COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) – A former campaign aide to presidential candidate Tom Steyer claims in court that the South Carolina Democratic Party falsely accused him of stealing information on volunteers working for then-rival Kamala Harris.
A statewide voter file used in national elections is the leading revenue stream for the South Carolina Democratic Party, or SCDP, according to a lawsuit filed by Dwane Sims late Friday in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas. Candidates pay upwards of $100,000 for access to the database during their presidential campaigns.
Steyer, a billionaire and one of 15 Democrats vying for their party’s nomination for president, hired Sims in September after he resigned from his job as data director for the SDCP. The party then barred Steyer from accessing the database based on the claim that he had not paid, according to the lawsuit.
While that matter was eventually resolved, Sims says the SCDP’s accusations against him resulted in defamation in an article published by the Post and Courier, the main daily newspaper in Charleston.
According to Sims, while trying to access voter information for Steyer, he accidentally stumbled upon files for Harris’ campaign, which he had access to under his prior role with the SCDP.
Sims claims he typed in his username and password and was granted access because his privileges had not been changed.
“When plaintiff saw the list of volunteers, he immediately realized that the list he was viewing was not for the Steyer campaign. It was later learned that this was the volunteer list for Kamala Harris,” the lawsuit states.
Sims claims that he immediately called the SCDP and spoke with the Democratic National Committee’s chief of technology, who told him which steps to take and said the “DNC would take it from there.”
All the Harris campaign information was deleted from Sims’ computer and it was returned to the Steyer campaign, but he was told the next day that the news media had the story, according to the complaint.
The Post and Courier, which is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, published a story on Nov. 4 with the headline, “Tom Steyer aide resigns after stealing Kamala Harris’ SC 2020 volunteer data.”
While he claims he had not been fired at the time the story was published, Sims resigned that evening.
“Plaintiff has since been effectively blackballed in Democratic politics, receiving a lifetime ban to the voter file and national system,” the complaint states.
Sims says the article’s main accusation is a false statement and was based on misinformation provided by SCDP staffers.
The article quotes SCDP Chairman Trav Robertson as saying in reference to Sims, “It is critical that the Steyer campaign take immediate action regarding their employee.”
“Robertson knew when making that statement to the Post and Courier that plaintiff did not steal any information and had in fact contacted Robertson to let him know of the data breach and requested help as to how to ensure that no rules or regulations were broken,” the lawsuit states.
Sims is represented in the case by attorneys with the Columbia firm Cromer Babb Porter & Hicks, who did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.
The SCDP also did not return a request for comment.
Sims seeks an unspecified amount of damages for claims of defamation and interference with prospective contractual relations.