When people think of Russia hacking U.S. elections, their minds no doubt turn to the 2016 presidential election, but the country’s meddling may have reached far deeper into the cavities of American democracy than is obvious at first glance.
The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are the most high-profile victims of a far-reaching attack staged by Russia to undermine Democratic candidates in the 2016 elections in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina.
The goal? Some think it is fueled by a desire by Russian President Vladimir Putin to make American democracy less attractive to its own citizens and neighboring nations, according to a recent New York Times report.
“This is not a traditional tit-for-tat on a partisan political campaign, where one side hits the other and then you respond,” Kelly Ward, executive director of the DCCC told the Times. “This is an attack by a foreign actor that had the intent to disrupt our election, and we were the victims of it.”
A new episode of the Candidate Confessional podcast details the experience of one of nearly a dozen House candidates whose races were impacted by the release of hacked information.
“It was like I was standing out there naked,” said Annette Taddeo, a Democrat who lost her primary race after secret campaign documents were made public. “I just can’t describe it any other way. Our entire internal strategy plan was made public, and suddenly all this material was out there and could be used against me.”
Taddeo’s story is echoed throughout the country — Pennsylvania businessman Mike Parrish lost his bid after documents emerged showing a lack of faith in him by Democratic Party leaders. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and chairman of the DCCC was also targeted.
Russian hackers, operating under the pseudonym “Guccifer 2.0” leaked information from its Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hack to right-leaning bloggers and reporters in an apparent effort to sway elections.
“The [National Republican Congressional Committee]’s use of documents stolen by the Russians plays right into the hands of one of the United States’ most dangerous adversaries,” Luján’s said in an Aug. 29 letter, the Times reported. “Put simply, if this action continues, the N.R.C.C. will be complicit in aiding the Russian government in its effort to influence American elections.”