Berners File Class Action Against DNC
Berners, progressive Independent, who supported Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) in his quest for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president, have filed a class action lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The suit comes after Berners learned through documents obtained by WikiLeaks that the DNC did not maintain a neutral posture during its primary process. Instead the WikiLeaks material tends to indicate that the DNC pushed the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The DNC opens its convention in Philadelphia this week and is expected to nominate Clinton during its convention. Sanders is scheduled to speak to delegates on Monday as part of the opening night activities.
A Miami civil litigation law firm, Beck & Lee Trial Lawyers, filed the class action lawsuit on behalf of 121 supporters (other plaintiffs can be added to the class at a later date), who contributed to Sanders’ campaign. The suit alleges the DNC violated Article 5 Section 4 of the Democratic Party charter and bylaws. This section reads as follows:
“In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and evenhandedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process. “
Lawyers for the Berners believe that DNC Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, actually developed schemes to support the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Their claim is based upon documents obtained via a WikiLeak hack into the DNC computers.
Among documents obtained are opposition research statements which suggest talking points on the Sanders’ campaign should indicate that his campaign was a mess, portraying Sanders as unorganized and incapable of following the rules established by the DNC. Also, obtained is an email from Wasserman Schultz to NBC Political Editor, Chuck Todd, urging Todd to squash discussions that were circulating throughout the media that Wasserman Schultz was not being fair to Sanders.
The complaint alleges that the DNC is guilty of negligently misrepresenting its neutrality status to Sanders’ donors. Essentially stating that had Sanders’ donors known the Democratic Primary was rigged in favor of Clinton, they would not have contributed to the Sanders campaign. For example see this email exchange from Luis Miranda at the DNC to Mark Paustenbach:
“On May 4, 2016, at 10:32 AM, Kaplan, Jordan <KaplanJ@dnc.org> wrote: > > Look at you – way to go! Love that area. We are at Northampton and Nebraska. See you at the market. > > What does her loss mean last night other than he raised four million. And is more obnoxious. > > Jordan Kaplan > National Finance Director > Democratic National Committee > (202) 488-5002 (o) | (312) 339-0224 (c) > firstname.lastname@example.org. Not a damn thing”
There is a claim for unjust enrichment, which seeks the return of all funds donated by Berners to the DNC because “those donations were fraudulently obtained,” Jared Beck said in a YouTube Video explaining the nature of the lawsuit. See email exchange between Kate houghton and Luis Miranda about sending a spy into the Sanders camp to get intel on a Sanders rally in Alaska:
“We can’t go to DWS with just Facebook intel. Kay told me she has friends inside the Bernie organization there who may be able to provide some more information. On May 12, 2016, at 12:36 PM, Miranda, Luis <MirandaL@dnc.org<mailto:MirandaL@dnc.org>> wrote: There’s no way Kay doesn’t have someone who can get her intel. We need to push them. <image001.png><http://www.democrats.org/>Luis Miranda, Communications Director Democratic National Committee 202-863-8148 – MirandaL@dnc.org<mailto:MirandaL@dnc.org> – @MiraLuisDC<https://www.twitter.com/MiraLuisDC>+Patrice and Maureen The state party only really knew what was on the Facebook invite. Also, if you read the Facebook posts on the event, speculation is that he’s gonna speak at 8. But it all seems TBD.”
A fifth claim alleges the DNC failed to keep its fiduciary duty to Democratic Party members by failing to ensure a fair primary contest. Please see email from Mark Paustenbach to Luis Miranda on May 19, 2016 where Paustenbach laughed at a Sanders supporter who complained to a Washington Post reporter that the primaries had been sabotaged:
“From:PaustenbachM@dnc.org To: MirandaL@dnc.org Date: 2016-05-19 22:38 Subject: missed this… Sanders complaining about underfunded state parties, LOL
This lawsuit could not come at a worst time for Democrats who had hoped to get through their convention this week without any of the hiccups exhibited at last week’s Republican Convention.
As much as Clinton was hoping to be the focus of attention this week, all eyes will be on Sanders and the Berners. This lawsuit has the potential of causing the Democrats to leave Philadelphia disunified, much like the Republicans left Cleveland last week.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com