Bernie Sanders Supporters Are Suing the DNC for Fraud
In an overlooked class-action case, Bernie Sanders supporters are suing the Democratic National Committee for fraud over revelations party officials sought to help Hillary Clinton defeat Sanders in the primary. Elizabeth Lee Beck, the plaintiffs’ co-counsel, reports
AARON MATE: It’s The Real News, I’m Aaron Mate. The coverage of allege Russian meddling in the US election has all been ignored, the democratic party election meddling, that was first exposed. Democratic national committee emails showed top party officials worked to undermined Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Well, now a bold effort to hold them accountable is also being overlooked. A group of democratic voters have filed a class action lawsuit accusing the DNC of fraud for failing to be neutral. The DNC wants the case dismissed. In the most recent court hearing, it’s legal team argued party leaders have no legal obligation to remain neutral. Joining me, is Elizabeth Lee Beck, an attorney who is co-counsel on the DNC Fraud Class Action case. Elizabeth, welcome.
ELIZABETH LEE: Thanks for having me.
AARON MATE: Thanks for being with us.
ELIZABETH LEE: Good to be here.
AARON MATE: Thank you for joining us. As I mentioned, the DNC has made some curious arguments in the court hearing so far. Before we get to that, could you give us an overview of what this case is? Because, as I also mentioned, it’s gotten almost no attention.
ELIZABETH LEE: Yes. A lot of the support, the public support, has come from the sharing, the organic sharing of information through social media. You’re absolutely correct in that, main stream media has been very, very stubbornly refusing to cover this lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed last year actually. In June of 2016, in the wake of leaks put out by a character called [inaudible 00:01:45] 2.0. On that basis, we were retained. We were hired by folks to file suit against the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz for fraud. Now, I noticed there when you mentioned that it was democratic voters, but what the interesting thing is, there’s three groups of people that this lawsuit seeks to represent.
One group is people that are registered as democrats, or democratic voters. The second group is folks who have donated to the DNC, a private corporation. A third group are folks who donated to Bernie Sanders’ campaign. The interesting thing is, you don’t have to be a democrat to have donated to Bernie Sanders’ campaign. As a matter of fact, if you look at the Facebook page for the lawsuit, some of the comments come from republicans and independents, who have gotten involved in the campaign and donated, and they are members of the class. Those are the groups of people that we seek to represent. The complaint was filed in June of 2016. An amended complaint was filed shortly thereafter. The defendants, which is congress woman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC, which, by the way, the official name of the DNC is a private corporation. It does business as the DNC.
AARON MATE: Okay. What is the basis for the fraud claim? What in the hacked emails, or leaked emails, and what in the DNC’s actions lead you to accuse them of fraud?
ELIZABETH LEE: If you look, I’m reading your Article 5, Section 4 of the DNC charter, and I’m reading from it. The chairperson shall exercise impartiality and even headedness as the tween the presidential candidates and campaigns. There were three presidential candidates. There was Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders, and Martin O’Malley. Okay?
AARON MATE: You’re alleging that based on the DNC emails showing favoritism towards Secretary Clinton, that means that the DNC violated its obligations?
ELIZABETH LEE: Absolutely.
AARON MATE: That’s the sounds like the tenacious of your argument. Okay. Let me put to you what the DNC has said in court, because it’s very interesting. They’ve argued to the Judge, as I understand it, that they have no legal obligation to be fair. This is what Bruce Spiva, the DNC lawyer said. He said, quote, “We could have voluntarily decided that, look, we’re gonna go into backrooms like they used to and smoke cigars, and pick the candidate that way.” unquote.
He also said, “There’s no right to not have your candidate disadvantaged or have another candidate advantaged. There’s no contractual obligation here. It’s not a situation where a promise has been made, there’s an enforceable promise.” The DNC’s argument appears not to be that it is neutral, its argument is legal argument at least, is that it has no legal obligation to be neutral. How do you respond to that?
ELIZABETH LEE: Well, they should put that in the charter then. They made a lot of representations on national media saying how impartial they were. Okay? Look, let me give it to you this way. You’re allowed to charge a $100 for a paper bag full of dog poo. Okay? Say this is a paper bag full of dog poo, and I’m gonna sell it for $100. You can’t go around telling people that it’s filled with silver. Okay? You’re allowed to sell crap. Okay? If they want to run, if they want to choose their candidates in a backroom, fine, but don’t tell people that you’re selling something else. Here, you asked for examples, I’m gonna read from the amended complaint here.
