Bernie Responds to 'Fair Question' About Apparent Campaign Finance Violations

Posted: Jan 20, 2020 1:45 PM
Bernie Responds to 'Fair Question' About Apparent Campaign Finance Violations

Source: AP Photo/Cheryl Senter

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) wasn't called a hypocrite at a recent candidate forum with New Hampshire Public Radio, but the hosts came awfully close to lobbing that term at him.

"You've been very critical of the role of undisclosed money and Big Money in politics," one of the moderators noted of the presidential candidate at Sunday's forum. It's even right there on his official campaign website: Get Corporate Money Out of Politics.

Having said that, she then referenced an Associated Press report that Sanders has heavily benefitted from a tax-exempt political nonprofit he helped launch called Our Revolution. So far it's taken in $1 million from undisclosed donors. Some of those donations have exceeded the Federal Elections Commission limits of $2,800 for candidates and $5,000 for political action committees. 

Groups like Our Revolution must keep their activities separate from their preferred candidates, the AP explains. But because the group was founded by Sanders, he's in tricky territory.

"How do you square your statements on that with the existence of this large group?" the moderator asked the candidate.

"Fair question," said Sanders. "We have a broken campaign finance system."

“The function of Our Revolution was to generate grassroots political activity, to get people involved in the political process and I think they’ve done a very good job at it,” Sanders added. "Legally – and in fact, I have nothing to do with them – they operate absolutely independently of our campaign.”

Sanders then handed the baton to his opponents and challenged them to end their super PACs if they have any.

“I would think that we should end super PACs right now," he said. "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."

It was 10 years ago this week that the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United vs. FEC, the landmark case that eliminated limits on political spending by outside groups and led to the creation of super PACs. The amount they've spent in elections over the past decade is in the billions.