With great power comes great responsibility, and with rising poll rankings comes increased media attention. The NYTimes has discovered that “Bernie Sanders Tops His Rivals in Use of Outside Money”:
As he swung through Iowa this week, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont rarely passed up a chance to bash the rising tide of money in politics, a system he said on Tuesday was “corrupt and undermining American democracy.”
At many of these stops, he was accompanied by members of National Nurses United, a seven-year-old union, fanning out from a bright-red bus in matching red scrubs to corral potential Sanders votes.
But the union is not just busing nurses into Iowa. The union’s “super PAC” has spent close to $1 million on ads and other support for Mr. Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate who has inspired liberal voters with his calls to eradicate such outside groups. In fact, more super PAC money has been spent so far in express support of Mr. Sanders than for either of his Democratic rivals, including Hillary Clinton, according to Federal Election Commission records…
Mr. Sander’s unlikely rise to super PAC pre-eminence is, in part, the story of an unusual alignment of strategies by different outside groups, including Republican ones eager to bloody Mrs. Clinton and lift Mr. Sanders, whom conservatives believe will be easier to defeat in a general election. While the nurses’ super PAC is the biggest left-leaning outside spender in the Democratic primary, conservative organizations have also spent at least $4.3 million attacking Mrs. Clinton in recent months.
But the super PAC spending by the nurses’ union also underscores an aspect of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that Mr. Sanders rarely dwells on in his campaign speeches attacking the ruling. The same decision that gave corporations the ability to “buy and purchase the United States government” — as Mr. Sanders put it on a visit to Grinnell College on Monday — bestowed the same rights on labor unions, freeing them to spend unlimited money from their treasuries on election advertising.
While the vast majority of super PAC money still comes from wealthy individuals, union cash — pooled from the dues and contributions of members — has become a critical source of money for outside groups on the left. In 2012 and 2014, unions gave more than $200 million to super PACs. More than half of it went to union-controlled groups that spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising, mailers and other “independent expenditures.” So far in 2016, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, seven of the top 20 organizational contributors to super PACs were unions or their affiliates, not corporations…
… and this is a good thing! As long as the billionaires are allowed to spend unlimited! corporate! cash! buying elections (or at least attempting to do so), we need labor unions and other progressive coalitions to push back. Which, IMO, makes it even worse for Bernie Sanders — who’s been in politics for more than 40 years, and knows exactly how things work — to pretend that he’s “not a politician” because he won’t directly acknowledge the PAC is working for him. He’s just enabling the Media Village Idiots to nod along, and then use his noisy condemnations as fodder for another ten-thousand-word lament on BothSidesDoIt.
— Daniel Drezner (@dandrezner) January 28, 2016