Millions of Bernie Sanders’ donors may now have legal recourse against the Democratic primaries they saw as rigged.
Beck & Lee Trial Lawyers, a civil litigation firm based in Miami, Florida, is announcing the filing of a class action lawsuit against the DNC early next week, alleging fraud and collusion with the Hillary Clinton campaign. While roughly one hundred people have officially signed on as plaintiffs, partner Jared Beck told US Uncut that thousands of requests for legal paperwork have come in within the last 48 hours.
“Signed agreements are coming in steadily and we continue to get new requests by the minute,” Beck said.
Anyone who donated to the DNC after Bernie Sanders entered the race for the Democratic nomination, either directly or indirectly through third-party payment platforms like ActBlue, is eligible to join the lawsuit, along with anyone who donated to Bernie Sanders’ campaign throughout the course of the primaries and caucuses.
“We think that the DNC has been running absolutely out of control and completely disregarding their responsibilities, rights, and duties to the public,” attorney Elizabeth Beck told US Uncut.
Jared Beck said whether or not a “class” in the lawsuit is deemed valid by the court will depend on a number of factors, but the number of class representatives in the lawsuit could be as high as the number of individual donors to Sanders’ campaign.
Around two million people donated a combined seven million contributions averaging $27 apiece. Sanders accumulated more than $222 million in donations throughout the primaries and caucuses.
“The way a class action works in civil litigation is that not everybody who is represented or is a member of the class needs to be a class plaintiff,” Beck said in a phone interview. “We’ll be seeking relief for everybody who falls into the class around the country.”
“Given the average donation of $27, that could be a lot of people, to say the least,” he added.
The basis for the lawsuit stems from DNC internal communications published by hacker Guccifer 2.0, who took ownership of the compromising of DNC servers and allegedly leaked their contents. Among other items, the leaks revealed emails showing the DNC had been actively working behind the scenes to boost Hillary Clinton’s profile in the media as early as May 26, 2015, nearly a month after Sanders had entered the race for the Democratic nomination.
New leaks published this week showed the DNC spent time and resources assessing Clinton’s vulnerabilities as a candidate in the early summer of 2015, and the DNC even drafted talking points for campaign operatives to suggest as narratives to members of the media, attempting to inject their own phrasing into third-party stories.
Beck said he believes the lawsuit will be successful, as Article 5, Section 4 of the charter and bylaws of the Democratic Party explicitly requires the chair of the DNC to remain impartial during the primary process:
In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and evenhandedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process.
Beck also said a fraud lawsuit is justified due to multiple actions taken by DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who served as co-chair of Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Wasserman Schultz repeatedly claimed neutrality throughout the primary season despite numerous allegations from the Sanders campaign and national media that she tipped the scales in Clinton’s favor throughout the Democratic primary, most notably by scheduling the debates during low-viewership timeslots and by shutting down the Sanders campaign’s access to its voter file database for 24 hours.
“The DNC needs to do what it says in its charter, which is to be even-handed and unbiased in response to the slate of candidates running for the nomination,” Beck told US Uncut.
Elizabeth Lee Beck, a senior partner at the firm who is helping to coordinate the lawsuit, said thousands of messages have poured in from Sanders supporters across the country.
“People use words like, ‘angry,’ ‘I feel cheated,’ ‘Thank you for giving us a voice,’” Elizabeth Beck said. “I’ve read comments like, ‘I would have gotten the same results as if I had flushed my money down the commode.’”
“The common thread among all these emails is they feel deeply aggrieved and cheated, which is a natural response to being defrauded,” she added.
Elizabeth Beck described the shock she felt at an email from a Sanders supporter that spoke to the depth of sacrifice that the Vermont senator’s donors made to support his campaign.
“I remember someone said, ‘I donated $35, but if I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it. That was a trip to the grocery store,’” she recalled.
According to Jared Beck, no venue has yet been picked to file the lawsuit, which he expects to be officially filed early next week to allow for a hearing before the Democratic National Convention on July 25. Under federal law, the DNC, as a defendant in a class action lawsuit, has 20 days to respond upon being served. He said there are several options the DNC can choose from in how it responds.
“They can issue a motion to dismiss or move to stay the case, which means they try to delay it. I don’t know what kind of strategy we’ll see from them,” Beck said. “There’s not a lot of precedent for this type of lawsuit, so it’s really hard to say what we’d expect from the defendant at this point.”
Jared Beck described this lawsuit as unique in that the goal is to not just secure financial compensation, but to fundamentally change the way the DNC exists and conducts business.
“You have people who say they’re homeless or unemployed, and they gave whatever was in their pockets to Bernie, and you have doctors and lawyers who have given thousands of dollars… We’re civil litigators, and usually our cases can be reduced to dollars and cents, but I don’t know if any amount of money could compensate for American democracy, which is priceless to me. I think anything short of a fundamental change in the way the DNC conducts itself is not acceptable… This isn’t a case that’s about money, this is a case about the fairness about the Democratic process.”
Beck and Lee is a civil litigation firm that has previously won multi-million dollar judgments in previous civil cases. While their firm is based in Florida, they have prior experience in nationwide class action lawsuits, with Elizabeth Lee Beck serving as co-lead counsel in a nationwide class action case against Unilever. Anyone wanting to join Beck & Lee’s lawsuit is encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow the progress of the lawsuit on its official Facebook page.