaign records, which led the DNC to launch a full-throated drive to humiliate the Sanders campaign. According to NGP VAN, the company that houses DNC servers, four different Sanders-linked accounts conducted 24 separate searches of Clinton data during a 40-minute period.
The Sanders campaign responded quickly by firing its national data director and began investigating the culpability of other staffers in accessing the data. However, Schultz took the extraordinary step of blocking the Sanders campaign’s access to its own voter data that was housed on DNC servers. Despite outrage expressed by Sanders, who called the DNC act “egregious,” Schultz insisted that access will only be restored after proper investigation.
Ostensibly fearing that this could take several days and adversely impact its outreach and funding efforts, the Sanders campaign immediately filed a lawsuit against the DNC. The lawsuit contended that Schultz’s action violated the agreement between Sanders and the DNC, which mandated a 10-day written notice to fix any issue before the DNC can restrict access. Sensing that the DNC was on a shaky ground, Schultz “capitulated,” and restored theSanders campaign’s access to the data before a court hearing on the lawsuit.
Several commentators expressed dismay at Schultz’s actions and asked her to resign from her position as DNC chair. MoveOn.org, a progressive public policy advocacy group, has collected over 60,000 signatures demanding that Schultz step down. Another organization, Spirituality for Justice, launched two petitions on Change.org – one demanding the immediate resignation of Schultz, and the other demanding that Sen. Elizabeth Warren replace her.
As a neutral broker, the chair of the DNC is required to give equal deference to the views of all the candidates, but Schultz has been openly acting as aproxy to the Clinton campaign. By relinquishing her role as an unbiased arbiter in the Democratic primaries, Schultz has tainted her own reputation. In this environment, she will be better suited to run the Clinton campaign than to serve as chair of the DNC.