Bernie Sanders has launched Our Revolution, a new group meant to support progressive causes. In doing so, they’re also promising to “revitalize American democracy” and “elevate the political consciousness.” All of which sounds great, and crucial, and they will probably be right on it, as soon as they replace the majority of the staff, who have resigned almost instantly.
Our Revolution was announced Wednesday:
... which would be the same day that Politico, Buzzfeed, and the New York Times all reported that eight core staff members had stepped down. “After the resignations, Mr. Sanders spoke to some who had quit and asked them to reconsider, but the staff members refused,” the NYT adds.
At the core of the issue, according to every source who spoke to every media outlet, are concerns about two things: financial transparency and former campaign manager Jeff Weaver.
Politico reports that the board, which is chaired by Jane Sanders, was growing “increasingly concerned about campaign finance questions being raised over the last week.” Questions like, how does a political nonprofit founded by and closely linked to a sitting U.S. senator operate legally, even if Sanders isn’t directly running the show? An explanation and a set of qualms from ABC:
According to its website, the group is operating as a 501(c)(4) organization, a tax status that will allow it to accept unlimited contributions without having to reveal its donors.
But its activities could be limited by campaign regulations because of its ties to Sanders, resulting in a highly unusual — if not unprecedented — political arrangement, according to Paul Ryan, the deputy executive director of the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center.
“This definitely raises, in my experience, novel campaign finance issues,” Ryan said in an interview.
The nonprofit status also means the group can’t give money directly to candidates. And the arrangement is deeply ironic, given that 501 (c)(4) designations are usually pursued by people who don’t want to disclose their donors. The most infamous example is Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which managed to get itself qualified as a nonprofit “social welfare group” despite being run by Karl Rove.
The other problem, per all these sources, is Weaver, who Buzzfeed refers to as “a polarizing figure” among some former Sanders campaign staffers. According to the NYT, there’s deep resentment among some former campaign employees over what they see as Weaver’s misuse of campaign money and being, allegedly, kind of a dick. They accuse him, the paper says, of “wasting money on television advertising during Mr. Sanders’s campaign; mismanaging campaign funds by failing to hire staff members or effectively target voters; and creating a hostile work environment by threatening to criticize staff members if they quit.”
Politico reports that the staff members delivered an ultimatum—Weaver or them—before ultimately deciding to resign. NBC reports that the remaining staff members — about five of them, of the original 13— “all sent letters to Sanders expressing concerns with Weaver and solidarity with those who quit.”
Anyway, here’s a video of the Our Revolution launch event, which certainly looked very hopeful and exciting.