The Bernie Sanders campaign filed a lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee on Friday afternoon, seeking to regain access to its voter files.
This explosive reaction came after the party organization announced it would block Sanders’ team from accessing its massive file of voter information. The DNC made its decision following revelations that a software error allowed at least one Sanders staffer to access data from the campaign of their top rival, Hillary Clinton.
Early Friday afternoon, the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders held a press conference in which it accused the Democratic National Committee of “sabotage.” In a phone call with reporters on Friday evening, a pair of top Clinton campaign aides described the situation as “disturbing” and said the Sanders campaign had engaged in “theft.”
At the press conference and in a subsequent statement, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver characterized the DNC’s move as an “inappropriate overreaction,” and suggested it was an effort to aid Clinton, who is currently the frontrunner in the party’s presidential primary.
“By their action, the leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign. This is unacceptable. Individual leaders of the DNC can support Hillary Clinton in any way they want, but they are not going to sabotage our campaign — one of the strongest grassroots campaigns in modern history,” Weaver said.
The lawsuit states that losing access to the DNC’s voter files inflicts “damage and financial losses … that are incapable of precise calculation, but exceed $600,000.00 per day,” and that being denied the data “could significantly disadvantage, if not cripple, a Democratic candidate’s campaign for public office,” according to a report by the Associated Press.
Though Weaver described the DNC’s move as an attempt “to attack the heart and soul of our campaign,” he admitted during the press conference that “some of our staffers irresponsibly accessed some of the data from another campaign.” He said one staffer was fired and suggested others might face “disciplinary action.”
The data breach and the Sanders campaign’s decision to fire a staffer were first reported by the Washington Post late Thursday night. The DNC did not immediately respond to a request for commentfrom Yahoo News after Weaver’s remarks.
The DNC’s move could significantly undercut Sanders’ efforts to challenge Clinton from her left flank as the campaigns prepare for the final Democratic primary debate of the year, which will take place this Saturday in New Hampshire. Weaver described the data the Sanders campaign is now blocked from accessing—which includes voter history and consumer habits of millions of voters—as “the lifeblood of any campaign.”
“This is the information about our supporters, our volunteers, the lists of people we intend to contact in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere,” Weaver said in a statement. “This is information we have worked hard to obtain. It is our information, not the DNC’s.”
In the conference call with reporters, Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, also emphasized the value of the voter file. Mook said the data accessed by Sanders’ team amounted to “the fundamental keys of our campaign” including information about the voters Clinton is targeting and how many people she expects to turn out in key primary states.