Is the Hillary Victory Fund a Fraud?

UPDATED: Please read this more recent post on the Hillary Victory Fund, which I believe clarifies the issues quite a bit.


Awhile back I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s fundraising apparatus, the Hillary Victory Fund, that is (allegedly) raising money for down-ticket candidates. She is frequently lauded for this altruistic effort, in news and social media, and last week Rachel Maddow asked Bernie Sanders when he might start fundraising like that, too. However, as I wrote earlier, there is something profoundly, um, fishy about the whole “Victory Fund” apparatus.

Some background, from what I wrote in February:

Executive Summary:  In brief, here’s how it works: The Hillary Victory Fund is a joint fundraising committee for Hillary for America, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic committees of 32 states and Puerto Rico. It was set up in such a way that the Clinton campaign and DNC could ask wealthy backers to give the $356,100 maximum annual contribution twice: once in 2015 and again this year.

The money passes through the state party organizations, which do benefit, but the Clinton campaign gets “kickbacks” that she can use as direct campaign contributions without the strings usually attacked to large contributions. And the DNC, which was in debt late last year, has received nearly $2 million of those dollars so far. This explains why Debbie Wasserman Schultz created a debate schedule that effectively denied national exposure to Clinton challengers.

Now some other folks finally are asking question, too. And it turns out that the money allegedly going to those timeserving down-ticket candidates may be going somewhere else entirely.

Mike the Mad Biologist does a good job of pulling information together. This is from a Washington Post article from February that I missed, somehow.

… the states have yet to see a financial windfall. Meanwhile, Clinton’s campaign has been a major beneficiary, getting an infusion of low-dollar contributions through the committee at a time when rival Bernie Sanders’s army of small donors is helping him close in on her financially. The fund is run by Clinton campaign staff, and its treasurer is Clinton’s chief operating officer.

Do tell.

The early, expansive use of a jumbo-size joint fundraising committee shows how the Clinton campaign has worked to maximize donations from wealthy supporters, seizing on rules loosened by the Supreme Court.

Many states were wary of joining the effort, worried that such a partnership would be perceived as an endorsement of Clinton and might interfere with their efforts to raise money from home state donors. But campaign officials — including Marlon Marshall, Clinton’s director of state campaigns — emphasized that this was a way to strengthen the party at its roots, a message Clinton echoed in the speech she delivered at the Minneapolis meeting to DNC members.

Makes you wonder how many of those superdelegates were bought.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Lawrence Noble, a former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) who is now with the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “Joint victory funds are not intended to be separate operating committees that just support a single candidate. But they appear to be turning the traditional notion of a joint committee into a Hillary fundraising committee.”

Of the $6.4 million the Hillary Victory Fund spent on operating costs last year, two-thirds went to two Washington, D.C.-area vendors that also work for the Clinton campaign: Bully Pulpit Interactive, which received $1.9 million for online ads, and Chapman Cubine Adams +Hussey, which was paid $2.4 million for direct mail solicitations, Federal Election Commission records show.

The victory fund also sponsors Clinton’s online store, allowing donors who have already given the maximum to her campaign to purchase Hillary lapel pins, caps or car magnets, with their money benefiting the party. It’s similar to the way President Obama’s online shop was run in his 2012 reelection.Aides to Sanders, whose joint fundraising committee with the DNC has not yet been active, said the Hillary Victory Fund appears to be functioning as an arm of Clinton’s campaign.

Meanwhile, on social media, today I ran into a nest of Bernie supporters who wanted to tell the world about Hillary Clinton’s old Travelgate scandal from 1993. What can one say, but argh.

Now Margot Kidder (that Margot Kidder? I think yes) writes in Counterpunch that some screwy things are going on with the money at state level.

The Alaska Democratic party, in its end of the year filing with the FEC, said it raised $43,500 from the Hillary Victory Fund with 10,000.00 dollar donations from Clinton friends and billionaires, including hedge fund manage S Donald Sussman, and Hyatt Hotel heir JB Pritzker. ( two of the several $10,000  donors to the Montana State Democratic Party) . But in the same report it said it transferred the same amount of money, $43,500 back to the DNC – .  a technically legal move that effectively obliterates federal limits on donations to the national committee.

It just becomes a way to funnel more to the DNC to support the Clinton Campaign”, said Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Centre, which advocates for campaign finance reform. “It’s effectively Hillary Clinton’s team soliciting Hillary Clinton’s supporters for much bigger checks than they can give to the campaign.”

