SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
A lot of Bernie Sanders supporters have complained since the beginning of the race for the 2016 presidency and Democratic presidential nomination that the process was rigged for Hillary Clinton. And those claims seemed bolstered by revelations this week from Donna Brazile, the former DNC chair, about how much power Clinton's campaign had over the party even before the primaries began. Our man Scott Detrow has obtained a memo that set out the terms for that arrangement.
Scott, thanks for joining us in the studio.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, Scott.
SIMON: According to what you've discovered, what exactly was the relationship between the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee?
DETROW: So take this back to 2015. The DNC is deeply in debt, and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign is raising a lot of money and in a position to help deal with that debt for the DNC. So they reach an agreement in August 2015 where the campaign will raise a lot of money in a joint fundraising effort. And in exchange for all that money they pump into the DNC, they would gain control over hiring, communications and financial decisions.
So I'll read you just two sentences from this memo we obtained. HFA - that's the campaign - is prepared to raise and invest funds into the DNC via this joint agreement. In return for this financial support, HFA requires the appropriate influence over the financial, strategic and operational use of these joint-raised funds.
SIMON: Now, that would feed into the idea that the Democratic National Committee had the power to make individual decisions in terms of the primary calendar and stuff that aided the Clinton campaign.
DETROW: That's right. And there was language in this agreement saying that this is for the general election campaign; the DNC is not restrained from reaching an agreement with any other campaign. They did have a separate joint fundraising agreement with Bernie Sanders' campaign. The Sanders campaign never raised any money. But Sanders' advisers are saying - hey, this was never offered to us. And even though there's that disclaimer about only for the general election, this memo lays out hiring decisions to be made in September 2015 - well before the general election.
SIMON: Yeah. And the response from the DNC and the Clinton campaign has been what?
DETROW: The DNC started off explaining that Clinton and Sanders were offered the same deal. But it was quickly apparent, as we reported this yesterday, that that was not the case. And this memo that we first heard about from Donna Brazile in an excerpt for her new book, which comes out next week, she was talking about a totally separate agreement that was signed before either of these joint fundraising agreements went into place with the campaigns.
SIMON: Yeah. Robby Mook had something to say, right?
DETROW: He did, yeah. He was on CNN last night after all this came out. So let's give to listen to what Robby Mook had to say. He was Clinton's campaign manager.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ANDERSON COOPER 360")
ROBBY MOOK: We were very frustrated with the DNC many times. The idea that we had any control over there is pretty laughable.
ANDERSON COOPER: Right. But...
MOOK: We simply put guardrails in about how the money that we raised needed to be focused on the general election activities that were really going to matter.
SIMON: Now, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts says - yeah, this shows the race was rigged. Any response from Bernie Sanders himself?
DETROW: Bernie Sanders' campaign manager has not gotten back to NPR yet. We've reached out several times. But he was on MSNBC yesterday saying this is just another indication that this process was not fair, says the DNC owes Democratic voters an apology. We should point out here - Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary by wide margins, both in terms of total votes...
SIMON: Yeah. Millions of votes, yeah.
DETROW: ...And pledged delegates. So the idea that a couple communications advisers at the DNC could have swayed the outcome, I think, is a pretty high bar. But still, there were several indications. We learned last year through WikiLeaks emails, among other things, that many people in the DNC clearly wanted Hillary Clinton to win.
SIMON: NPR's Scott Detrow, thanks so much.
DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.