Bernie's Billionaires, Take Two: Koch Brothers, the NRA, and a Glass House

It is not an overstatement to say that Bernie Sanders' entire campaign is predicated on two things: seeking revenge against banks and insinuating that Hillary Clinton is compromised because she - actually, mostly a Super PAC she doesn't and cannot control - takes money from banks and other big money interests. He spends a lot of time on the campaign trail making the case if an industry is spending money on you, you must be in their pocket.

That is what he was doing - or at least that his what he thought he was doing - at last night's debate in Miami when he said this:

Look, clearly, clearly, the secretary’s words to Wall Street has really intimidated them, and that is why they have given her $15 million in campaign contributions.

Now, what I believe is in fact that we have a corrupt campaign finance system. And it’s not just Wall Street, it’s the drug companies, (INAUDIBLE) received millions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry. We’ve got to overturn Citizens United and end that.

Hillary Clinton seemed particularly eager to answer this, as if she were just waiting for Bernie to drop this. And that she was. Bernie suggested that Hillary Clinton was not only beholden to big banks but also the drug makers and the fossil fuel industry, completely unaware that just that day, Koch Brothers were making some cool independent expenditure on his behalf. Hillary Clinton pounced.

CLINTON: Wait a minute. I just think it’s worth pointing out that the leaders of the fossil fuel industry, the Koch brothers, have just paid to put up an ad praising Senator Sanders. There are a lot of different powerful interests in Washington. I’ve taken them on. I took on the drug companies. I took on the insurance companies. Before there was something called Obamacare, there was something called Hillarycare, and I worked really hard...

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: ... to get comprehensive health care reform, and they beat me. So I have a long record of standing up to special interests. And I will continue to do so.

The infamous Koch Brothers, two of the wealthiest men in America who make all their money from oil, are indeed funding a pro-Bernie ad. Here's the ad from Freedom Partners, a Koch funded group.

The stated reason for Bernie Sanders' opposition of the Export-Import bank is simplistic and a key theme of his campaign: he would rather hurt the middle class in order to fulfill his vengeance against players in the market he sees as villains  than end up doing something beneficial for those villains in the process of helping those who need a hand up.

It's his stated reason for voting against the financial rescue package which also contained the bailout money for the auto industry that saved millions of jobs because it would also help banks. Notably, not only did banks, as Hillary Clinton pointed out, paid the money back with interest, but even more critically, President Obama's financial reform law actually worked in reining in potential financial damage from future catastrophe.

Vengeance over assistance is also his stated reason for opposing the Export-Import  Bank, because although 90% of its transactions directly support American small businesses and costs taxpayers nothing, it makes big loans to corporations like Boeing. That Europe massively supports Airbus, Boeing's main competitor, is completely lost on the man who's been peddling European style socialism on the campaign trail (although it turns out a bit different from close examination).

Incidentally, the National Rifle Association has also recently praised Sanders for his defense of unique protections gun manufacturers and sellers enjoy from product liability for crimes committed with their weapons when they fail to include enough safety features and warnings. The NRA also helped launch Bernie's Congressional career.

But Clinton's whipping, coming on the heels of Sanders trying to accuse her of being bought and sold (accusations which TPV has debunked), raised an important question. Is Bernie Sanders just a sadist who doesn't care who gets hurt in his retribution quest, or is he, in fact, bought and paid for the fossil fuel industry and the NRA?

Sanders quickly sought to play down the connection with the Kochs, saying we should look at not how Koch brothers are spending their money for him, but how he has been on the record "taking on" their interests. Clinton pushed back, making Sanders swallow his own words that big money special interests are "sensible" about how and in whose support they spend their money.

Of course, Sanders can expect a full examination of his record rather than simply connecting him to the people spending oodles of money to back his candidacy (and the Koch Brothers aren't the first GOP billionaires doing so). But if he wishes to be given that consideration, he must grant the same respect to Sec. Clinton - who also has a public record and a tough plan to regulate Wall Street - and stop demonizing her and impugning her character on non-campaign money connection alone.

Because otherwise, at best he's living in a glass house, and at worst he is telegraphing his own price.



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