Congressman Peter Welch, Margaret Cheney, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Jane O’Meara Sanders, Marcelle Leahy and Sen. Patrick Leahy on Election Night 2014 in Burlington
Updated at 2:26 p.m.
In February 2016, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) became just the third member of Congress to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president. Until then, nearly every other high-profile politician in Sanders’ home state — from Gov. Peter Shumlin to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to former governor Howard Dean — had backed former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.
While Welch had kept mum about his presidential preference until just prior to Vermont’s March 2016 primary, a hacked emailed obtained by WikiLeaks and posted online this week suggests that Clinton’s campaign thought it had secured Welch’s support 10 months earlier.
In the April 2015 email, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook informed campaign chair John Podesta and other senior staffers that Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger was “on board” and planned to announce his endorsement of Clinton “on his terms.”
“Shumlin and Welch are going to hold their fire for now,” Mook continued. “They will come out together when we think it’s best.”
—Miro Weinberger, Mayor of Burlington, is on board. He is going to announce it on his terms...Brynne and Jesse are following up on that.
—Shumlin and Welch are going to hold their fire for now. They will come out together when we think it's best.
—Brynne is doing a call w Shumlin's political guy re how to proceed w LOP and building the program.
In an interview Thursday, Welch denied that he ever committed his support to the Clinton campaign.
“I don’t know where that email came from or who it was that had wishful thinking or hopeful thinking that that might happen, but it’s not any discussion that I had at any time with anybody,” he said. “It was never anything I was considering doing — especially in coordination with anybody else.”
Welch said that around the time Mook sent the April 2015 email, he was hearing from many Clinton supporters who wanted him to endorse her. But he said he did not know Mook “particularly well” and “didn’t have an ongoing conversation with him.”
“No, I was staying away from the Clinton people because I was not there,” he said, meaning that he wasn’t ready to make such a commitment.
“I had general conversations with a lot of people about the presidential campaign and I’m sure I talked to Peter [Shumlin] along the way, but I can tell you that I never indicated that I was going to endorse Hillary — or that I would do it in coordination with Peter or anyone else,” Welch said.
Mook did not respond to a request for clarification Wednesday. Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell declined to comment. Bill Lofy, who was serving as an informal political adviser to Shumlin at the time Mook sent the email, said he did not recall any discussion of a joint announcement with Welch.
The Podesta emails reveal how valuable Clinton’s campaign advisers found the Vermont politicians who supported her campaign. In a January 2016 message, the cochair of her New Hampshire operation suggested that the campaign highlight Sanders’ “lack of legislative achievements and lack of Senate endorsements (the people who know him and his work best).”
“We also cannot stress too much that current VT Gov. Shumlin and past Gov. and progressive pres. candidate Dean are actively supporting and stumping for her,” the cochair, New Hampshire attorney Terry Shumaker, wrote.
Date: 2016-01-13 13:49
Subject: RE: Thank you
Thanks for flagging, Mike. A few suggestions: In closing weeks, recommend some NH ads talking about Bernie raising middle class taxes by the amounts Brian F. is talking about – worked for Bush over Dole here in ’88.
Also recommend CC talk about how her mother gets things done giving examples from her personal and professional/political life, and that she and HRC talk more about Sanders lack of legislative achievements and lack of Senate endorsements (the people who know him and his work best) while HRC not only has virtually all Senate Dems endorsing and many like Franken actively campaigning for her.
We also cannot stress too much that current VT Gov. Shumlin and past Gov. and progressive pres. candidate Dean are actively supporting and stumping for her. Maybe even consider some social media spots and/or newspaper ads noting strong endorsements of well-known NH progressives Dean Barker, Paul Twomey, Debby Butler, Kathy Rogers etc.
WJC should continue stressing how hard it is to be president, what is at stake in this election (Supreme Court!!) and most of all, his great lines about everything she touches she makes better and the variations on that theme.
My two cents worth. Thx. for listening, T/
In April 2015, shortly before Sanders entered the race, Mook wrote top staffers to remind them that Podesta had suggested Clinton call Leahy “to thank him for his support,” according to one email.
In another, sent in February 2016, deputy director of state campaigns Brynne Craig suggested that former president Bill Clinton call Leahy to thank him for his “continued support” of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Days later, Sanders defeated Clinton in Vermont 86 to 14 percent.
“As you can imagine a lot of people are hitting [Leahy] for not endorsing Sanders (endorsed us last year),” Craig wrote.
From: Brynne Craig Date:
Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 8:26 PM
Subject: WJC Call Sheet
To: Tina Flournoy , Jon Davidson < Jon@presidentclinton.com>
Cc: Sara Latham
Tina and Jon - Please find attached a call sheet for Senator Leahy. We were hoping WJC could call him and thank him for his continued support of HRC. As you can imagine a lot of people are hitting him for not endorsing Sanders (endorsed us last year).
