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DNC staffers disparaged top party fundraiser and Wasserman Schultz ally

The Washington Post's Abby D. Phillip explains the circumstances around Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's decision to resign as chair of the DNC. (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

In the private sniping about big donors exposed in the Democratic National Committee emails released last week, no one came in for more disparagement than Stephen Bittel.

The South Florida real estate developer, who is co-chair of the party’s national finance committee, is portrayed as overbearing, abrasive — and someone the staff sought to avoid.

When the DNC finance team was planning a small high-dollar donor meeting with President Obama in May, they commiserated over having to deal with Bittel and plotted how to keep him away from the president.

Here are the latest, most damaging things in the DNC’s leaked emails

“Bittel said this morning he was coming so just plan on it, but he doesn’t sit next to POTUS!” national finance director Jordan Kaplan wrote to one of his deputies, Alexandra Shapiro.

“Bittel will be sitting in the [expletive] corner I can find,” she responded. The developer ended up five seats over from the president, according to a seating chart provided to the White House before the event.

Bittel did not respond to requests seeking comment. The real estate developer owns and operates more than $1 billion of property in Florida, according to the Miami Herald. He hosted Vice President Biden at his Coconut Grove home in May for a fundraiser for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who announced Sunday she was resigning from her post as the DNC chairwoman.

On Monday, Bittel hosted a thank-you event for Wasserman Schultz at a Philadelphia restaurant, where the besieged congresswoman grew emotional.

According to an internal DNC biography, Bittel has supported “every major Democratic candidate in Florida politics.”

Steve Schale, a Democratic political strategist in Florida who knows Bittel, called the private comments about him "unfortunate."

"I'm not surprised, being a Florida guy, that D.C. people find a Florida guy can be hard-charging," he said. Schale described Bittel as "a very engaged donor," someone who fires off late-night emails with ideas and has helped convene other contributors for events.

"He is a loyal, committed Democrat," Schale said.

In a statement, the DNC apologized to “the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email."

"Individual staffers have also rightfully apologized for their comments, and the DNC is taking appropriate action to ensure it never happens again," the statement added.

The frank and often unflattering comments about donors such as Bittel in the trove of emails released by WikiLeaks are among the revelations that have inflamed tensions as Democrats are gathering in Philadelphia for their quadrennial convention.

An examination by The Washington Post of messages sent and received by the party’s finance staffers revealed their aggressive efforts to extract big sums from party contributors by dangling perks such as a private session with Obama.

In the run-up to that May 18 event, Shapiro, who heads mid-Atlantic fundraising for the DNC, sought advice about Bittel from her colleague Zach Allen. (The typographical errors were in the emails.)

“So henry and Bittel are both coming to the roundtable as punishment for something I did in a past life,” she wrote. “Does Chris get on with either of them particularly well? Or bob? Just trying to figure out if I should match up any friendly faces/avoid any awkward feuds.”

Allen replied: “LOL, Chris and Bonnie think Bittel is a character — so if you want to go that route, let me know so I can at least forewarn them but they'll be fine and if it makes your life easier, all the better. Are they good seats?  I'm sorry you're having to deal with them in any case.”

(The “henry” in question appears to be Henry R. Muñoz III, the Texas fundraiser who chairs the finance committee with Bittel. He did not respond to a call for comment.)

The next day, Shapiro wrote to Kaplan to thank him for his help at the event. “And sorry if you got the brunt of Bittel,” she added.

This post has been updated.

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