Paul Manafort has been in the news a bit recently.
Manafort, the man who "played a limited role" as Donald Trump's campaign manager is currently under fire after it was revealed that he secretly worked to advance the agenda of Vladimir Putin in Russia. Already, the Trump White House is furiously attempting to distance itself from Manafort as the Russian scandal becomes more and more serious by the day.
But Manafort was not the only American political consultant in 2016 who had a checkered history of muddying the waters of international politics. In 2009 Manafort was working to help improve the image of pro-Russian Ukranian politician Viktor Yanukovych in an effort to make the presidential nominee seem more accessible, and thus more palatable, to the American Congress. Joining Manafort in that effort was an American consultant named Tad Devine, a man who himself had a dubious history of foreign intervention. Among Devine's highlights is having worked for exiled Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2002 as well as ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2005. Devine then worked for Yanukovych from 2006 up until he was elected president of Ukraine in 2010. Like both Lozada and Zelaya, Yanukovych has since been removed from power and he currently resides in exile in Russia and just happens to be wanted for treason in Ukraine.
In addition to having supported corrupt politicians abroad, Devine has also supported unsuccessful presidential candidates here at home. Devine had increasing roles in the campaigns of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bob Kerry, Al Gore, and John Kerry. After having previously worked on actual successful campaigns for Bernie Sanders' 1996 congressional run as well as his 2006 senatorial run, Devine officially joined Sanders' presidential campaign as a senior advisor in May of 2015. Over the course of the next fourteen months, Devine not only became one of the mouthpieces of the campaign but was also able to net himself a pretty penny. According to Slate, through both his consulting work as well as his work with Old Time Media, Devine was able to net himself roughly $10 million through his work on the campaign. For a campaign that prided itself as going to fight for the little guy, Devine, an establishment political consultant and friend of Bernie Sanders, seemed perfectly content to pocket millions of dollars.
But Devine's hefty payday might not have been paid for entirely by gullible Americans giving $27 each. Throughout the Democratic primary, the Sanders campaign was cited for FEC violations on three separate occasions including a mysterious $10 million donation from a single address in Washington, DC. Despite consistent calls for financial transparency on the campaign trail, the Sanders campaign was exceedingly secretive when it came to its own finances. After twice filing for extensions from the FEC, the Sanders campaign ultimately decided to forgo its final financial disclosure statement in June citing the fact that campaign was no longer active. This decision was accompanied by the news that Sanders himself had purchased a $575,000 home in August, much to the dismay of his loyal followers. The home would be the third residence for Sanders, someone who railed against a system that increasingly favored the millionaires and billionaires of our country.
Yet these financial gains for both Devine and Sanders would never have been possible had it not been for the millions of campaign contributions that came their way. And the only way to get campaign contributions is to convince your supporters you might actually have a chance to win. Luckily for Devine and Sanders, they had some foreign friends who were willing to step in. As reported by Rachel Maddow late on Tuesday, there existed an army of Russian bots who were weaponized to influence our election. Many of them took to various social media sites to discredit and disrupt Hillary Clinton's campaign and thus, enegize potential Bernie Sanders supporters. Knowing that Clinton had been a target of right-wing media smears for a quarter-century, all the bots had to do was plant this seed to potential Sanders supporters, many of whom had no experience in politics, to get them onboard with the Sanders campaign. By doing this, Sanders and Devine were able to successfully pocket millions of dollars all while pretending to be champions of the common man.
In addition to all this, the Sanders campaign was able to magically avoid any public assault from Wikileaks. While Julian Assange's hacker group directly targeted the Clinton campaign, Sanders and his team not only avoided any cyberwarfare but also were able to benefit from the attacks in claiming they were victims of an alleged conspiracy against them. In fact, this played out nicely to the Sanders narrative that everyone was against them despite the fact that the campaign was found guilty of stealing data from the Clinton campaign ahead of the first primaries. Wikileaks clearly had a dog in the race that that dog just happened to be anyone but Hillary Clinton. The fact that Wikileaks released its first batch of emails a mere three days before the Democratic National Convention was no coincidence and was designed to cause as much chaos as possible at a point in time when Sanders had no reasonable expectation of being the nominee. This was truly a last ditch effort by Russia to avoid Hillary Clinton being presidential nominee for the Democratic Party.
So Bernie Sanders hired a political consultant with pro-Russia experience, had a mysterious unidentified campaign donation, had numerous Russian agents working on behalf of his campaign, and benefitted from Russian-backed Wikileaks. At a time when a public investigation is centering on the Trump administration, the question begs to be asked: what was Bernie Sanders' role in all this? Was Russia simply using Sanders and his supporters as willing stooges in their effots to bring down Hillary Clinton? Or did Sanders have knowledge of their involvement? Who gave Sanders that mysterious $10 million donation? Why did he refuse to submit his final FEC filing? And why has Bernie Sanders remained silent as the Trump Administration has become more and more corrupt in its dealings with Russia?
To paraphrase Congressman Adam Schiff, all of these Russian connections might be a coincidence for a person like Bernie Sanders. Or there might actually be an intentional collusion between the two parties. At this point though, this issue needs to be raised. Sanders' silence on any and all Russian-related issues since the election is deepy troubling at a time when his supporters still believe him to be a savior of the party. As groups like Justice Democrats try to undermine the Democratic Party by attempting to primary candidates they don't beleive to be progressive enough, there needs to be a thorough discussion about Sanders' potential involvement with a foreign adversary that direclty infringed upon the sovereignty of our nation. As someone who directly benefitted from Russian interference, both politically and monetarily, Sanders owes us all, not just Democrats, an explanation for everthing that has happened.
At this point, it's the least he can do.
Paul Manafort has been in the news a bit recently.