Political Party/527

Sanders 2016 Presidential Campaign

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a self-described “democratic socialist,” unsuccessfully contested the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primary against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 1  The race was marked by accusations from Sanders supporters that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was colluding against Sanders in favor of Clinton. 2

Background

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been politically active most of his adult life. He protested for left-of-center causes while in college, attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, and served as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Sanders supported left-wing activist Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in 1988. 3 4 5

Sanders spoke about a potential presidential run during an interview on November 27, 2013, claiming that the United States was facing “more serious crises than we have faced since the Great Depression,” adding that due to “global warming,” it was possibly an even worse scenario. During the interview, Sanders noted that income and wealth inequality, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, and sustaining programs such as Medicare were major reasons for his possible presidential bid. 6

During another interview on March 6, 2014, Sanders announced that he was  ”prepared to run for president of the United States,” but did not formally announce a presidential campaign. He added that although he was not actively organizing and raising money for a campaign, he was “talking to people around the country.” Sanders also noted during the interview that, if he were to run, he would attempt to “create a progressive agenda and rally people around that agenda.” 7

Sanders, during an interview on April 29, 2015, stated that he was “running in this [2016] election to win.” He officially announced his presidential campaign at Waterfront Park in Burlington, Vermont, on May 26, 2015. 8 9

Campaign

Sanders confirmed with the Associated Press on April 29, 2015 that he planned to join the presidential race, claiming that he would fight the campaign finance system, which he called a “real disgrace.” He also stated that he would create “very specific proposals” to raise taxes for corporations and wealthy citizens, ensure colleges and university education would be completely free, more regulation for Wall Street, and noted his opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline. 10

Sanders used his “family values agenda” as one of the cornerstones of his campaign. The agenda was announced on June 11, 2015 and highlighted paid family and medical leave, paid sick leave, and paid vacation. Sanders also claimed that the Republican Party classified “family values” as anti-abortion, anti-contraception, and anti-gay rights. 11 12

When talking about a potential Cabinet during an interview in July 2015, Sanders claimed that it would not “be dominated by representatives of Wall Street.” 13

While talking about the campaign of Republican candidate Donald Trump, Sanders stated that Trump supporters were “working-class people and they’re angry, and they’re angry because they’re working longer hours for lower wages, they’re angry because their jobs have left this country and gone to China or other low-wage countries, they’re angry because they can’t afford to send their kids to college so they can’t retire with dignity,” hinting that some of his policies aligned with Trump supporters. 14

Despite running as an Independent in the Senate, Sanders caucused with the Democratic Party for his 2016 presidential campaign. 15

Ultimately Sanders lost the Democratic Party primary to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 16

Accusations of Collusion Against Sanders

Sanders supporters frequently claimed that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was colluding against Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton. These claims largely centered on the behavior of Democratic “superdelegates.” 17

A superdelegate is an unelected delegate to the Democratic National Convention who can independently choose which candidate to support rather than following the will of voting constituents. Of the nearly 800 superdelegates, Sanders received only 45 votes, while his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, received 571. Supporters of Sanders argued that the superdelegates’ overwhelming support for Clinton swung the race’s momentum and propelled Clinton to victory in the primaries. 18

After the election, a group of Sanders’s supporters filed Wilding v. DNC Services Corp., a class-action lawsuit against the DNC on the grounds of fraud for allegedly rigging the Democratic primaries against Sanders. The case was dismissed by a federal court, with the judge writing, “To the extent Plaintiffs wish to air their general grievances with the DNC or its candidate selection process, their redress is through the ballot box, the DNC’s internal workings, or their right of free speech — not through the judiciary.” He went on to write that “the Court finds that the named Plaintiffs have not presented a case that is cognizable in federal court.” 19

The Democratic National Committee leadership was also accused of colluding against Sanders. Emails apparently hacked from the DNC and from an account belonging to senior Democratic operative John Podesta revealed that then-DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and other top-ranking officials privately supported Clinton and derided Sanders. For instance, one group of emails showed DNC officials trying find a way to get Sanders to reveal his religion during speeches in West Virginia and Kentucky to diminish his popularity with Christian voters. While no emails indicate explicit attempts to rig the election against Sanders, the emails revealed bias among DNC leadership. 20

