Our Revolution — the successor organization to Bernie Sanders’ historic 2016 campaign for the president — will launch on August 24 as over 2,300 house parties across the country tune into a livestreamed address by Sanders on the path forward for the political revolution he inspired. But the launch has been complicated by the resignation of staffers who objected to the appointment of long-time Sanders loyalist Jeff Weaver as president of Our Revolution.
Buzzfeed reports “as many as eight” out of 15 staffers have resigned including “the organization’s two senior political staffers, two other organizing staffers, one other digital staffer, and one data staffer.” According to a report by Politico, unnamed aggrieved staffers describe Weaver as “curt, dismissive, and overmatched” and quotes Claire Sandberg, digital organizing director for Sanders’ presidential campaign, who says:
“It’s about both the fund-raising and the spending: Jeff would like to take big money from rich people including billionaires and spend it on ads. That’s the opposite of what this campaign and this movement are supposed to be about and after being very firm and raising alarm the staff felt that we had no choice but to quit.”
This is a rather strange accusation to hurl since the Sanders campaign took money from “rich people including billionaires” and ad spending was the campaign’s single greatest expenditure. More than $92 million was spent on media or nearly 40% of the $236 million we raised was spent in one form or another on ads between buying airtime on commercial stations, paying consultant fees, and on digital media. Campaign spending runners up include air travel ($3.34 million), campaign paraphernalia ($6.56 million), payroll ($5.89 million), postage, printing, and mailing ($4.8 million), and site rentals ($1.7 million).
Far from being the ‘opposite’ of what the campaign was about, Sandberg’s claim makes it sounds like Jeff Weaver wants to basically continue what the campaign was doing but this time for down-ballot progressives. The notion that Our Revolution’s leadership board — made up of long-time Sanders loyalists Jeff Weaver, Jane Sanders, Shannon Jackson and Sanders himself who combined have spent several lifetimes successfully fighting for working and middle class people and against the influence of the billionaire class — suddenly and inexplicably want their money beggars belief. It’s far more likely that this is an ugly personality conflict full of hurt feelings and personal slights (real and imagined) that has been puffed up as a grand struggle over existential principles because the truth is too petty and embarrassing to admit publicly.
The timing of this mass resignation on the eve of Our Revolution’s launch also tells us something about the people who quit. It smacks of sabotage. This is not to suggest that any of the people who quit are conscious saboteurs motivated by malice, but it is hard to understand why these allegedly Weaver-driven resignations could not wait until after the Our Revolution launch event on August 24.
Needless drama aside, there are real issues that need to be addressed when it comes to Our Revolution’s status as a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) social welfare organization and the role Sanders hopes it will play in finding, vetting, training, and supporting progressive Democrats and independents to run for and win local and state offices. 501(c)(4) organizations are not under the jurisdiction of the Federal Election Commission. They can campaign for or against candidates so long as election campaigns are not the majority of their activity or do not account for 50% of their spending. They are allowed to lobby politicians and government. And they are not required by law to publicly disclose the identities of their contributors. There is no legal limit on how much a person or a corporation can donate to a 501(c)(4) like Our Revolution (the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizen’s United decision allowed 501(c)(4) organizations to accept corporate contributions).
Our Revolution could institute a voluntary ban on total donations of more than $2,700 per year per person and require donors to sign a disclosure agreement allowing their names to be published as part of the public record. Doing so would draw a stark contrast to the practices of right-wing 501(c)(4) groups funded by the Koch brothers and lay to rest bogus insinuations that it is paid for by the billionaires.