The same thing happened with the Maine State Democratic Party with many of the same billionaire donors. Maine attracted many of Clinton’s biggest donors. But the contributions didn’t stay in Maine either, or in any of the other state democratic parties to which Hillary Victory Fund donations have been funneled.  In October and November two transfers totaling 39,000 from the Hillary Victory Fund to the Maine Democratic party sat for less than 48 hours before the same amounts were transferred to the DNC in Washington.

What the bleep is going on? Kidder goes on to say that Barack Obama had a similar deal gong on in 2008, but only after he had secured the nomination. Making these arrangements before the nomination makes it a very different thing —

The Democratic spokespeople for the17 states that refused to go along with the Clinton campaign’s plan, even though many of them were as broke as the Montana State Democratic Party was  (Nebraska springs to mind), were clear that it seemed less than democratic to be choosing sides in a primary that hadn’t happened yet.  That the very purpose of a primary was to let the people choose which candidate they wanted to represent them and to not let the party establishment load the dice in their own favour. They made it obvious that they were choosing democracy over kick-backs.

“A joint fundraising committee linking Hillary Clinton to the national Democratic Party and 33 state parties is routing money through those state parties and back into the coffers of the Clinton campaign and all its PACS and Funds … It is a highly unusual arraignment if only because presidential candidates do not normally enter into fundraising agreements with their party’s committees until after they actually win the nomination. And second, Clinton’s fundraising committee is the first since the Supreme Court’s 2014 McCutcheon v FEC decision eliminated aggregate contribution limits and congress increased party contribution limits in the 2014 omnibus budget bill” said Paul Blumenthal, a writer for The Huffington Post.

A loud article in the NYT in March proclaiming that elected officials in 22 states would not support Bernie Sanders conveniently left out that those 22 states had signed agreements with the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Hillary Victory Fund.

This stinks out loud, and is worse than I had imagined. Kidder’s piece is quite good and deserves to be read all the way though, btw. It ends with a list of the states involved in the Victory Fund. The superdelegates of those states may require scrutiny.

35 thoughts on “Is the Hillary Victory Fund a Fraud?

  1. No wonder Clinton spends so much time looking defensive and shifty – this is naked corruption of the political process and treating the Democratic party as if it were just the political arm of the Clinton family business. We need these crooks gone from the party yesterday.

  2. With a superscription of Hillary’s Victory Fund you can be sure it’s pure political altruism. I don’t fault her for scheming to circumvent campaign finance laws but I do find it repulsive in how she goes about masking her scheme in an aura benevolence.
    She should get into the payday loan business where she can really express her love for the financially disadvantaged.

  3. @Swami

    Are we sure Clinton isn’t already in the payday loan business? Judging by the love for that ignoble line of work expressed by Wasserman Schultz, one might reasonably suspect that the Clintons have been guzzling from that particular swill trough as well.

  4. Another “interesting” story that implies very strongly that Clinton’s campaign have been covertly paying one of Sanders’ key operatives:

    “My March 25th story that alleged Ryan Hughes, Bernie Sanders’ state director for his campaign in Michigan, took money from Super Pacs associated with Hillary Clinton, was based for the most part on Mark Craig’s statements to me. This follow-up report, which names Diana Rogalle, a prominent Democratic consultant and fundraiser, as Mark Craig’s source for that claim is, in like manner, also primarily based on statements made by Mr. Craig, as supplemented by my own independent online and offline research.”

  5. Gotta send Bernie some more $$ today. This is highly motivational. One thing to remember about Bernie folks dealing with the past: they are susceptible to investigating repeated R talking points because they were not around back then. Literally. They are just getting a fast education in politics, and some of the texts are evidently approved by the Texas Textbook Board (or whatever they call themselves).

  6. Anyone following the Panama Papers story?
    No Americans named yet.

    We might find “the usual suspects” mixed up in it; and some unusual ones, too!

  7. The scheme does sound a bit shady though this is the political environment Citizens United has created. Hillary doesn’t have to play the game but to suggest she is committing fraud seems a bit of a stretch? She’s is certainly right out on the edge but I doubt she, the DNC or her campaign are actually breaking the law.

  8. Uff da.

    Maha, you note that Barack Obama had a similar deal worked out for the general election campaign. Wouldn’t that be pretty troublesome, too? Was Obama also claiming to raise funds for local candidates when those funds were actually being kicked back to his own? I don’t know, but perhaps someone else does.

  9. @uncledad

    Remember that this is Clinton whose campaign has been slamming Bernie for not raising money for down-ballot candidates while yapping about their own virtue. That’s fraudulent advertising at the very least – and shows utter contempt for their own voters.

