Leaked: DNC Finance Director Freaks When Hillary Staffer Notes Tribal Donations in Email

By Rachel Alexander Published on August 24, 2016

As the media scoured through the close to 20,000 emails from the Democrat National Committee that Wikileaks hacked and then released, forcing DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign, they overlooked one of particular significance: the response from DNC finance director Jordan Kaplan to a Hillary Clinton campaign staffer, who had emailed him about contributions from Native American tribes.

Clinton staffer Justin Klein told Kaplan that he was sending the DNC a few checks from the tribes, which wanted most of the money directed to the Democrat National Convention. Kaplan responded, “Don’t send me an email like this again. You know Alex. Don’t be a d***” (asterisks not in the original).

Kaplan’s Reasons

Why did Kaplan respond that way? Was he concerned that they were breaking the law and didn’t want a paper trail?

The tribes make millions of dollars from operating casinos. Although they are exempt from many campaign finance laws, Clinton and the DNC are not. Even though the tribes can contribute exorbitant amounts of cash to political campaigns and committees, the recipients are limited as to how much money they can accept.

Tribes are not required to form political organizations, so they can contribute under multiple different names to get around contribution limits to politicians and PACs. According to The Washington Post, “One tribe has used more than 75 names” to get around these requirements.

Based on an analysis of campaign finance law, it appears the Clinton campaign was likely trying to circumvent contribution limits. According to Politico, Clinton benefited from joint fundraising with Democratic state parties — but after the money was distributed into the states’ coffers, 88 percent of it was then immediately funneled to the DNC, where the bulk of it was spent to help Clinton defeat the unexpectedly popular Bernie Sanders in the primaries.

By using this joint method of fundraising, it appears that once donors maxed out their giving to her campaign, she essentially directed the money to state parties or the DNC. According to Politico, some state Democratic party leaders griped that they were being used as pass-through organizations. This was not considered fair play since the state parties were apparently never told they wouldn’t get to keep a fair share as part of joint fundraising committees with the Clinton campaign, nor was it fair for the DNC to funnel money Clinton could not legally accept to the DNC, which used it on her instead of Sanders.

The Democratic line was that Clinton was raising money for everyone else, not funneling it all back to herself. Actor George Clooney went on television and asserted, “The overwhelming amount of money that we’re raising, and it is a lot, but the overwhelming amount of the money that we’re raising is not going to Hillary to run for president. It’s going to the down-ticket.”

The Clinton Story Downgraded

This hybrid “Hillary Victory Fund” that raised most of the money in question was a joint effort of her campaign, the DNC and state Democratic parties.  The website Politifact, which verifies the accuracy of news in politics, downgraded its positive rating of honesty from mostly true to half true regarding the fundraising after discovering more information. The site noted one of the more egregious operations:

The Hillary Victory Fund sent $214,100 to Minnesota, for example, and that state party didn’t keep a dime. It was routed to the DNC, which otherwise wouldn’t have been able to accept the money “since it came from donors who mostly had already maxed out to the national party committee,” Politico reported.

In the context of current campaign laws, this funneling of money through groups that can’t legally use it comes close to money laundering. (In fact, Jack Abramoff served several years in prison for coordinating contributions from Indian tribes.) Politicians have gone to prison for money laundering. No wonder Kaplan was so upset with his young colleague for blabbing about the donations in an email.

Unsurprisingly, the leaked email has not yet affected Clinton’s political fortunes. Almost no one in the left-leaning mainstream media dares to tangle with her.

Lingering Questions

But the question remains: If Clinton and the DNC did nothing wrong in the way they allocated Indian tribe donations, why was Kaplan so upset about a staffer mentioning the arrangement in an email?

Campaign funding experts are divided over whether laws were broken. Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, who served for 13 years as general counsel at the Federal Election Commission, told Politico, “It clearly goes against what was intended for the joint fundraising committees.”

While the tribes may not have broken the law — since the regulations they are subject to are much less stringent — Clinton and the DNC are at risk of jointly coordinating to subvert campaign finance laws, which would be considered a “criminal scheme” under federal law.


Search the Wikileaks database of DNC emails.

Stream senior editor Rachel Alexander once served as an elections attorney for the Maricopa County Elections Department. Follow her on Twitter at Rach_IC.

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