Lazy Saturday Reads: Media Belatedly Begins Vetting Bernie

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Good Morning!!

Before I get started, I want to thank Delphyne for posting the above photo on Facebook. I just couldn’t resist it. Now to the news of the day.

After his big win in the New Hampshire primary, Bernie Sanders is finally beginning to get some serious vetting from the media. It will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure.

Last night, this story popped up at The New York Times: FEC Tells Sanders Campaign That Some Donors May Have Given Too Much. The FEC found more than 100 “small contributors” had given more than the legal limit of $2,700 to Sanders’ campaign. It’s not a huge deal according to the Times, but to me it seems to be part of a pattern of dishonesty on the part of the Bernie’s campaign.

Here’s a more critical take on this story from the Daily News Bin: FEC launches inquiry into hundreds of “excessive” contributions to Bernie Sanders campaign.

In what the FEC has titled “Excessive, Prohibited, and Impermissible Contributions” to the Bernie Sanders campaign, it lists nearly a thousand contributions from hundreds of donors, some of them repeat offenders. Sanders is accused of failing to provide adequate detail on who the contributors are beyond their names, which campaigns are required to make their best effort to do under federal law. The FEC is also informing Sanders that he “may have to refund the excessive amount” if he can’t adequately explain where all the money came from….

The FEC report also accuses the Bernie Sanders campaign of widespread “incorrectly reported” reimbursements for travel purposes and other costs. Sanders has been warned that if he cannot explain the stunningly long laundry list of violations, “failure to adequately respond by the response date noted above could result in an audit or enforcement action.” Read the full FEC report.

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Then there’s this from the Wall Street Journal: Sanders’s Record, Filings Show Benefits From Super PACs, Links to Wall Street Donors.

In nearly every speech, Bernie Sanders reminds voters that he doesn’t have a super PAC, doesn’t want money from Wall Street and rejects establishment politics.

Yet the Vermont senator has benefited from at least $1.5 million in backing from super PACs and from political groups that don’t have to fully disclose their donors, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission….

He may not have formed one of his own, but Mr. Sanders is getting help from National Nurses United for Patient Protection, a super PAC that gets its money from the nation’s largest nurses’ union, with nearly 185,000 members.

The union doesn’t have to disclose its donors, but a spokesman said the super PAC money comes exclusively from members’ dues. Representatives from the union have frequently joined the senator at events and this week launched a bus tour across South Carolina ahead of the state’s Feb. 27 primary. At an Iowa campaign stop, Mr. Sanders thanked the group for being “one of the sponsors” of his campaign.

In a five-minute video posted online by the nurses union in October, Mr. Sanders said he was “honored” to have the union’s support and highlighted his work on its members’ behalf.

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The rest of the article provides details on Sanders’ fundraising from big donors to the DSCC, which has supported in his House and Senate campaigns.

“He was just like any other senator hobnobbing with lawyers and lobbyists from DC,” said Rebecca Geller, a Washington attorney who attended with her husband, a financial services lobbyist. Ms. Geller, who has donated to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, said Mr. Sanders was happy to take photos with her family. “My kids have fond memories of him hanging out by the hot tub.”

In addition, Sanders’ claims in debates and other forums are getting more fact checking and scrutiny. Here’s one example from The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler: Bernie Sanders’s claim that Hillary Clinton objected to meeting with ‘our enemies.’ This is refeering to the exchange in which Sanders claimed that Clinton said that Obama’s proposal to talk to Iran’s leaders without preconditions was troubling. Kessler:

Some arguments never die. For readers who may not recall a pivotal exchange between then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, here’s what Clinton and Sanders are arguing about.

In a debate on July 24, 2007 hosted by CNN, a question came to the candidates from YouTube:

In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since. In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

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Obama took the question first and answered emphatically yes:

I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.

Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.

And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them. We’ve been talking about Iraq — one of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria because they’re going to have responsibilities if Iraq collapses.

They have been acting irresponsibly up until this point. But if we tell them that we are not going to be a permanent occupying force, we are in a position to say that they are going to have to carry some weight, in terms of stabilizing the region.

Closeup of ginger cat lying on old book near spectacles on books background

Closeup of ginger cat lying on old book near spectacles on books background

Then Clinton responded, saying that before any such high-level meetings, diplomatic groundwork first would be necessary:

Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.

