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ICYMI: Democratic House Candidates Were Also Targets of Russian Hacking [New York Times]

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Democratic House Candidates Were Also Targets of Russian Hacking

New York Times

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/12/13/us/politics/house-democrats-hacking-dccc.html?_r=0&referer=

But there was never anything quite like the 2016 election campaign, when a handful of Democratic House candidates became targets of a Russian influence operation that made thousands of pages of documents stolen by hackers from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington available to Florida reporters and bloggers.

“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.”

The impact of the information released by the hackers on candidates like Ms. Taddeo in Florida and others in nearly a dozen House races around the country was largely lost in the focus on what was done to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But this untold story underscores the effect the Russian operation had on the American electoral system.

“This is not a traditional tit-for-tat on a partisan political campaign, where one side hits the other and then you respond,” said Kelly Ward, executive director of the D.C.C.C. “This is an attack by a foreign actor that had the intent to disrupt our election, and we were the victims of it.”

Cybersecurity consultants believe the hacking of the D.C.C.C. took place around March or April of 2016 after a staffer clicked on a so-called phishing email. The D.C.C.C. shut down its computer system for a week — from the moment it learned of the attack in June. But it was already too late to close the door.

Guccifer 2.0 followed up on the release of lawmakers’ personal data with large caches of internal party documents, starting with some documents related to House races in Florida, including Ms. Taddeo’s contest.

The seats that Guccifer 2.0 targeted in the document dumps were hardly random: They were some of the most competitive House races in the country. In Ms. Taddeo’s district, the House seat is held by a Republican, even though the district leans Democratic and Mrs. Clinton won it this year by a large majority.

By September, Guccifer 2.0 had expanded his releases to include documents related to House races in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina, working with individual political bloggers like Miscellany Blue in New Hampshire.

In Pennsylvania, the leaked documents showed that Democratic Party officials did not like their own candidate for one House seat — a local businessman named Mike Parrish — and worked aggressively to recruit an alternative. Mr. Parrish, the internal party documents noted, owned a company in Pennsylvania that had been sued eight times, had been delinquent on his taxes and had been named in a 2013 lawsuit “alleging racketeering and corruption,” the D.C.C.C. internal report said.

After the first political advertisement appeared using the hacked material, Mr. Luján wrote a letter to his Republican counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee urging him to not use this stolen material in the 2016 campaign.

“The N.R.C.C.’s use of documents stolen by the Russians plays right into the hands of one of the United States’ most dangerous adversaries,” Mr. Luján’s Aug. 29 letter said. “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.”

Ms. Pelosi sent a similar letter in early September to Mr. Ryan. Neither received a response. By October, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a “super PAC” tied to Mr. Ryan, had used the stolen material in another advertisement, attacking Mr. Garcia during the general election in Florida.

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