Bernie Sanders, 2016 Democrat Presidential candidate

Image courtesy of Bernie Sanders campaign

Sanders Campaign Staffer Fired Over Clinton Data

| published December 18, 2015 |

By Keith H. Roberts, Thursday Review contributor

A top campaign staffer for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders lost his job this week—fired for allegedly stealing and viewing campaign documents belonging to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Josh Uretsky, national data director for the campaign of Sanders, a U.S. senator representing Vermont, was fired Thursday evening after a brief announcement from campaign spokespersons. Uretsky is accused of accessing proprietary information about the Clinton campaign by exploiting a glitch in the database of a networking and technology vendor, NGP VAN, which provides a variety of digital platforms, software and digital tools to Democratic candidates.

According to some media reports and information from the candidates, the temporary glitch in NGP VAN’s system gave brief access to individuals with rival political campaigns and organizations. Uretsky allegedly viewed data which included proprietary polling information and modelling data belonging to the Clinton campaign.

The Sanders campaign acknowledged the misbehavior—first reported by the Washington Post—and a spokesperson confirmed that Uretsky’s employment with the campaign had been terminated.

“That behavior is unacceptable,” said campaign communications director Michael Briggs, “and that staffer has been fired.”

DNC rules and internal guidelines set up by the vendor mean that the Sanders campaign will be restricted from accessing the database—even its own materials and data—until a thorough investigation is completed. DNC officials are also concerned that NGP VAN has experienced a series of problems with how campaigns and individuals access the database. Though the Sanders campaign did not attempt to deflect responsibility, it did say that problems—including vulnerabilities—with NGC VAN’s system had been reported months earlier.

With the Iowa caucuses now looming closer, the inability of the Sanders campaign to access the data may be damaging to its ability to deploy resources in a state which will makes it decision on February 1.

. Representatives for the Sanders campaign have told reporters that the DNC is over-reacting, and has used a minor incident to effectively strangle the Sanders team, cutting it off from essential information. As of late Friday. the Sanders campaign had secured legal counsel and had filed a lawsuit against the DNC and chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Sanders campaign (as well as the campaign teams of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee) has long complained that the DNC long ago deliberately rigged the 2016 contest to ensure Clinton would be the nominee and making it challenging for opposition candidates to have access to a level playing field.

The DNC has said that, no matter what the Sanders team says, the breach of the material was serious. The DNC says it's own initial investigation shows that multiple parties not only examined proprietary data belonging to the Clinton campaign, but also downloaded information which was off limits to Sanders staffers.

Uretsky himself told reporters on Friday that no one within the Sanders campaign downloaded anything from the database, and that, through he acknowledges looking at the material, he and others were merely trying to understand the nature of the data breach. He said that none of the viewed data was used for strategic purposes. Like others, Uretsky says that the NGP VAN database had experienced problems all along, and that this was not the first instance of information being exposed because of a security vulnerability.

The fracas comes just days ahead of the next Democratic candidates debate, which will be held on Saturday night. It also comes just six weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Democrats Debate ISIS, Iraq, Syria & Wall Street; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; November 16, 2015.

The Democratic Forum: Who Among You is the Most Progressive & Wise?; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; November 10, 2015.