  10. Counterpunch, Maha? Really?

    I get it; as far as you’re concerned everything Sanders does is right and Hillary is always wrong and probably evil. Fine. Your blog, your feelings. But I just read the Daily News interview with Sanders and he seems to have no idea (1) how Dodd Frank works now, or (2) how he would manage a break up of the big banks. And this is about one of the main planks of his campaign. I hope you will forgive me for saying that I am underwhelmed.

    I also think if you’re going to accuse people of being bought you ought to produce some actual evidence. But then of course I work for a court, where they kick you out if you don’t have evidence.

    And I intend to support whoever the Democrats nominate, because either one is vastly preferable to Trump. OR Cruz.

  11. Annie – you don’t get it. We’re not part of the anarchist groups who won’t support the democrat over any of the GOP nominees. You may not have received the memo but we’re still in the primary. HRC sucks as a person – she has no ethics about money and she will put out later for her donors. Some of us find political whoring objectionable. If you had read this post, you would note that the suggestion/argument is that the HRC superPAC bought the superdelegate support with cash to the states who would sellout. If you live in a sewer that may smell normal. I object to the stench. If the Clinton machine prevails, I will vote for her, but I’ll work to dismantle the machine. I think democrats should work towards democracy.

  12. “That’s fraudulent advertising at the very least – and shows utter contempt for their own voters”

    Again this is a political campaign, so yes the campaigns are playing politics, I’m shocked! I’m no huge fan of Hillary and I think she has some questionable campaigning techniques but I wouldn’t call what she is doing fraud!

  13. “I wouldn’t call what she is doing fraud”

    I can’t think of another term for soliciting support on the basis of blatant falsehood and financial dishonesty. Clinton has been claiming that she’s raising that money for down-ballot Democrats when in fact she’s been recycling it straight back into her own campaign funds. At the same time, she’s been making allegations about how Bernie is failing in his responsibilities to the party by not raising money for other candidates. If anything, it’s a double fraud. It’s also remarkably arrogant and foolish.

  14. “Clinton has been claiming that she’s raising that money for down-ballot Democrats when in fact she’s been recycling it straight back into her own campaign funds”

    Not true I suggest you read maha’s post again, she is taking a cut but some of the money does go to down ballot candidates. If your intention is to point out that Hillary is a Fraud I suggest you stick to the truth, if your intention is to bloody Clinton before the General then the Donald welcomes your support, what did President Obama say to Mittens, Please Proceed!

    • uncledad — It’s not clear where that money is going. I’m sure eventually a chunk of it is going to the states, but not before it is filtered through the Clinton campaign and the DNC.

  15. It looks like Kidder did her homework, but she may be telling only one side of the story. I wouldn’t call it “fraud”, but it’s unfortunate. Down-ballot Democrats really will need lotsa money to have a chance against well-funded Republicans (almost an oxymoron). HRC has proven that she’s willing to play the game, and I do believe that she wants to improve people’s lives, and not just her own.

    Bernie wants to change the rules. I agree with him. But I understand that we’re gambling with people’s well-being, and I don’t hate Hillary for choosing differently.

    OTOH, on foreign policy, Hillary seems quite willing to gamble with people’s lives. That does scare me (though she’s still obviously preferable to Trump or any of the “normal” Republicans).

    In any case, please keep the fight between Hillary & Bernie supporters civil. And to my fellow Sandernistas (a term which I embrace as positive): go to ActBlue & donate to Democrats who have endorsed Bernie!

    And yeah, I’m pretty sure that is The Margot Kidder – Lois Lane – imitating “Art” in Life. Good for her! (and us)

  16. Also, Annie – what’s wrong with Counterpunch? sure, it looks Lefty, but I don’t see anything really kooky (aliens, Illuminati, etc) at first glance.

    • I haven’t looked at Counterpunch much since Alexander Cockburn died. I always thought it was a mixed bag, as was Cockburn. Cockburn was one of the founding editors and a genuine leftie. He made Sanders seem moderate. Cockburn could be spot on sometimes, and sometimes he was too Left even for me. But I think he was honest, by which I didn’t get the sense from him that he was deliberately spinning facts to fit his opinion. As for the articles in Counterpunch, you have to judge them on their own merit, or lack thereof.

  17. Small correction – In one week I will lose the right to vote, so I won’t be voting for ANY candidate in the General. (previous comment said otherwise about HRC) If I forget to make a caveat in any statement “if I could vote”, consider this a blanket disclaimer. I will not ever vote fraudulently though in discussions online I may forget that I’m a felon starting Wednesday and I’ll never discount the importance of getting your butt out there to vote.


    “There is a persistent, organized effort to misrepresent my record, and I don’t appreciate that,” Clinton told Politico in a podcast interview published Wednesday. “And I feel sorry for a lot of the young people who are fed this list of misrepresentations.”

