Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

About that DNC conspiracy talk ...

The Democratic National Committee is known in politics as the DNC, but someone inside the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign hoped you might mistake it for Damn Nefarious Conspirators.

The Democratic National Committee is known in politics as the DNC, but someone inside the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign hoped you might mistake it for Damn Nefarious Conspirators.

I say someone because the person who floated a conspiracy theory to for a story that appeared Friday was identified only as "a top Sanders campaign adviser."

This is the latest - and possibly the weirdest - installment in the recent voter-data computer controversy surrounding the Democratic candidates for president.

The Sanders adviser, in that article, walks right up to the line of calling the campaign's former data director, Josh Uretsky, a DNC spy without offering persuasive evidence.

A quick catch-up:

Uretsky, a Philly guy, has said he noticed a serious security problem in a computer system set up by a vendor and used by the DNC, Sanders, and Hillary Clinton's campaign to store and work on information about voters.

Uretsky, 39, poked around, later telling MSNBC that he was trying to establish a record of the problem so he could report it and his actions could be seen by the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

For this, he was fired Dec. 17.

The story went public the next day, when the DNC briefly blocked Sanders from the system, until he filed a federal lawsuit.

The Sanders campaign then said Uretsky was fired not for improperly using Clinton's campaign data on the system, but for waiting too long to report the security problem he discovered.

The Clinton camp cried foul about "a very egregious breach." The Sanders camp trained fire on the DNC, which it suspects of leaning Clinton's way, and pressed on with the federal lawsuit.

The controversy set the stage for fireworks at the Dec. 19 Democratic debate but fizzled when Sanders apologized to Clinton for the data breach and she accepted.

Let's move on, right?

Not so fast, says the "top Sanders campaign adviser," who shakes the tree of conspiracy until two things fall about Uretsky into the story.

Uretsky, that article says, came to the Sanders campaign with references from Andrew Brown, the DNC's national data director, and Bryan Whitaker, who had been chief operating officer for the computer vendor NGP VAN.

"It's not as if we conjured this guy Josh from thin air," Mr. Anonymous told

Let's pause here to acknowledge two things:

First, it would be so amazing if we could conjure from thin air data wizards when needed.

And second, Uretsky comes from a pretty small club of people who focus on data collection and mining for political campaigns. The fact that two well-known guys in that small field recommended him is pretty shaky ground on which to construct a conspiracy.

Guess who agrees with that? Why, it's the Bernie Sanders campaign!

Michael Briggs, a Sanders spokesman, said the campaign "does not believe the theory" explored in the story.

Did a "top Sanders campaign adviser" really give voice to the conspiracy?

"That's what Yahoo reported," Briggs said. "They didn't talk to me."

Here, I pointed out to Briggs that his campaign took Uretsky's reputation out for a pretty bumpy ride. I asked if he wanted to say anything about the guy the Sanders campaign threw under this bus.

Because it looks pretty clear the bus backed up to make sure Uretsky was smeared on the road.

"No. I'm going to stick with what I told you," Briggs told me.

I was under the impression that Sanders, in his second term in the U.S. Senate from Vermont after spending 16 years in the U.S. House, was presenting himself as an alternative to Clinton, the former first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state who is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

But the Sanders campaign seems so Clintonian.

Sacrifice a staffer for a scandal, then redirect attention to a suitable bad guy like the DNC, and then rough up some reputations on the sly while assuming a "Who, us?" stance in public.

Uretsky, who has been declining interviews lately, didn't want to comment on this latest dustup.

The DNC is clearly eager for the computer controversy to code out.

"The candidates dealt with this in the debate, and they moved past it and started talking about the issues that the voters cared about," DNC spokesman Eric Walker said Saturday when asked about the story. "I think everyone should follow the candidates' lead and move past this."