Among the documents released by Guccifer 2.0 on June 15th is a two-page Microsoft Word file with a confidential watermark on it, okay? It looks to be a memorandum that’s written to the DNC regarding the 2016 GOP presidential candidates. It’s called DNC Memo. It talks about our goals in the coming months will be to frame the republican field and the eventual nominee early, and to provide a contrast between the GOP field and HRC. Okay?
As early, you know, and then it goes on to say, the DCN Memo goes on to also advise the DNC to quote, “Use specific hits to muddy the waters around ethics, transparency, and campaign finance attacks on HRC.” You can’t have the DNC act as an arm of the Hillary Clinton campaign. How is that a fair and even handed process? In other words, if it were a foregone conclusion, that she would be the nominee, then you cannot pretend to have a fair and impartial race.
AARON MATE: In terms of the money that was given to the DNC, that is part of the basis for this lawsuit, in terms of a class action. How much money was donated to the DNC, but now factors into the claim that that money was used improperly?
ELIZABETH LEE: I think a lot of that is going to come out in discovery. We do know roughly how much money was donated to the Bernie Sanders campaign by his supporters. The second group of people are folks who donated to the DNC, and I think that’s public knowledge, how much the DNC raised. I will say this, in the court hearing, the Court asked council for the defense exactly how the DNC coordinates with the various states. I mean, that’s a question that I think encompasses some of the questions that even the Court was asking. In my opinion, it was not answered satisfactorily by the council for the defendants. He kinda hemmed and hawed about it.
AARON MATE: Yeah, reading the news accounts about that, it seemed as if the DNC’s council was unaware of how that state DNC, relationship works.
ELIZABETH LEE: Yeah, but I wanna say something, okay? This is what’s called a motion to dismiss stage, right? It’s kind of like, this is not the trial, we haven’t even gone into the discovery phase yet. This is just saying, are we even gonna investigate this in a civil matter? I want folks to understand that when you ask questions such as, how are they coordinating? That’s a great question.
That should be made apparent during the discovery process. It would be premature for us to say absolutely one way or the other, how to answer that. I mean, we could speculate until the cows come home, but we’re only gonna know when we actually get the evidence. That happens in the discovery process, which is what the defendants are trying to stymie.
AARON MATE: The Judge in the case, he asked the council for the DNC, a very key question. He said, “If a person is fraudulently induced to donate to a charitable organization, does he have standing to sue the person who induced the donation?” That seems to indicate that the Judge is at least open to hearing the concerns of your side.
ELIZABETH LEE: I think the Court is open to hearing the concerns of our side, because the Court provided three and a half hours of the Court’s time in order to address the issues that have arisen at this stage. As far as, you know,-
AARON MATE: And the Judge also said, “Democracy demands the truth, so people can make intelligent decisions.” So Elizabeth, as this case goes-
ELIZABETH LEE: I agree with that.
AARON MATE: … forward, how can people stay aware of what’s happening, and where do you see this case going next?
ELIZABETH LEE: If the main stream media continues to pretend, la, la, la, la, that it’s not existing, that this lawsuit is just not in existence, then I recommend folks to listen to, you know, brave journalists who are covering this, because people want to know, such as yourself. If they want to go for analysis and commentary, whatever the position may be, and then also to go to our website,-
AARON MATE: Jampac.us/dnclawsuit. Got it.
ELIZABETH LEE: Yes. And then, there’s another page for court documents, I would wouldn’t say court documents, miscellaneous documents. The url’s kinda long, so I’m just gonna give you directions, okay? If you Google-
AARON MATE: You’re saying Google, for our radio audience,- [crosstalk 00:11:38]
ELIZABETH LEE: DNC-
AARON MATE: Yeah, go ahead.
ELIZABETH LEE: Miscellaneous docs, the first hit. If you Google DNC miscellaneous docs, the first hit is going to be the page of miscellaneous documents for the case. It’s on the Jampac website by the way. Should be on the Jampac website. That page has the hearing transcripts, if anybody wants to download the hearing transcripts, go there, it’s a hyperlink, it also has court sketches, and it has some other documents in there.
AARON MATE: Well, Elizabeth, as this case goes forward, when the ruling comes out on the motion to dismiss, I’m sure you’re gonna see a surge in media attention that has been absent so far.
ELIZABETH LEE: Why, I hope so, I mean, it’s an order from the Court. At that point, I don’t know how you can pretend it doesn’t exist.
AARON MATE: Well, we certainly won’t, and we’ll continue to cover it here on The Real News. Elizabeth Lee Beck, Co-Council in the DNC fraud case, thanks for joining us.
ELIZABETH LEE: Thank you.
AARON MATE: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.