Bernie Sanders’s Our Revolution Stumbles Out of the Gate

The organization’s already in hot water.

It’s not good news when a huge chunk of your staff resigns in protest right before you have the launch of your big new political organization, but that’s what just happened to Bernie Sanders.

…while the establishment of the new group, Our Revolution, has been eagerly awaited by many of his most ardent supporters, it has been met with criticism and controversy over its financing and management.

A principal concern among backers of Mr. Sanders, whose condemnation of the campaign finance system was a pillar of his presidential bid, is that the group can draw from the same pool of “dark money” that Mr. Sanders condemned for lacking transparency.

The announcement of the group, which will be livestreamed Wednesday night, also comes as the majority of its staff resigned after the appointment last Monday of Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders’s former campaign manager, to lead the organization.

Several people familiar with the organization said eight core staff members have stepped down. The group’s entire organizing department quit this week, along with people working in digital and data positions.

After the resignations, Mr. Sanders spoke to some who had quit and asked them to reconsider, but the staff members refused.

Jeff Weaver is part of the problem, but the structure of Our Revolution is causing serious consternation from Sanders’ idealistic staff and many of his supporters.

Claire Sandberg, who was the organizing director at Our Revolution and had worked on Mr. Sanders’s campaign, said she and others were also concerned about the group’s tax status — as a 501(c)(4) organization it can collect large donations from anonymous sources…

…“I left and others left because we were alarmed that Jeff would mismanage this organization as he mismanaged the campaign,” she said, expressing concern that Mr. Weaver would “betray its core purpose by accepting money from billionaires and not remaining grass-roots funded and plowing that billionaire cash into TV instead of investing it in building a genuine movement.”

…The staff members who quit also said that they feared that the 501(c)(4) designation meant the group would not be able to work directly with Mr. Sanders or the people he has encouraged to run for office because such organizations are not allowed to coordinate directly with candidates.

The launch is scheduled for tonight, but obviously there is now a large shadow cast over the event.

Things haven’t been going well for Sanders in general since the end of his campaign. His failure to issue his financial disclosure after having delayed it throughout the campaign has raised a lot of hackles, and his conspicuous purchase of a vacation home on North Hero Island isn’t sitting well with a lot of people up in Vermont. There have been a bunch of articles detailing how Jane Sanders ran Burlington College into the ground and about how the state taxpayers will have to pick up the tab for the school’s collapse. Sanders is also taking a beating for not doing much for the candidates he’s supposed to be supporting, with Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s opponent now reduced to begging and pleading for Sanders to show him some love now that he’s down by double digits with less than a week to go before the primary and claiming that he can’t even get Sanders to return his phone calls.

I myself lambasted Sanders for quitting the Democratic Party after so many people stuck with him to give him influence over the platform, putting their faith in him to reform the party from within. Now he’s being too cute by half by refusing to rule out running for reelection as a Democrat.

If the true believers closest to him who were lined up to help launch the next phase of his revolution are quitting in protest, I don’t think it’s biased or uncharitable to say that Sanders isn’t turning out to be the person people thought he was. I don’t doubt that he’s made some enemies who are looking to settle scores, but this mass resignation certainly isn’t an example of that. Tim Canova calling him out for not returning his calls isn’t an example of that. His enemies didn’t force him to hire Jeff Weaver or to organize his new political outfit as a 501(c)(4) that can accept dark money but can’t coordinate with his office. It was his choice to delay and ultimately blow off disclosing his finances and then turn around and pay cash for an expensive third lakefront home on North Hero Island.

The kick-off parties for Our Revolution begin at 8pm tonight, and Sanders will appear in a livestream from a Burlington studio at 9pm. It will be interesting to see how he sells his big new project, but it’s certainly off to an inauspicious start.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.