I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don’t want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration.

And I will purse very vigorous diplomacy.

And I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we’re not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.

As president, Obama took the path that Clinton had recommended.

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During the PBS debate on Thursday night, Sanders tried to explain away his no vote on a comprehensive immigration bill that was sponsored by Ted Kennedy and supported by most Democrats. Matt Yglesias responded at Vox: What Bernie Sanders told Lou Dobbs in 2007 about why he opposed the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill.

In Thursday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders briefly exchanged words over his vote against the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill that John McCain and Ted Kennedy wrote and that both Clinton and Barack Obama supported, while Sanders and most Republicans plus some Democrats were opposed. Sanders cited as his motive opposition to the bill’s guest worker provisions, which he said were bad because a Southern Poverty Law Center investigation had likened conditions in existing agricultural guest worker programs to slavery.

It’s interesting to compare this with what he said about the bill at the time on Lou Dobbs’s show. Dobbs, for those who’ve forgotten, was a business news broadcaster who refashioned himself as a somewhat Trump-esque anti-immigration, anti–trade deal populist in the mid-aughts.

If you watch the interview you’ll see that Sanders isn’t particularly interested in working conditions for guest workers and he’s also not narrowly focused on the H2 programs the SPLC report was about — he also talks about H1 programs for skilled workers that, whatever their flaws, are clearly not slavery.

Dobbs is opposed to the whole idea of “amnesty,” which Sanders was not, but Sanders also doesn’t argue with Dobbs about it. Sanders doesn’t really say anything about the costs and benefits to immigrants themselves — whether that’s people who’ve been living illegally in the United States or potential future guest workers — one way or another. His focus is on the idea that “what happens in Congress is to a very significant degree dictated by big-money interests” and that “I don’t know why we need millions of people to be coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive wages down even lower than they are now.”

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Finally, Sanders got himself in some hot water at the Black citizens’ forum in Minneapolis yesterday. Politico reported on the meeting and Twitter went nuts.

Sanders criticism grows pointed at black community forum

MINNEAPOLIS – A warm, welcoming African-American crowd grew increasingly frustrated with Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday evening, complaining that he’s too scared to talk about specifically black issues.

Sanders was here for “A Community Forum on Black America,” introduced by the local congressman, Rep. Keith Ellison, one of Sanders’ only two endorsers in the House, But unlike many of the packed rallies that have greeted Sanders in other parts of the country, neither the folding chairs nor the bleachers in the gym here at Patrick Henry High School were full….

Questions from a panel and the crowd drilled down on felon voting rights — which Sanders said he strongly supported restoring — but turned to environmental racism and reparations for slavery, with demands for more exact answers about actions the candidate for the Democratic nomination would take if he was elected president.

The tension quickly rose over his 40-minute appearance, with moderator Anthony Newby repeatedly calling for “specific redress.”

“I know you’re scared to say ‘black,’ I know you’re scared to say ‘reparations,’” said Felicia Perry, a local entrepreneur and artist on the stage. “Can’t you please specifically talk about black people?”

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Sanders responded:

“I said ‘black’ 50 times,” he said. “That’s the 51st time.”

But, Sanders said, the issues at hand are more about economics than race.

“It’s not just black,” he said. “It’s Latino. In some rural areas, it is white.”

WTF?! Could this guy be any more tone deaf? Even though he has to know he needs black voters to win Southern primaries, Sanders just can’t break away from his obsession with Wall Street billionaires and income inequality to see that racism is a separate though related issue that affects how people fare in our culture.

You can read about the exchange in a little more detail in this CNN article: Bernie Sanders faces frustrated crowd at race forum in Minneapolis. The story ends with this interesting description of the chaos:

The forum finished inconclusively when activist Clyde Bellecourt commandeered the microphone to talk about issues relating to Native Americans being what he called “completely forgotten” by the federal government.

His statement drew on for several heated and emotional minutes as moderators asked him to get to his question and Bellecourt declared, “If you have to carry me out of here, carry me out of here!”

Sanders rose from his chair, thanked the crowd and scurried offstage.

