(ANTIMEDIA) Senator Bernie Sanders is launching a new campaign called ‘Our Revolution.’ The idea behind the new organization, The Hill reported, is to “harness the energy of his supporters and help progressive political candidates” in the United States.
But even as the launch events organized across the country are expected to bring out thousands of Sanders supporters, trouble seems to be brewing.
As expectations for the Our Revolution launch speech grow, news sources are beginning to cover concerning details about the campaign’s staff. “On the eve of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ launch of a new political organization,” SFGate.com reports, “most of the staff of his fledgling Our Revolution has quit, concerned that its leadership would violate many of Sanders’ core values.”
“They contended that Weaver, who managed Sanders’ presidential campaign, planned to solicit donations from San Francisco billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer and billionaire liberal donor George Soros.”
In short, there’s a revolution going on inside of Bernie’s Our Revolution movement.
According to POLITICO, a week before the campaign’s launch, an internal war was set in motion following digital director Kenneth Pennington’s departure. Shortly after, four other members followed him, leaving 11 behind who are now under the supervision of the organization’s new president Jeff Weaver, who also served as the manager for the 2016 Sanders presidential campaign.
After Pennington’s sudden departure, Weaver expressed his excitement about “putting the A-team back together.” But POLITICO reported those who are familiar with the group’s internal struggle “say that the board, which is chaired by the Vermont senator’s wife Jane, was growing increasingly concerned about campaign finance questions being raised over the last week.”
Some of these questions revolved around the Our Revolution campaign’s tax status.
According to ABC News, Our Revolution is operating as a 501(c)(4) organization, meaning the group enjoys a tax status that ensures they may not disclose the identity of donors while accepting unlimited contributions. Due to the group’s ties to Senator Sanders, however, its activities “could be limited by campaign regulations … resulting in a highly unusual—if not unprecedented—political arrangement.”
Similar organizations holding the 501(c)(4) tax status are often run by political operatives. Precisely because 501(c)(4) organizations are required to focus on social welfare, not elections, elected officeholders or candidates are usually encouraged to avoid involvement. That is the case with Crossroads GPS, which was founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove and Organizing for Action, a group that came out of President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Over time, Organizing for Action “distanced itself from electoral politics,” reports ABC.
As an elected official, Sanders is prohibited from asking donors to contribute more than $2,700 each to a campaign committee or more than $5,000 to a Super PAC, which could force the group to end up disclosing its donors’ list. It could also limit the organization’s influence since the amount of money it can accept while tied to Sanders may be restricted by law.
Prior to the current turmoil among staff members, Sanders’ wife Jane was approached by Pennington, who allegedly complained about Weaver’s vision “that included more traditional — not just grassroots — fundraising.” According to Claire Sandberg, the digital organizing director for the Sanders campaign and the former organizing director of Our Revolution, “Jeff [Weaver] would like to take big money from rich people including billionaires and spend it on ads.” But to Pennington and folks within the organization like Sandberg, “[t]hat’s the opposite of what this campaign and this movement are supposed to be about.” After failing to move Jane Sanders, Pennington and many others felt “that we had no choice but to quit,” Sandberg explained.
According to a “person familiar with the situation,” many joined Our Revolution because the leadership had promised Weaver wouldn’t be running the organization. As the staff saw the group leaning toward a more traditional role, playing the old game of bringing more big money into politics, they felt betrayed and began their exodus. Unless something major changes, the ties between the organization and Sanders may also put an end to Weaver’s plans of bringing in the big donors.
Whether grassroots or government pressure is ultimately responsible for a major revolution within Our Revolution remains to be seen.Until then, Sanders might be forced to change the group’s tax status if he wants Our Revolution to be more than just an idea.
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