HRC campaign data briefly compromised; progressive’s PR co shuts down amid allegations of sexual harassment; and more.
Welcome to the data-driven campaign: Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has lost its access to the Democratic party’s 50-state voter file after its staff allegedly accessed internal voter data from Hillary Clinton’s campaign that became available while NGP-VAN, the company that manages the file on behalf of the party, was applying a software patch Wednesday, Rosalind Helderman, Anne Gearan, and John Wagnerr report for the Washington Post. The DNC has blocked Sanders’ use of the voter file until it “provides an explanation as well as assurances that all Clinton data has been destroyed,” they report. Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver says the campaign didn’t download or print any data and is blaming NGP-VAN for the breach.
The Sanders campaign has fired one staffer involved in the incident, who “accessed some modeling data from another campaign,” its spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement. But, as Maggie Habermas and Nick Corasaniti report for the New York Times, “…according to three people with direct knowledge of the breach, there were four user accounts associated with the Sanders campaign that ran searches while the security of Mrs. Clinton’s data was compromised.”
Covering the same news for BuzzFeed, Evan McMorris-Santoro and Ruby Cramer report that it was the Sanders staff that alerted NGP-VAN of the breakdown of its firewall between the campaigns. As they note, “The incident could pose a devastating setback for Sanders so close to the start of the Democratic primary: Until access is restored to the NGP-VAN, the candidate’s organizers will have to perform the basic functions of the field program—phone banks, voter contact, visibility—without an electronic system centralizing their efforts.”
The staffer who was fired, Josh Uretsky, told CNN’s Dan Merica that he wasn’t trying to access any proprietary Clinton data, but just trying to “understand how badly the Sanders campaign’s data was exposed.” He added, “We knew there was a security breach in the data, and we were just trying to understand it and what was happening. To the best of my knowledge, nobody took anything that would have given the (Sanders) campaign any benefit….This wasn’t the first time we identified a bad breach in the NGP-VAN system. In retrospect, I got a little panicky because our data was totally exposed, too. We had to have an assessment, and understand of how broad the exposure was and I had to document it so that I could try to calm down and think about what actually happened so that I could figure out how to protect our stuff.”
NGP-VAN’s president Stu Trevelyan posts a statement this morning explaining that the data breach was quite limited. “For a brief window, the voter data that is always searchable across campaigns in VoteBuilder included client scores it should not have, on a specific part of the VAN system. So for voters that a user already had access to, that user was able to search by and view (but not export or save or act on) some attributes that came from another campaign.”
Former Obama campaign data director Ethan Roeder tells Civicist that “It’s becoming increasingly apparent to me, the more I learn about this story, that there’s no there there,” explaining that there’s little information the Sanders campaign could have usefully gleaned from seeing some Clinton voter scores.
The DNC’s decision to cut off the Sanders campaign access to the national voter file is highly unlikely to last long, in my humble opinion. If it does, it will undermine the confidence of many other lower level Democratic candidates in using NGP-VAN’s vaunted system. As Ben Jacobs writes for the Guardian, “The move by the DNC raises eyebrows as many Democrats, including Sanders and fellow presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, have long accused the DNC’s chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, of attempting to rig the presidential process to benefit Clinton. In particular, they have raised questions about the relative paucity of debates, which have been scheduled for weekend evenings and to coincide with other events such as a major University of Iowa football game.”
As Simon Rosenberg of the New Democratic Network tweeted this morning, “[I] am not a Sanders supporter, but cutting off his campaign from data access after their own software errors an extreme act by DNC.”
How long has this been going on?: FitzGibbon Media, a progressive public relations firm that handled PR for NARAL, MoveOn, the Center for American Progress, AFL-CIO, WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning, and The Intercept, has shut down “amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault” by the company’s president Trevor FitzGibbon, Amanda Terkel, Ryan Grim, and Sam Stein report for the Huffington Post. Multiple female employees have come forward with accusations. Perhaps most disturbing, they report that FitzGibbon was previously disciplined, but not fired, when accused of harassment while he was working at Fenton Communications. “After the accusation and the firm’s investigation, other female employees came forward with similar harassment complaints,” they report.
Brave new world: The Intercept’s Jeremy Swahili and Margot Williams report on “a secret, internal U.S. government catalogue of dozens of cellphone surveillance devices used by the military and by intelligence agencies,” many of them never before described in public.
Turkey’s internet service is being disrupted by a huge DDOS attack that is suspected to be coming from Russia, Sheera Frenkel reports for BuzzFeed.
With WhatsApp service restored in Brazil, Global Voices’s Taisa Sganzeria offers more background on how the country’s Marco Civil open internet law factored into the episode.
Opening the way: Writing for Civicist, Accela’s Mark Headd discusses why open data is so important for understanding and regulating the behavior of “sharing economy” companies like Airbnb.
Your moment of zen: Until recently, it was a dry, dry season for political mashups, but suddenly they’re coming like mushrooms after a spring rain. Last week it was Darth Trump and Hello From the Dark Side; now check out this Donald Trump (“Alexander Hamilton” Parody) on YouTube, written by Tyler Davis.