Two Volunteers, Two ends of the state, feel ousted by the Sanders Campaign Management

Those of you who know me know that I consider ex-Daily Show host Jon Stewart to be a rock star in the world of journalism. He not only made you laugh, but he also spoke common sense, and put politicians and power figures on the spot with his snarky wit and pull-no-punches approach to journalism. So when I heard that a South African comedian named Trevor Noah would be taking his place, my first thought was, “Trevor who?”

Fortunately, while he is no replacement for the immortal Jon Stewart, he is doing a decent job. One of my favorite moments from his show was when he sat down with Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and aired the sentiment many Bernie Sanders supporters have felt over the Democratic Primary campaign, that Sanders was getting “cockblocked by the DNC.”

Volunteers for Bernie Sanders state campaign in Massachusetts, whose primary Sanders lost by less than a 2% margin of voters,  felt the same about their efforts to get Sanders elected.

Take Dhruba Sen from Framingham for example. He campaigned for Sanders before Sanders even announced his election, as a member of the “Run, Bernie, Run” movement. According to Sen, at an interview over coffee at the Holyoke Barnes and Noble in March, what drew him to Sanders was his stances on issues such as “pay equity, social justice . . . health care as a right, not a privilege.”

On the opposite end of the state, Stephen Coyne, former manager for the Berkshire County’s Bernie Sanders Campaign volunteers, got involved when he reached out to a friend ”involved with the national campaign at the December 2015 Rally for Sanders at UMass Amherst. He connected Coyne to Karen Lee, field director for the Sanders campaign in Western Massachusetts, who made him the Berkshire County manager in January of this year.

Coyne cites several grievances with the campaign on Debbie Lusignan's political analysis show, "The Sane Progressive." Among these complaints are being barred by state management from canvassing  until after the New Hampshire Primary, three weeks before Massachusetts voted on Super Tuesday.

Coyne and other volunteers wanted to go out and canvass since January through use of “the local voter rolls, knocking on doors, and using the 'Feel the Bern' app to collect the data.” The campaign, according to Coyne, told him and volunteers, “'We're going to have these great voter roll lists for you, we're going to give them to you right after the Primary on February 9th.'”

“I told them, 'That makes no sense,'” said Sen on the same orders he got from Field Director Tycho McManus and State Director Paul Feeney. This was shortly after Sen claims he was elected team captain for the Framingham area at a volunteer meeting in Charlestown on December 20th of last year.


A photo of the list of town captains from the volunteer meeting in Charlestown, MA on December 20th, 2015.

“After the New Hampshire Primary, we only have three weeks before our Super Tuesday hits. In three weeks, you want to mobilize all of Massachusetts, you have to do an ID of who the Bernie supporters are, you have to make precision calls and do GOTV.”

Coyne called most of the canvassing “an exercise in futility” when he did finally get the voter role list, after, according to Coyne, Lee did not deliver it to him by the initial deadline.

“The voter rolls were eight years old,” he said. “The polling locations on some of them were wrong.”

Not only was the information faulty, but also, according to Sen and Coyne, State campaign management flip-flopped on its word.

On the evening of the New Hampshire Primary, Sen received a mass email saying that Framingham residents Mike Hugo, of Hugo & Associates, and Barbara LeDuc, a member of the Framingham Democratic Town Committee, were asked to be the Framingham captains.

Sen forwarded to me an email he sent to former state organizer, Paul Feeney, saying “Didn't get any response from you. I called, texted, emailed . . . this is not how the campaign works - ignoring the volunteers in Framingham who had been selflessly working since July of 2015, numerous phone banks, standouts and car pools to NH and this imposition from the top of two Clintonites as Framingham Town Captains - which I became at your kitchen cabinet meeting last year. And that this is not true and these two have made it up."

I reached out to Hugo, who said he himself was "probably at that meeting, but [he is] not certain,” and that “he probably made himself captain.”

While Hugo acknowledged that Sen’s conduction of phone banking was “very helpful to the campaign,” Hugo also notes, “He wasn’t reporting the information, or at least that’s what I was told [by the campaign]. Whether he was or not, I can’t report as a fact.

"[The campaign]," continued Hugo, "had trouble with getting accountability from Framingham, they needed someone with strict accountability, and that they needed someone that they could turn their records over to and get them back properly filled out."

"I am a member of the national phone bank live chat support and call monitoring team," said Sen in an email responding to this allegation. "There is no such requirement. It is bull. You check yourself All call tracking are done thru the software."

The primary software used on this web site is HubDialer, described by the company as "built specifically for membership organizations, political campaigns, coalitions, and not-for-profits who rely on an ever-changing network of supporters and volunteers to help achieve their goals."  "The interface provides information about the call recipient, displays a personalized version of the call scripts including the recipient’s name, allows your volunteers to log responses, and gives them access to additional HubDialer features.”  The software allows campaign managers to “observe call progress and response reporting as results are tallied by your volunteers. You can also keep track of the remaining dials in your campaign and drill down on detailed info about your volunteer callers."

Sen also pointed out that his account on another piece of software he used, called "VoteBuilder," had noted discrepancies.

"I am a statistician by trade," he said, "and I checked the data to see if it was biased . . . I noticed that the volunteers that were under my name were switched to a person that had nothing to do with the campaign . . . I emailed Paul Feeney about this, and the next day, my vote builder access was taken away."

VoteBuilder is provided by NGP VAN,  "the leading technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns and organizations, offering clients an integrated platform of the best fundraising, compliance, field, organizing, digital, and social networking products."

"I was told that the National [Campaign]  had decided that no volunteer will be given VAN access to the level I had," Sen posted on the Holyoke/Springfield MA for Bernie Facebook page on March 16th. A screen shot of his VoteBuilder account, according to Sen, demonstrates that he had VAN access to New Hampshire.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 2.37.11 PM

Screen Shot of Dhruba Sen's VoteBuilder home page for New Hampshire, taken by him on the morning of February 11th.

The Boston Office of NGPVan was contacted once via email and twice over the phone. All attempts were unsuccessful.

Coyne said he was told he would have to step down from his role in the campaign if he went through with using an office space in Pittsfield, for which he and other volunteers "paid utilities and heat . . . [T]he landlord donated the space." He was told this the Friday after Lee missed the deadline to give Coyne the voter roll materials, which Lee, according to Coyne, “could not give him . . . until lawyers spoke with her.”

The order to not use the space came after Coyne said he got the approval from Lee, who got the okay from statewide field organizer Andrew DeStefano, to use the space in the first place.

Lee would not comment when asked about these allegations.

When Coyne checked the background of the state campaign's political director, Joe Caiazzo, as suggested by a volunteer outside of the state, he discovered that Caiazzo currently works for the Truman National Security Project, a foreign policy think tank in D.C., as a political partner, described in the member handbook as someone "[f]luent in campaign management, strategic communications, online-to-offline organizing and more[, who] advance[s] progressive principles and a shared liberal internationalist worldview at all levels of government." Its board has included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who spoke at a February rally for Clinton in New Hampshire, and John Podesta, who currently runs Hillary Clinton's campaign and, on a side note, wants the Federal Government to tell us the truth about UFOs.

Caiazzo offered to answer questions over email, but never responded. When contacted on the phone, he said he was "swamped" by his then-current position as communications and political director for the Rhode Island Bernie Sanders campaign, and wasn't "feeling comfortable" with answering a question. He did refer us to another contact, who did not return our calls.

At the end of the day, it was Sen and Coyne who not only felt the Bern, but felt burned as well.