‘Common Cause’ Raises Questions About Funding Of Sanders-Friendly ‘Our Revolution’

Editorial Board
USA Today (2/2/20)

Ten years ago, when the Supreme Court struck down a bipartisan campaign finance law and opened up the spigots for political giving, experts predicted what this would mean. Corporations would become important brokers by using their new powers to spread money around. And Republicans would be the big beneficiaries.

In reality, the biggest legacy of the Citizens United ruling has been so-called dark money — money raised by independent groups from unknown donors spent on behalf of a candidate, multiple candidates, a party or cause.

Common Cause has filed a formal complaint against Our Revolution with the FEC. It is not easy for a Democratic candidate to get on the wrong side of Common Cause.

And the biggest user of this dark money — at least until this fall when President Donald Trump is expected to release a torrent of it — has been Democrats. In the 2018 midterm elections, dark money groups spent about $150 million. Liberal groups accounted for 54% of that, and much of it from a single organization called Majority Forward.

This year brings a new chapter in the story. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has created, and is the beneficiary of, a new kind of dark money group called Our Revolution.

What makes Our Revolution different is that it is designed to advance Sanders’ cause against other Democrats in the primaries, rather than against a Republican in a general election. It’s one thing to say you have to play the dark money game because the other side surely will. It is quite another to be first off the mark in bringing its corrosive powers into a new area.

Sanders has long been a big critic of money in politics, often criticizing political action committees and the candidates who benefit from them. To then go out and found a group like Our Revolution is hypocritical.

Before and after Iowa caucuses

Our Revolution claims to voluntarily report all donors who give more than $250. But it doesn’t file documents with any agency, provide identifying information about individuals or specify how much they gave. …

Our Revolution has set off a kind of arms race. …

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Our Revolution Responds: Our Mission Is Much More Than Electing Bernie Sanders

In 2018, 98.6% of our fundraising came from over 107,000 people whose average gift was $20.04.

By Paco Fabián
USA Today (2/2/20)

Our movement is under attack. That’s why I want to set the record straight. Our Revolution is an independent political organization that networks 600 local groups and hundreds of thousands of grassroots activists to fight for change in their communities.

Our mission is much more than electing Bernie Sanders. Our members have elected nearly 250 candidates to local office and Congress; we’ve passed over 50 ballot measures and local ordinances to expand affordable housing, voting rights and racial equity; and we’ve amplified the voices of progressives in state and local Democratic parties controlled by corporate interests.

Those who claim that Our Revolution is anything other than independent of the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign insult our grassroots members who are doing the hard work necessary to transform our broken system. …

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Common Cause Files Complaint Against Pro-Bernie Sanders Group Our Revolution For Violating Soft Money Ban

Common Cause (1/22/19)

Today, Common Cause filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging reason to believe that Our Revolution, a nonprofit political organization established by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in 2016 and now supporting his 2020 presidential campaign, violated the federal ‘soft money’ ban. Sen. Sanders has been a longtime critic of super PACs and so-called “Dark Money” groups. The complaint documents that Our Revolution has solicited contributions explicitly to elect Sanders president, received contributions far in excess of the applicable $5,000 contribution limit and spent funds in connection with federal elections, including current voter mobilization efforts supporting Sanders in Iowa.

In 2018, Common Cause filed a complaint against America First Policies and America First Action, outside groups founded by President Trump’s campaign after the 2016 election, alleging violation of the same soft money ban that Our Revolution appears to have violated. That complaint is still pending.

Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, an entity directly or indirectly established by a federal candidate or officeholder is not allowed to “solicit, receive, direct, transfer, or spend funds in connection with an election for Federal office” unless the “funds are subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements” of federal law.

According to Our Revolution’s tax returns showing contribution amounts but not contributor names, data compiled and first reported by the Associated Press, from 2016 to 2018 Our Revolution raised almost $1 million dollars from contributors who gave in excess of the applicable $5,000 contribution limit, including multiple contributions of between $100,000 and $300,000. Our Revolution has not disclosed any of its contributors to the FEC, as required by federal campaign finance law. …

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