LAS VEGAS — At a busy and sometimes tense fall meeting, the Democratic National Committee officially banned donations from some corporate sources — then approved a number of new DNC members who have been denounced by activists as corporate shills.
The passage of California DNC member Christine Pelosi’s anti-corporate money language was a major victory for the party’s left wing, which had been stymied under previous leaders. Pelosi’s amendment required the party to reject “corporate donors that conflict with our DNC platform” — donors, she said, such as payday lenders, who have spread money around to win allies in both parties. (Political parties are already prohibited from taking money directly from corporations.)
Pelosi’s resolution had been introduced before, and failed under the pressure of party activists who argued that the language was too loose. It was adopted at Friday’s meeting of the party’s resolutions committee — Pelosi is a member — but activists worried that the full DNC could strip it out. On Saturday, to their happy surprise, the full DNC membership approved the resolutions panel’s package with a voice vote.
But not long after, the party’s frustrated progressives were routed in a vote to appoint a new slate of at-large DNC members. The often obscure process of picking those members, who under current DNC rules will be unpledged delegates in the 2020 nominating contest, had become a flash point for activists and critics — mostly outside the DNC — who worried that the party was elevating lobbyists instead of heightening their differences with Republicans.
The most controversial nominees, name-checked in a widely circulated report in the Intercept, were Citigroup lobbyist Manny Ortiz and Dewey Square group strategist Minyon Moore. Just as controversial were the ousters — characterized in many reports as “purges” — of longtime DNC members who had backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president.
Over the week in Las Vegas, the affected members veered between criticism of the DNC’s decision to warnings that critics were going overboard. James Zogby, who was removed from the at-large list but retained a role on the resolutions committee, wrote a column for HuffPost urging critics to stay engaged after giving interviews attacking the DNC’s decision.
The mood was bad enough, however, that DNC chairman Tom Perez used part of the afternoon meeting to apologize for how the membership shifts were handled. He acknowledged that some members — Zogby was one — were informed by lower-level staff members, not him, of their reduced roles.
“I simply ran out of time,” said Perez, explaining that the new list was finalized at the last minute before members could be informed. “I have let a lot of people down, and I didn’t do it on purpose.”
Another tense moment came when Leah Daughtry, an at-large member who was keeping that role, took the stage to denounce a “noisy faction” that seemed to want her out.
“I know that my name, and the names of Minyon Moore, Donna Brazile, Symone Sanders, and Jim Zogby were called this week,” said Daughtry. “We were just this week’s targets. Tomorrow, or maybe even later today, maybe even before this meeting is over, it will be about different people who don’t meet some imaginary ever-changing standard of what it means to be a Democrat.”
Moore, Brazile, Sanders and Daughtry are all black women, and had been the subject of a rumor, reported first by BuzzFeed, that a faction of mostly pro-Sanders DNC members wanted them replaced. That rumor boiled over at several DNC meetings, leading Kansas DNC member Chris Reeves to write a Daily Kos blog post pronouncing it “fake news” based on an overheard meeting.
“While maybe discussing with a large set of members over chili dogs and sandwiches wasn’t wise in retrospect,” wrote Reeves. “The article which appears in Buzzfeed isn’t just wrong in regards to Donna Brazile and others, it comes across as a nearly malicious reading of a conversation designed to debate real issues — like gender balance and the way in which committees are formed — which should be part of a clean, open conversation without recriminations or sideshows that can be left at the door.”
In the end, the controversy fizzled. The DNC at-large list was put to a voice vote, with a clear majority of members approving the list, and an attempt to reconsider — which would have taken a two-thirds majority of members — failing even more audibly.