One of Steyer's Campaign Aides Was Forced to Resign After Stealing Harris's Volunteer Data

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Posted: Nov 05, 2019 7:03 PM
One of Steyer's Campaign Aides Was Forced to Resign After Stealing Harris's Volunteer Data

Source: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Billionaire and 2020 presidential candidate Tom Steyer's South Carolina State Deputy Director Dwane Sims was forced to resign after it came to light that he stole volunteer data Kamala Harris' campaign obtained. According to The Post and Courier Sims used his account information from when he worked for the South Carolina Democratic Party to download the valuable data. 

An official with the state party told NBC News Sims was able to access the data because "he had created and retained access to a separate user account via his personal email."

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) had put a temporary hold on the Steyer campaign's access to voter data because of a miscommunication regarding payment. When the payment issue was restored, "Sims' access to the voter file was restored at the level that he had when he worked for the party, which is more expansive than what he should have had as a campaign staff member," a Steyer campaign official told NBC News.

When the DNC got wind of the data breach, they sent a cease-and-desist letter and confirmed Sims destroyed the voter data, The Post and Courier reported. 

“We take this matter very seriously, and that is why we immediately worked with the DNC to disable this employee’s access to Vote Builder,” South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson said. “It is critical that the Steyer campaign take immediate action regarding their employee.”

But the Steyer campaign said they immediately contacted the DNC to let them know what happened. 

"Within minutes of realizing this, Mr. Sims called the South Carolina Democratic Party to let them know of their oversight," Benjamin Gerdes, Steyer's national press secretary, told NBC News. "He acted quickly to alert the appropriate people to rectify the matter, and the access was turned off by the party authorities."

DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa refuted that claim in an interview with The Post and Couriersaying that Sims downloaded the data three minutes after he notified the party.

“We are talking about 180 seconds in a system that is notoriously inaccurate,” Steyer campaign spokesman Alberto Lammers told the Washington Examiner. “And the DNC is not disputing the key fact that our employee proactively approached them to inform them of the matter. The bottom line is that nothing would have taken place if the DNC had been more diligent about the security of voter data.”

Sims was put on administrative leave over the weekend while the campaign investigated. Sims ended up resigning on Monday. 

“The Steyer campaign takes this issue very seriously. When we first learned about the matter, we conducted an internal investigation and wiped Mr. Sims’ computer to make sure the data was completely deleted and that there was no access to other campaign data. We understand the sensitivity and importance of this information," Steyer campaign manager Heather Hargreaves said in a statement Monday. “We apologize to the South Carolina Democratic Party and the DNC. Tom Steyer and the Steyer campaign extend our deepest apology to Senator Kamala Harris and her campaign.”

According to the Examiner, Harris's campaign fundraised off the data breach in an email to supporters.

"A staffer for Tom Steyer, a billionaire who has already spent tens of millions of his own dollars to boost his candidacy, stole our campaign’s data in South Carolina," the email said. "Our organizers have spent months building one of the strongest operations in the state, so we were outraged to learn Steyer’s team had taken volunteer contacts — some of our campaign’s most valuable data — directly from the voter file."