Bernie Sanders faces a major setback in his presidential race after his aides were caught prying into Democratic Party rival Hillary Clinton’s confidential files, according to latest reports emerging in the media.
As a result, the Democratic Party has now cut off Bernie Sanders’ access to its massive voter database — a significant tool for presidential nominees to help structure them their campaigns — which could hamper Sanders’ presidential bid in more ways than one. The Los Angeles Times reports that the case of online espionage against Bernie Sanders comes at a particularly tricky time of the campaign, just a few weeks before the Iowa caucus, a test of a campaign’s ability to mobilize and organize voters.
BREAKING: AP Source: Records show Sanders' campaign aides searched, saved proprietary Clinton voter data: https://t.co/m80GrV8o5R— The Associated Press (@AP) December 18, 2015
The importance of the voter database for Bernie Sanders campaign can hardly be overestimated, with Sanders running a grassroots campaign powered by small donations and relying heavily on field organizing.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Bernie Sanders campaign employees were able to gain access to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign documents after a technical glitch caused by a third-party technology provider. Time reports that the Sanders campaign appears to have obtained files with lists of unique voters that the Clinton campaign had cultivated in 10 early states including Iowa and New Hampshire.
Immediately distancing itself from the aide who was caught prying into Clinton’s files, the Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs denounced the act, labeling it “unacceptable.”
“After discussion with the DNC, it became clear that one of our staffers accessed some modeling data from another campaign. That behavior is unacceptable and that staffer was immediately fired.”
However, the DNC did insinuate that Bernie Sanders’ campaign could yet redeem itself if any Clinton campaign data it retained was deleted or destroyed. Luis Miranda, the DNC’s communications director, said the party discovered the breach Wednesday after technology vendor NGP VAN, which maintains the voter data, informed DNC of the technological glitch that resulted in the breach. According to the statement, a “software patch” had inadvertently enabled “all users on the system across Democratic campaigns” temporarily to access other campaigns’ data.
“The DNC places a high priority on maintaining the security of our system and protecting the data on it. We are working with our campaigns and the vendor to have full clarity on the extent of the breach, ensure that this isolated incident doesn’t happen again, and to enable our campaigns to continue engaging voters on the issues that matter most to them and their families,” Miranda said.
NGP VAN’s chief executive, Stu Trevelyan, promised that the company will investigate the cause of the glitch, pointing that the company has never had issues with user privacy or security in its nearly 20-year history.
“We look forward to supporting all our Democratic clients, and in particular apologize to the DNC, Clinton and Sanders campaigns for our bug Wednesday. We will continue to work with and report to the DNC regarding this issue to ensure that this isolated incident doesn’t recur. We have and will do better,” he said.
Exclusive: Sanders campaign’s breach of Clinton data more serious than disclosed https://t.co/mvX59axD1o— TIME.com (@TIME) December 18, 2015
Regardless of whether Bernie Sanders can extricate himself from this self-created mess, the serious allegations leveled against his campaign is set not only to make him lose out on vital voter information but would also tarnish his image at a time when he has been winning over supporters across the Democratic voter database.
If that comes to pass, Hillary Clinton may be the one who could benefit from this data-prying, indifferent as she has been to the whole affair. Her campaign managers — or Hillary Clinton herself — have not yet commented on the latest breach and DNC’s subsequent blocking of Bernie Sanders from accessing the database, but one assumes it could cause a furor Republican candidates may also hope to benefit from.