If there is only one thing Americans the least bit familiar with neophyte Democrat Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are aware of, it is his abhorrence of Citizens United-driven super PAC and special interest money in politics. In fact, throughout the past week traversing Iowa, Senator Sanders never missed an occasion to slam the rise of money in the political process.
“It is a “system,” Sanders bellows loudly from the campaign stages, “that is corrupt and undermining American democracy.” Obviously, such a position informs that Senator Sanders is not and will never take a red cent from a special interest group; particularly not a super PAC.
Senator Sanders is right of course, but what is likely not right is that accompanying him through Iowa was a group of nurses whose “super PAC” has doled out close to $1 million on ads and other kinds of campaign support for Sanders. What should raise a “hypocrisy alert” is that this is the same candidate who incites liberal and EmoProg supporters with persistent calls to eradicate such outside groups from political campaigns. Out of deference to ‘feeltheBern’ acolytes’ sensibilities, it is better to raise an “inconsistency alert” to avoid being accused of being a Clinton, Wall Street, and Koch paid shill.
As a matter of pure uncontested fact, there has been more super PAC money spent thus far in express support of the Sanders campaign than for either one of his Democratic rivals. Let that sink in. That includes, by the way, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records. And no, the FEC is not paid by the Clinton campaign, or Koch brothers, or Wall Street any more than this column is. Their job is to report who is contributing to the Sanders’ campaign based on information provided by the Sanders’ campaign and the super PAC according to FEC campaign finance reporting requirements.
The super PAC and group following the Sanders’ campaign in and around Iowa is National Nurses United. The group’s executive director, RoseAnn DeMoro said, regarding the super PAC’s largesse for Sanders, that “I do appreciate the irony. All things being equal, we would rather not be doing this. On the other hand, we want to see Bernie as president.”
Ms. DeMoro confuses “irony” with hypocrisy; or “inconsistency.” A super PAC funding, and the candidate accepting, super PAC and special interest money when the candidate perpetually slams special interest and super PAC money in politics is not “irony.” It is hypocrisy to regular people, inconsistency to some others. However, to Senator Sanders it is not even an inconsistency because he is not Hillary Clinton.
Some of Clinton’s supporters have suggested the term “hypocrisy” over the Sanders’ campaign taking “special interest money” from a super PAC. They also note that the Senator has never called National Nurses United to refrain from doling out special interest money to his campaign; something they are able to do thanks to Citizens United. If anything, Senator Sanders not only is not “shunning” special interest money as he pledged, he began openly thanking what he calls “one of his sponsors” publicly in campaign speeches; people in audiences like nurses.
A spokesman for the Clinton campaign, Brian Fallon, said, “This is one of the prime examples of Senator Sanders saying one thing and doing another. For months he has criticized super PACs and pledged to shun them in his campaign, but all along he has benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars in independent expenditures from those very organizations.” In the case of National Nurses United, the number is a million dollars and an ornate bus shuttling around a retinue of “scrub-clad” nurses Senator Sanders refers to by name on stage in Iowa.
It is noteworthy that Senator Sander’s “inconsistent” rise to Super PAC pre-eminence is, in part, due to an unusual pairing of the Sanders campaign and Republican and ultra-conservative super PAC spending to attack Hillary Clinton. Of course the conservatives’ intent is simply to “elevate an avowed socialist.” One that Republicans, conservatives, and the Koch brothers believe will be easy to disparage in a general election. Don’t believe conservative PACs are helping Senator Sanders?
In just one recent ad from the influential Republican super PAC American Crossroads, the uber-conservative group spent a substantial amount of its and the Kochs’ $4.3 million against Clinton parroting a constant Sanders’ attack against Clinton for earning Wall Street speaking fees. There have been no small number of pundits who have suggested, not errantly according to the American Crossroads ad campaign, that a fair share of the attacks on Clinton from “alleged” liberals are being funded and promoted by uber-conservative groups.
If one looks at it from that perspective, Senator Sanders’ campaign is being funded and assisted by more than just one special interest super PAC, and at least one of them is run by Karl Rove.
There is nothing wrong with a campaign taking special interest money; at least not according to Citizens United ruling that Sanders abhors. However, there is an issue when a candidate fairly bases a key part of their campaign and appeal on “shunning” special interest and super PAC money; all while claiming it is funded by grass roots contributors and now Americans know by special interests and super PACs; even uber-conservative super PACs.
While some may call it hypocrisy, and others just an inconvenient inconsistency, maybe Senator Sanders wrongly agrees with the executive director of the super PAC funding his campaign and considers it something it is definitively not; irony.