Hillary Clinton's campaign made several payments to a company that destroys sensitive data due to an ongoing investigation into her use of e-mail while she was secretary of state.
On 3 May 2016, web site the Washington Free Beacon published an article provocatively titled “Clinton Campaign Made Payments to Hard Drive and Document Destruction Company” (and subtitled “Payments could have purchased destruction of 14 hard drives”). The article reported that the Hillary Clinton campaign made payments totaling $187 to a document destruction company (American Document Destruction, Inc.) in February and March of 2016.
The article implied (without directly stating) that the Clinton campaign might have spent the funds on destroying disk drives involved in the controversy surrounding Clinton’s use of private, home-based servers and accounts for official business she conducted while serving as U.S. secretary of state:
The Hillary Clinton campaign made multiple payments to a company that specializes in hard drive and document destruction, campaign finance records show.
The payments, which were recorded in February and March of 2016, went to the Nevada-based American Document Destruction, Inc., which claims expertise in destroying hard drives or “anything else that a hard drive can come from.”
“Our hard drive destruction procedures take place either at your site or at our secure facility in Sparks, NV,” the company’s website states. “This decision is yours to decide based on cost and convenience to you. In either situation, the hard drive will be destroyed by a shredding.”
Nowhere did the Washington Free Beacon article offer any evidence that the services provided by American Document Destruction, Inc. to the Clinton campaign involved the destruction of hard drives or data from the private server she used while serving as secretary as state. In fact, the article didn’t even offer any evidence that the provided services involved the destruction of hard drives at all (rather than paper documents). It simply noted that the Clinton campaign paid American Document Destruction, Inc. an amount of money that would have covered the costs of destroying 14 hard drives or shredding 37.4 cubic feet of paper (or, presumably, some combination of the two).
A follow-up article from another news outlet reported that Clinton’s campaign also paid $50 to Shredco, a company that provides safe disposal of paper documents.
It’s extremely unlikely either of these companies were involved in destroying material related to Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server, for a number of reasons. First of all, the expenditures were openly reported to the Federal Election Commission, an unlikely move for a campaign furtively involved in destroying evidence relating to a federal investigation:
Second, anyone seeking to destroy sensitive information related to a high-level federal investigation probably wouldn’t trust the task to businesses who charged only a few hundred dollars for the service, rather than to much more expensive (and presumably more private and secure) outfits.
Moreover, even though Bernie Sanders’ campaign wasn’t embroiled in an e-mail controversy, his campaign paid nearly three times as much as Clinton’s did for similar services:
Former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz also contracted for shredding services in the same timeframe:
Paying for data destruction services is hardly suspect for an organization that processes thousands of donations each month, as the Hillary Clinton campaign does. Personal information from donors (such as credit card numbers) would, if printed or stored on hard drives, need to be securely destroyed to protect those donors. And given Bernie Sanders’ repeated insistence that the average donation made to his campaign is $27, it seems reasonable that his organization would also be contracting for similar services and paying for a higher volume of shreddable transactions than the Clinton campaign.