The attorneys for 2016 supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who are suing Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and the Democratic National Committee for fraud say they are “perplexed” as to why the case has gotten so little coverage in the media.
“This seems like an important case, as important as you can get,” attorney Cullin O’Brien told LifeZette on Tuesday.
“You don’t have a right to take people’s money under false pretenses.”
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In the suit, Wilding v. DNC, the Sanders supporters and their attorneys claim Schultz and the Democratic National Committee defrauded them out of their money by pledging to be neutral when in fact the committee was working, from early on, to help Hillary Clinton — and only Hillary Clinton. They accuse them of “intentional, willful, wanton and malicious” conduct.
They also accuse the DNC and its chairwoman, Wasserman Schultz, of negligent misrepresentation, violation of a local District of Columbia law, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence for failing “to use and exercise reasonable and due care in obtaining, retaining and securing the personal and financial information provided to them” by people who donated to the committee.
The class-action suit was filed on June 28, 2016, after leaked emails from the computers of the Democratic National Committee, published by hacker Guccifer 2.0, revealed the committee was working to promote the candidacy of Hillary Clinton from the very start, despite public pledges to remain neutral. In a May 2015 memo that was released, the committee laid out different methods of attack to “muddy the waters” around Clinton’s vulnerabilities, methods that included “working through the DNC” to “utilize reporters” and generating stories in the media “with no fingerprints.”
“Despite there being every indication that the 2016 Democratic primary would be contested by multiple candidates, including Sanders, the DNC memo makes no mention of any Democratic candidate except Clinton, and builds the DNC’s election strategy on the assumption that Clinton will be the nominee, with no doubts attached,” the complaint reads.
The case, O’Brien says, is not really about the election itself.
“I wouldn’t call this an election case. It’s a fraud case,” he said. “You don’t have a right to take people’s money under false pretenses.”
O’Brien is working as a team with three other attorneys — Antonino Hernandez and Jared and Elizabeth Lee Beck of Miami.
The complaint cites several instances where Wasserman Schultz told the media the DNC was remaining neutral in the Democratic primary, which was, for a time, a five-way race with former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley joining Sanders and Clinton in seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
It also cites Article 5, Section 4, of the DNC Charter, which says that as head of the DNC, the chair, particularly in preparation for and conduct of the presidential nominating process, “shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness.”
Wasserman Schultz resigned as head of the DNC following the revelations, along with three other top DNC staffers, and the Democratic National Convention that took place in Philadelphia days later was boiling over with discontent, with frequent booing of speakers and heckling of Wasserman Schultz when she took the stage to speak.
The class-action suit names 150 plaintiffs from 45 states and the District of Columbia representing three classes: donors to the DNC, donors to Sanders, and all members of the Democratic Party. It was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The judge, William Zloch, is now considering a motion to dismiss. A hearing was held on the motion on April 25, with the DNC’s lawyer arguing, in essence, that the Democratic National Committee is not legally bound by its charter, and can favor one candidate over others if it wants to.
The media blackout of the case has been so extreme that a Tuesday search in Google News for lead plaintiff “Carol Wilding” and DNC produced just one article. Not one article in the past month or year. But one article total, a May 13 piece on the liberal progressive website Salon, “The DNC’s elephant in the room: Dems have a problem — it’s not Donald Trump.”
A search on Google News for the name of the case in quotes “Wilding v. DNC” yields zero results. A search of the official name of the case, “Wilding et al. v. DNC” yields 16 results — Salon and a handful of obscure websites. No mainstream outlets either national or in Florida, where the suit was filed.
If the motion to dismiss the case is denied, the case will be green-lighted and attorneys can begin to request documents through discovery and arrange to subpoena witnesses, including Wasserman Schultz.
The plaintiffs are seeking a return of the money they donated to the Democratic National Committee, along with attorney fees, costs, and also “special damages” and “exemplary/punitive damages … in an amount sufficient to deter and make an example of defendants.”
O’Brien says a dollar amount will be named in the discovery process, but indicated that the plaintiffs will not settle the case for any amount.
“We want our day in court,” he told LifeZette.