Running a presidential campaign takes money. A lot of money. But candidates frequently find themselves in a bind because it has to be the right sort of money. And with laws allowing your opponents to scrutinize almost all of the cash coming in the door, you’re left open to criticism if you take “bad money” from “bad people.”
Enter Bernie Sanders. He’s got a solution for that problem, particularly when it comes to all of that “dark money” that comes in from PACs and Super PACs. Those dollars frequently come from unnamed sources, particularly since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. So what should the candidates be doing about it? Cut them off! Don’t take their money! Or at least that’s what he said in an interview this weekend. (Associated Press)
Bernie Sanders said Sunday that outside political groups that can raise and spend unlimited sums backing candidates for public office should be abolished — including those supporting his own bid for the White House.
But the Vermont senator stopped short of directly calling on Our Revolution, a political nonprofit he founded, to cease its efforts on behalf of his Democratic presidential primary campaign.
“I would think that we should end super PACs right now. So I would tell my opponents who have a super PAC, why don’t you end it? And certainly that’s applicable to the groups that are supporting me,” Sanders said.
Sanders is trying to be too clever by half here and the press is already calling him out on it. He’s saying that Super PACs should be shut out of the process and the candidates should stop taking money from them. Including “groups that are supporting me.” But he’s only talking about Super PACs, not PACs.
You’ll notice that he’s not calling for his own PAC, Our Revolution, to shut down. That’s the PAC he started in August of 2016 after he lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton so his supporters could help “continue our work.” But as the AP report points out, Our Revolution has been under scrutiny because it appears to operate more like a Super PAC than just a PAC. And that could lead to FEC problems.
The Campaign Finance Act allows groups like Our Revolution to operate and they don’t have to reveal the names of their donors. But it also states that the groups need to keep their activities separate from those of the candidate they support. The act specifically says that such groups “directly or indirectly established” by federal elected officials or candidates for office can not “solicit, receive, direct, transfer, or spend funds” for federal electoral activity in excess of the “limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements” in federal election law.
Our Revolution was directly established by Sanders. By that standard, the group shouldn’t be able to take in or pay out any contributions from individuals in excess of the usual cap. ($2,800 per individual contributor.) But people can and apparently do give Our Revolution as much as they like. So Bernie might be sitting on some of that “bad money” we were talking about above.
So Bernie Sanders wants to take the high road and call on the rest of the field to stop accepting dark money. But he’s apparently willing to turn a blind eye his own group that may very well be coloring outside the lines in terms of FEC requirements. It’s a pretty slick game… unless he gets caught.