The Clinton campaign also found Dean’s support helpful. In an August 2015 email to Podesta, lobbyist and former Canadian ambassador Gordon Giffin called Dean “the single best voice to speak about [Clinton] as a surrogate.”
“He has been such a solid supporter and so helpful,” Mook responded. “I completely agree. He’s been spending a lot of time in NH as well where he is especially effective I think.”
The WikiLeaks files also provide a window into Podesta’s relationship with Leahy, for whom he worked in the 1980s.
“Keeping Senator Leahy in the Senate is vital to achieving our mutual goals,” John Podesta wrote in the email. “I will be cooking- Tony is in charge of wine.”
From: John Podesta
To: Tamara Luzatto
Sent: Tue, Jul 7, 2015 10:06 am
Subject: Please join Tony and me in supporting Sen. Leahy on July 21
Friends: Over the years all of us have been connected by a few important things: social justice, public service, righteous causes, the love of Italian food, and Senator Patrick Leahy. Please join my brother Tony and me where we bring all these things together on July 21 in support of Senator Leahy's re-election campaign. We have much to celebrate, and much work ahead. Keeping Senator Leahy in the Senate is vital to achieving our mutual goals.
I will be cooking- Tony is in charge of wine.
Thanks, and I hope to see you there.
The day before the fundraiser took place, John Podesta’s assistant relayed a message from his brother suggesting that “labor leaders” who attended “last week’s reception,” including representatives of the Service Employees International Union, also be invited to the Leahy fundraiser. Podesta responded, “No. Should have thought of that awhile ago.”
“I know it was a big, heavy, inconvenient lift and that you did it out of love and loyalty. It was fabulous. You are so amazing. Unflappable in life and in the kitchen,” she wrote. “So many people came out last night for you. Most of us got brought into team Leahy by you and for you. Some, like me, have never left.”
Date: 2015-07-22 22:26
Subject: Re: Thank you
Thanks Tina. Lots of fun and I promise to get to the web site!
On Wednesday, July 22, 2015, Tina Stoll wrote:
> Thank you so much for hosting and cooking last night. I know it was a
> big, heavy, inconvenient lift and that you did it out of love and loyalty.
> It was fabulous. You are so amazing. Unflappable in life and in the
> kitchen. > > > > So many people came out last night for you. Most of us got brought into > team Leahy by you and for you. Some, like me, have never left.
>I am always grateful to you.
> And with everything else you are working on – GODSPEED!
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Date: 2015-09-22 13:40
Subject: Sen. Leahy
Hope you are terrific. Just circling back as we are getting to the end of the quarter. You had offered to go online and donate to Sen. Leahy for the fundraiser you had in July. If you can, it would be great. Below is the link for your event.
According to Federal Election Commission records, Tony Podesta contributed $1,000 to Leahy’s reelection campaign in August, while John Podesta donated $1,000 in September.
Asked why the senator would accept support from a top D.C. lobbyist, Leahy spokesman Jay Tilton said Thursday, “John and Tony Podesta, and the extended Podesta family, have been friends and supporters of Sen. Leahy for over 35 years.”
Luke Albee, a former Leahy chief of staff, attended the July 2015 fundraiser. He explained in an email to Seven Days Thursday that John Podesta had hosted such events in his “modest home” for decades.
“He and his late mother always cooked pasta and grilled peppers. It was always a labor of love,” Albee wrote. “And a gathering of the Leahy diaspora.”
Albee himself made a few appearances in the WikiLeaks files. After Clinton won a slew of important states on March 15, the Leahy adviser wrote Podesta with the subject line, “Thank the lord. Congratulations.”
Later in the chain, Albee provided some advice about how Sanders and Clinton could team up against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“How about a joint [Clinton] Bernie anti trump rally? Then go back to campaigning. Really [think] you should consider. Happy to raise it w jeff weaver,” Albee wrote, referring to Sanders’ campaign manager. Such a rally never took place.
Date: 2016-03-16 00:41
Subject: Re: Thank the lord . Congratulations.
How about a joint HRC Bernie anti trump rally? Then go back to campaigning. Really rhink you should consider . Happy to raise it w jeff weaver
“[Clinton] Was pitch perfect, you will romp in [South Carolina], and grumpy snarly Bernie will finally emerge,” Albee wrote. “Hope you take [a] little time to savor it.”
Mook responded, “Thanks! This one was won by the team [on] the ground.”
Date: 2016-02-21 04:31
Subject: Re: Great. Here we go. She
Thanks! This one was won by the team in the ground
> On Feb 20, 2016, at 5:33 PM, Luke Albee wrote:
> Was pitch perfect, you will romp in SC, and grumpy snarly Bernie will finally emerge.
> Hope you take s little time to savor it. Luke
Asked about his “snarly” email, Albee explained to Seven Days, “If you Google ‘Bernie Sanders and grumpy’ your computer will explode. It’s one of his endearing traits.”
Disclosure: Paul Heintz worked as Peter Welch’s communications director from November 2008 to March 2011.