Following the leaks, DNC leadership publicly apologized to Sanders and his supporters. One group of Sanders supporters responded by chanting “lock her up” at a protest against Clinton in Philadelphia. In late July 2016, Wasserman Schultz resigned from the DNC along with many of her aides. Clinton’s general-election rival, Republican Donald Trump, accused Clinton of pressuring Wasserman Schultz to resign, though the Clinton campaign denied the accusation. 21 22

Donna Brazile, former chair of the DNC, published excerpts of her book in November 2017, some of which stated that she investigated “whether Hillary Clinton’s team had rigged the nomination process” via the DNC, and stated that she had found evidence to support the claims, writing “I had found my proof and it broke my heart.” 23

After the revelation from Brazile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was questioned about the incident and whether she agreed that the primary was rigged, to which she replied “yes.” A few days after Warren’s comment, both she and Brazile rescinded their claims. 24

Issue Positions

Energy Development

During a rally in Binghamton, New York, on April 11, 2016, Sanders called for a full nationwide ban on natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, claiming if people were serious about drinking clean water and climate change, “fracking” must be banned across the United States. 25

Climate Change

Sanders claimed on January 20, 2016, that unless people get their “act together,” there will be an increase in droughts, floods, and extreme weather. He also claimed it was “vital” that fossil fuel usage is phased out and proposed a plan to “reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050” by implementing a “tax on carbon” and making “aggressive investments” in weather-dependent energy. 26

Sanders also introduced his Climate Protection Justice Act on December 10, 2015, which would have imposed a  “carbon pollution fee” requiring companies that produce fossil fuels to pay $15 per ton of carbon produced. 27 28

Sanders claimed on May 5, 2016, while campaigning in West Virginia, that he would assist coal-dependent communities that would be heavily impacted by his environmentalist policies, adding that he would “invest $41 billion rebuilding coal mining communities,” to provide training for individuals to move to “clean energy jobs of the future.” 29

Economics

During his campaign, in July 2015, Sanders introduced legislation to incrementally increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2020. 30

Sanders joined demonstrators at a “Fight for $15” rally on November 10, 2015. Speaking at the event, Sanders stated that the richest people in America are “becoming richer, and almost everybody else becoming poorer.” 31

As well as raising the federal minimum wage, Sanders also wanted to raise income taxes for citizens who earn more than $250,000 a year, meaning a tax rate of 37 percent, and anyone who earned more than $10 million a year would have to pay 52 percent in income tax. He also aimed to increase other taxes and fees, including Social Security, and tax capital gains equal to the rate of income tax. 32

Sanders also wrote a bill in May 2015, that would “require financial regulators within one year to identify and break up huge financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and Morgan Stanley.” 33

Sanders claimed that the unemployment rate in the United States in 2015 was much higher than the official figures. To address this, Sanders introduced legislation that would “invest $1 trillion over 5 years to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure,” opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement and Central American Free Trade Agreement, and proposed the Employ Young Americans Now Act, which would supposedly use $5.5 billion in immediate funding to employ one million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24. 34

Criminal Justice

Sanders, as part of his 2016 campaign, claimed that there were “four central types of violence waged against black and brown Americans: physical, political, legal and economic.” In relation to this, Sanders proposed police reforms including the “demilitarization” of police, a federal program to force officers to wear body cameras, an increase in police transparency, and the abolition of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenses. 35

Sanders also proposed investing in “community policing,” and a federal program to “completely redo how we train police officers.” He was also an outspoken critic of private prisons, calling them “morally repugnant and a national tragedy” during a speech to the National Urban League in July 2015. 36

Health Care

Sanders was a long-standing supporter of government-controlled single-payer health care. He stated in July 2009 that “if  you are serious about real healthcare reform, the only way to go is single payer.” He also promoted a plan to cut the price of prescription drugs in 2012 and introduced legislation in 2013 to reauthorize the Older Americans Act which supported Meals on Wheels. 37 38 39

Sanders’s campaign proposed a single-payer health care system that would cover all medical care, including long-term health care, without cost sharing. The Urban Institute, a left-of-center public policy advocacy group, released a report asserting that Sanders’s plan would “decrease the uninsured by 28.3 million people in 2017,” and would increase national health expenditures by $6.6 trillion between 2017 and 2026, while increasing federal spending $32 trillion over the same period. 40