    On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Clinton was asked why she hasn’t been able to attract the kind of voters that pack the Vermont senator’s rallies.

    “Look, I think it’s exciting to be, in effect, protesting,” Clinton said. “I did that a long time ago when I was in my 20s, and I totally get the attraction of this.”

    I wonder if she feels sorry us old buzzards who have been fed all this misrepresentation rooster dookie also. I guess as you get older you become more easily befuddled with the intricacies of political maneuvering. Maybe I’ve spent too much time looking at Hillary as a candidate and can only see her as condescending and smug, but I’m experiencing a great distaste for her as a presidential hopeful.
    This one goes out to all those misguided youths who want to believe in Sanders message but aren’t smart enough to know that in reality they just want to sow their oats in protest to the discipline of established policy. Yep, auntie Hillary knows best.

  19. @uncledad

    “If your intention is to point out that Hillary is a Fraud I suggest you stick to the truth, if your intention is to bloody Clinton before the General then the Donald welcomes your support, what did President Obama say to Mittens, Please Proceed!”

    My intention is to get better Democrats into positions of power, rather than corrupt and dishonest Wall St shills like Hillary Rodham Clinton and her gang of cronies. If you object to this, I’d say that’s your problem. Clinton has learned nothing as a politician since she lost to Obama (and she said some amazingly stupid and dishonest things in that campaign too). If the party insists on nominating someone who doesn’t deserve my vote and insults me by blatantly lying in an attempt to con my vote out of me, that’s the party and the candidate’s problem.

  20. Hillary refers us back to her early days in politics when she tried and failed to improve our healthcare system, to demonstrate her commitment to the average American. Now she suggests that Bernie supporters are for the most part young and idealistic and are attracted to the protest as she once was, and fears that they may be misled by these false allegations. She has since moved to NY and made a small fortune from speaking fees on Wall Street. My take is that she has learned how the game is played and sooner or later so will those young energetic idealistic new comers to the party. I hope not.
    Bernie has been at war with this very premise for decades now and I think these young activists are quite able to see what is at stake… even if they don’t remember Kissenger.

  21. “My intention is to get better Democrats into positions of power, rather than corrupt and dishonest Wall St shills like Hillary Rodham Clinton and her gang of cronies”

    I admire your idealism but take a look around, Bernie would be roasted by not only the GOP but the corporate mainstream media would absolutely destroy him in the court of public opinion. Its’ nice to stand by your convictions I share many of them but I really don’t want a president Trump or Cruz, so I’m supporting Hill. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and their vote!

    • //Bernie would be roasted by not only the GOP but the corporate mainstream media would absolutely destroy him in the court of public opinion. // So we should just give up now and let them win.

  22. uncledad, Bernie Sanders is already being tried in the court of public opinion and is doing very well, thank you. He has consistently been polling higher than Clinton in a not-so-hypothetical race against either Cruz or Trump. So if you really don’t want Cruz or Trump to win, you should throw your support behind Sanders immediately.

    Finally, all who support the “lesser evil” are, by their own admission, supporters of evil, and have thrown hope out the window. Why not support the greater good for once?

  23. “the corporate mainstream media would absolutely destroy him in the court of public opinion.”

    …as opposed to Hillary Clinton, who will soon be called to testify before the FBI …whose only excuse for sending classified emails from her private account is that supposedly, other secretaries of state did it before her (similar, lame excuses didn’t work for me in my childhood)… who still needs to scramble desperately to hide secrets like the one described above? Give me a break!

    Trump will continue the same attack against Hillary, if nominated – big, Wall Street donors vs small-time donors, and will make the vicious attacks on her criminal nature that Sanders has graciously refrained from.

    • I sincerely believe Clinton will be a weak general election candidate and that Sanders might well be stronger. I also think that if the GOP nominates Trump or Cruz, it won’t matter who the Dems nominate. Those two are so odious I don’t believe either could get more than a third of the vote. However, against a less apparently demented Republican, Hillary will lose. Sanders, hard to say. It depends a lot on whether the Press gives him a fair shot or if they think he’s the geeky kid who can’t sit at their lunch table, the way they treated Al Gore in 2000.

      In Sanders’s favor, however, is that he’s been winning something like 80 percent of the votes of independents, when they are allowed to vote in a state’s primary. Assuming Sanders gets the Dem vote, he ought to be a stronger general election candidate than Hillary. Yes, they’ll call him “Bolshevik Bernie” and draw cartoons of him with a hammer and sickle, but who in his right mind thinks they’d be less savage with Clinton?

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