Leaked Emails Show DNC Staffers Keeping Close Eye on Tim Canova's Rise

Update 8:30 a.m.: Tim Canova says he will file an election complaint against the DNC over the email leaks, which he contends show Debbie Wasserman Schultz breaking election rules. "Our lawyers are preparing a complaint against Wasserman Schultz that we will file with the FEC for her wrongful use of DNC resources in her campaign against me, based on the WikiLeaks disclosures," he says.  

Update 10:45 a.m.:
It appears Debbie Wasserman Schultz personally asked staff to remove Tim Canova's name from a headline in a statement sent out after Bernie Sanders endorsed Canova.

Original post: The fallout from the trove of Democratic National Committee emails published by WikiLeaks has been swift. Bernie Sanders supporters have raged over his treatment by DNC staffers, and our own Debbie Wasserman Schultz has had to step down as the organization's head. 

But the leak also shows that DNC staffers were watching closely as Sanders-fueled money and support rolled in for Tim Canova, Wasserman Schultz's upstart challenger in the August 30 Democratic primary.

Simply searching Canova's last name in WikiLeaks' file turns up 80 messages, though many emails stemmed from the same chain. DNC staffers repeatedly flagged positive news about the Canova campaign and shared it among themselves. On May 11, DNC staffers shared news that Canova had raised more than $1 million.

Other emails simply show DNC spokespeople fielding questions from reporters after Canova was temporarily denied access to the Florida Democratic Party's voter-data files. DNC spokesperson Luis Miranda referred to that ordeal as "BS" in one email.

In perhaps the strangest message of all, it appears DNC staffers had been keeping a clandestine eye on a pro-Sanders rally in Alaska May 14. Canova spoke at the rally via Skype, and it appears DNC staffers flagged the rally's Facebook event. Miranda asked staffers to "do some digging" about Canova's speech.

"When is he [Canova] speaking compared to when she [Wasserman Schultz] is speaking?" DNC staffer Kate Houghton wrote May 12. "Adding a few more people. We need as much intel as you can provide."

"This is all the FB post has so we need the state party to do some digging," Miranda replied.

"Also, if you read the Facebook posts on the event, speculation is that he's gonna speak at 8," another staffer, Ali Khan, said. "But it all seems TBD."

"There's no way Kay doesn't have someone who can get her intel," Miranda replied. (Kay Brown is the executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party.) "We need to push them."

News of Sanders' May endorsement of Canova, as well as one of Canova's fundraising emails, were also shared within the DNC as well.

"It begins," Clayton Cox, the DNC's Midwest, Florida, and Georgia finance director, wrote in response to the Sanders endorsement.

"Yeah but its split b.t them," Jordan Caplan, the DNC's National Finance Director, replied. "Not cool." 

It also appears the DNC was watching the actions of the Brand New Congress, a team of ex-Sanders staffers aiming to take out entrenched Democratic incumbents across the country. New Times recently profiled Canova's rise as a Sanders-backed candidate — and detailed the effect Brand New Congress' leader, Zack Exley, had on the Canova campaign. (Exley has since left Canova's campaign.)

The DNC, apparently, was also keenly aware of Exley's role in the race.

"As you're all probably aware, Zack is one of the most effective national volunteer organizers in the country and made a huge impact on Bernie's campaign to mobilize his base," staffer Ali Chalupa wrote after Brand New Congress announced its soft launch in April.

"Just a reminder that he’s a part of Tim Canova’s campaign team," fellow staffer Kate Houghton replied.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.