Clinton shutting out state Democrats from joint fundraising benefits – report

© Jim Young
Less than 1 percent of the $61 million raised by a joint effort between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign, the Democratic National Committee and 33 state Democratic committees has gone to the state parties, a new report says.

About $3.8 million of the $61 million raised by the Hillary Victory Fund has been allocated for state Democratic parties, yet $3.3 million of that has been funneled to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Politico reported following an analysis of Federal Election Commission records. The arrangement is designed to, in part, assist state parties in down-ballot elections.

Meanwhile, $15.4 million of Victory Fund donations were given to the Clinton campaign, and $5.7 million to the DNC. Furthermore, most of the $23.3 million of Victory Fund money spent thus far has gone to directly benefit the Clinton campaign, Politico reported, raising concerns that the Clinton campaign is avoiding campaign contribution rules by using the joint fundraising initiative as a pass-through.

“It’s a one-sided benefit,” one state party official told Politico, which reported that the DNC has purportedly "advised" state party officials on how to respond to media inquiries into the Victory Fund relationship.

“The DNC has given us some guidance on what they’re saying, but it’s not clear what we should be saying,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous. “I don’t think anyone wants to get crosswise with the national party because we do need their resources. But everyone who entered into these agreements was doing it because they were asked to, not because there are immediately clear benefits.”

The Victory Fund arrangement calls for the first $2,700 of a maximum donation of $356,100 to be given to the Clinton campaign, $33,400 to the DNC, and the rest to the state parties. But after the initial distribution, the agreement allows the Clinton campaign to dole out money however it likes.

A spokesman for the Clinton campaign said that some state parties received another $700,000 from the Victory Fund, which will be detailed in FEC reports not yet available to the public.

“About $4.5 million has already been transferred to state parties and there is an additional $9 million on hand that will be distributed over the coming months as state parties ramp up for the general election,” said Josh Schwerin, adding that in April “money raised through the HVF has started to be used to fund Democratic coordinated campaigns across the country, which will help strengthen the party and elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Schwerin, however, did not address questions as to how much of the $700,000 sums would eventually be transferred to the DNC.

As of March 31, only eight of the participating state parties had received more money from the Victory Fund arrangement than was transferred to the DNC.

In April, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton's rival for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, claimed that the Hillary Victory Fund was using finances generated by the joint committee for advertisements that only appeared to benefit Hillary for America – Clinton's campaign – and not the DNC or any smaller state party committees.

“Unlike Clinton’s presidential campaign committee, Hillary for America, the joint committee may accept large donations of up to $356,100," the Sanders campaign said. "The first $2,700 of this amount is eligible for transfer to the Clinton campaign, $33,400 can be transferred to the DNC, with any remaining amount, up to $10,000, to each participating state party.”

The letter added: “According to public disclosure reports, however, the joint Clinton-DNC fund, Hillary Victory Fund (HVF), appears to operate in a way that skirts legal limits on federal campaign donations and primarily benefits the Clinton presidential campaign.”

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said at the time that “it is unprecedented for the DNC to allow a joint committee to be exploited to the benefit of one candidate in the midst of a contested nominating contest.”