Sanders sponsored the Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act, a bill that would have required employers to provide ten days of paid vacation for employees who had been working for the employer for a year.  41

Campaign Finance and Political Reform

Sanders claimed during a Democratic primary debate in October 2015 that, after the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the United States’ “campaign finance system is corrupt and is undermining American democracy.” He intended to overturn Citizens United, and supported the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act, or DISCLOSE Act, which would provide faster public disclosure on campaign spending. 42

Sanders has also called for public funding of elections, reinforcement of the Voting Rights Act to make it easier for anyone to vote, including former felons, and previously had introduced a Federal Reserve audit bill, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). 43

Education

Sanders was a proponent of tuition-free higher education by using taxpayer funding to provide tuition to students at college or university. He introduced legislation to remove undergraduate tuition at four-year public colleges and universities in May 2015. Sanders’s College for All Act also would have mandated lower interest rates on federal student loans. 44

The plan would require the federal government to cover 67 percent of the cost of college tuition, or approximately $47 billion each year, and would have required states to cover the remaining 33 percent, approximately $23 billion. To qualify for federal assistance, states would have to ensure that universities at least maintain expenditures on students each year, maintain or increase operational expenditures, and ensure that after five years at least 75 percent of classes are taught by tenured or tenure-track professors. 45

In order to fund this legislation, by generating up to $300 billion a year, Sanders proposed implementing a 0.5 percent tax on stock trading, and a 0.1 percent tax on bonds. 46

Fundraising

During his 2016 campaign, Sanders stated that he would not be supported by an aligned “super PAC,” a political action committee that is able to raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions, associations, and individuals to then spend unlimited amounts to advocate for or against a candidate. 47 48

Instead of being supported by a super PAC, Sanders relied on small individual donations for his campaign. The Sanders campaign announced that it had raised more than $1.5 million in its first 24 hours. 49

According to a campaign press release, approximately 35,000 people donated money within the first 24 hours of the campaign, with the average amount donated being $43.54. 50

Over the course of his 2016 campaign, Sanders raised $228,164,501 via his campaign committee Bernie 2016, and outside groups supporting him raised $934,993, totaling just under $230 million. In total, Bernie 2016 spent $222,709,340 and outside groups spent $1,239,200 bringing spending to a combined total of just under $224 million. 51

In total, his campaign received $134,669,942 in small individual contributions under $200, which equated to 57.70 percent of his fundraising. Large contributions amounted to $97,145,068, and “other” contributions amounted to $1,576,978, equating to 41.62 percent and 0.68 percent of his fundraising respectively. 52

Despite not launching a super PAC of his own, Sanders did receive support from them throughout the campaign, including from Progressive Kick and $from Feel Bern. 53

Sexual Harassment Controversy

Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign was mired by controversy surrounding accusations of sexual harassment and sexism by female aides who worked on the campaign. 54

According to a report by the New York Times in January 2019, multiple women who worked on Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign came forward to report incidents of sexual harassment by male colleagues. 55

One allegation was against Robert Becker, who oversaw Sanders’ Iowa campaign. According to a report by Politico, Becker told a young female staffer that he wanted to have sex with her and made a reference to his “pole.” Becker also allegedly forcibly kissed the woman on the lips. 56

Becker, in a response to the allegations, stated, “I categorically deny these allegations of improper and unprofessional conduct.” 57

Several men and women who worked on the campaign signed a letter requesting a meeting with Sen. Sanders to “discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign.” 58

According to Politico, one former campaign staffer claimed the campaign had an atmosphere of “bros protecting bros,” and that female alumni were discussing not working with Sanders on a campaign again. 59

Sanders, during an interview, apologized “to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately. And of course, if I run, we will do better next time.” 60

Endorsements

Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign was endorsed by Venezuelan socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who claimed Sanders was “our revolutionary friend” who would be president if it wasn’t for America’s “archaic (electoral) system.” 61

Democracy for America, a left-of-center political action committee, endorsed Sanders stating that he was an “unyielding populist progressive” who won the endorsement because of his economic and anti-billionaire stances. 62

References

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