Sanders simply doesn’t understand racism. As a white person, I can’t claim a deep understanding either, but at least I get that racism is a powerful force keeping Black people down and the problem won’t be solved by breaking up big banks or raising taxes on the wealthy and middle class to pay for free college and single payer health care.

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Sanders’ tunnel vision on the income inequality issue blinds him to the systemic effects of racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice, which interact with economics but cannot be solely explained or remedied by economic policies.

This attitude goes along with Sanders’ odd statement at the debate when he was asked what he would do about systemic racism. From USA Today:

The African-American community lost half of their wealth as a result of the Wall Street collapse, says Sanders. When “you have unbelievable rates of incarceration,” which leaves children without their parents, “clearly we are looking at institutional racism” and an economy in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, he says. Race relations would be better under a Sanders presidency, he says, because he’d create millions of jobs for low-income kids “so they’re not hanging out on street corners.”

How does Bernie expect to pull in Black voters when he claims he would do better on this issue than the first Black American president and when he characterizes Black kids as “hanging out on street corners.” Good grief. Kids hang out on street corners in my middle class town and the even wealthier communities nearby. Kids in cities tend to do that.

Bernie just doesn’t get it, and he doesn’t even seem able to tailor his message to groups whose votes he desperately needs.

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great weekend!


Romney Career Advice Open Thread

Gov. John Kasich and Mitt Romney at Otterbein U.

Yesterday, presumed Republican Presidential standard bearer Mitt Romney managed a stunning quadruple-gaffe. In one “lecture” at Ohio’s Otterbein University he demonstrated his ignorance about ordinary American families, his disdain for working people, and his cluelessness about the American economy. On top of that, he managed to put his audience to sleep! Watch the video and note the dozing students behind Romney:

Yes, Jimmy John’s! Romney’s pal Jimmy John Liautaud started a sandwich store franchise in 1983 with a $25,000 loan from his dad. Romney advised Otterbein students to do the same:

Accusing the president of attacking successful Americans, Romney urged students to borrow money from their parents — as John did — if they need to do so to succeed in starting their own businesses.

“Even now, I believe you’re watching a president who is trying to deflect and divert from his record by trying to find ways to, if you will, attack fellow Americans, between rich and poor, and other dimensions,” said Romney. “This kind of divisiveness, this attack of success, is very different than what we’ve seen in our country’s history.”

“We’ve always encouraged young people, take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business,” he said.

Of course! Because everyone has parents with an extra $25,000 lying around. Why didn’t I think of that? It’s a simple answer to the economic crisis–stop attacking rich people and borrow money from your rich parents instead.

And be like Jimmy John’s–a company cited for illegal labor practices! Great idea!

Judge Rules Jimmy John’s Must Re-Hire Workers Fired for Sick Leave Complaints

A National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge has ruled six former Minneapolis Jimmy John’s sandwich shop employees must be re-hired and paid back wages.

The workers in question said if they called in sick and couldn’t find replacements for their shifts they risked being fired. So, they started warning Jimmy John’s customers that they could be eating sandwiches made by under-the-weather sandwich makers….

Davis Ritsema, one of the fired workers, explained how sick leave policy challenge began. “One day I was coughing and had a high temperature, but I felt pressured to work.”

Mike Wilkow, another former Jimmy John’s worker, added, “I was vomiting and handling sandwiches. They made me stay until the end of my shift.”

Yes, take Mitt Romney’s advice: borrow money from your wealthy parents, hire minimum-wage workers and deny them sick leave. That’ll help the economy recover!

Romney also attacked Obama’s economic stimulus, apparently unaware that Otterbein University received more than $80,000 in stimulus funds used for a federal work-study program.

ROMNEY: Then there was the stimulus itself. $787 billion of borrowing. It could have been entirely focused on getting getting the private sector to buy capital equipment, for instance. That puts people to work. Or to hire people. Instead, it primary [sic] protected people in the governmental sector, which is probably the sector that should have been shrinking.

Of course, as Dr. Dakinikat has repeatedly explained, businesses aren’t going to invest capital in equipment to produce products when Americans have so little money to spend. Furthermore, Ohio college are now suffering the loss of stimulus funds, because Governor Kasich, who accompanied Romney at Otterbein, hasn’t done anything to replace them.

What’s on your mind this lovely Saturday morning?