The Democratic National Committee and former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz are currently facing a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Bernie Sanders supporters in federal court for rigging the Democratic primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton. On May 12, CBS reported another class action lawsuit was filed against the DNC for stiffing dozens of field organizers all over the country for overtime work during the 2016 election while the DNC gave out $1 million in bonuses, including more than $300,000 to Democratic National Convention Host Committee Executive Director Kevin Washo. The lawsuit was filed by Justin Swidler of Cherry Hill, N.J. on behalf of 40 to 50 field organizers against the DNC, Pennsylvania state Democrats, and five other state Democratic Parties. “These workers were out there in a campaign that was promising $15 an hour minimum wage and expanding the overtime rights of workers,” Swidler told CBS. He added the lawsuit seeks “fair pay for fair work” and to hold the Democratic Party accountable to the ideals it markets itself with.
Chair of the Democratic National Convention Host Committee and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell alleged that the Democratic National Convention was separate from the operations noted in the lawsuit. Many of the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit worked 80 to 90 hours a week for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and were compensated only $3,000 a month.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that although Rendell claimed the large bonus to the Executive Director Kevin Washo was in part due to volunteer work before the convention, they found that Washo, who was vice president of the political consulting firm New Partners, was paid $243,000 to help Philadelphia win the bid to host the Democratic National Convention. At the same time, Washo was paid a salary by the consulting firm and received a monthly salary of $13,000 from the Democratic National Comittee. “We might have double-paid him. I’ll have to check into it. That’s interesting,” Rendell told the publication on May 12. He also claimed that no Democratic Party donors should be upset over the bonuses. “No donor did this out of the kindness of their heart. They all wanted access,” he said. “They got exactly what they donated for. No donor should feel cheated.”
Congressman Robert Brady, chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, told the Pittsburgh Gazette he was surprised there was any money left over from the convention at all and was unaware bonuses were given out until a reporter called him to ask questions about them.
The Democratic National Convention Host Committee faced controversy in their initial refusal to disclose donors until FEC rules obligated so at the end of September 2016. The New Republic’s David Dayen dubbed the convention “one big corporate bribe.” The Intercept reported in May 2016 that then-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz planned the convention with several anti-Obamacare lobbyists and donors who have traditionally supported Republicans, such as the Host Committee’s finance chair Daniel Hilferty, a health insurance CEO who gave around $40,000 to Republicans in 2016. In response to the bonuses, Pennsylvania State Senate ranking member Joe Scarnati requested an audit by Pennsylvania’s independent auditor general, as the Democratic National Convention Host Committee used a $10 million grant in state funds to win the convention bid and host it.