Bernie Sanders Finally Found a Corporate Conglomerate He Likes. It Happens To Be His Publisher.

The Vermont senator has come under fire for the high price of his anti-capitalism book

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) / Getty Images
February 25, 2023

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) has finally found a corporate conglomerate he doesn't oppose. It just so happens to be the publishing company that paid him a $170,000 advance for a book billed as "a progressive takedown of the uber-capitalist status quo."

Sanders's latest book, It's OK to Be Angry About Capitalism, is being published by Crown Publishing Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House. The publishing giant came under fire last year for its proposed $2.2 billion merger with Simon & Schuster, which the Biden Justice Department blocked in October. But a Washington Free Beacon review found that Sanders, who typically issues statements on such mergers, did not comment on the proposal or the Justice Department's injunction.

The Vermont socialist's silence could open him up to further charges of hypocrisy on his already fraught book tour. Sanders was roundly mocked earlier this month for charging $28 for a book-length critique of capitalism and promoting it at an event for which tickets cost as much as $95 on Ticketmaster. When pressed on the high prices and Ticketmaster's alleged monopolistic practices by Face the Nation's Margaret Brennan, Sanders responded by blaming his publisher and implying that he was forced to operate within the capitalist system.

Penguin Random House is one of the "Big Five" publishing companies, which together control 80 percent of the market. Penguin Random House has a 25 percent market share, the largest in the Big Five. The publishing giant was itself the result of a 2013 merger between Penguin and Random House. A group of booksellers in a 2021 lawsuit accused the Big Five of price-fixing.

Few other conglomerates have benefited from Sanders's silence. On Oct. 13, 2022, the senator said "the Biden administration must reject" a proposed merger of the grocery chains Kroeger and Albertsons, claiming it was an example of "corporate greed"  that would be "an absolute disaster" for American families. Two months later, he praised the Federal Trade Commission for blocking Microsoft's proposed acquisition of the video-game company Activision Blizzard, saying "in sector after sector, a handful of giant corporations control what is produced and how much Americans pay for their products. We must stop this dangerous concentration of ownership."

Sanders has often been accused of not living up to his socialist ideals. During his 2016 presidential run, he came under fire for purchasing his third home, a beachfront vacation property, for $600,000. The senator, who is known for railing against "millionaires and billionaires," is himself a millionaire.

His office did not comment on what Sanders plans to do with the profits from the book.

It is unclear why Sanders did not contract with a publishing house that shares his socialist views. His 1998 memoir Outsider in the House was published by Verso Books, a left-wing publishing house that  has been called the "preeminent radical press" and is known for publishing Marxist and socialist authors.

Since then, Sanders has exclusively relied on the Big Five corporate publishers to disseminate his radical tracts. His 2016 book Our Revolution and 2018 volume Where We Go from Here were both published by St. Martin's Press, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers. His 2015 book The Speech: On Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class was published by Bold Type Books. Bold Type, which boasts that it aims "to challenge power through narrative," is a division of the Hachette Book Group.

As of this writing, a hardcover edition of It's OK to Be Angry About Capitalism sells for $20.36 on Amazon—$9.64 cheaper than paperback. Sanders's office did not comment on whether this disparate pricing was the result of market forces like supply and demand, or whether it's OK to be angry about that.