Pro-Clinton Super PAC Goes Negative, Compares Sanders to Corbyn

Dems criticize attacks, question ties between arms of David Brock’s political network

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton / AP

Liberals on social media criticized attacks against Bernie Sanders by a pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC that compared the Clinton competitor to notorious anti-American socialists in Europe and South America.

"David Brock is a cheap fucking mercenary, all he did was switch sides," said progressive writer Adam Johnson on Monday in response to a Huffington Post report on the new attacks from the Brock-run Super PAC Correct the Record.

The group sent an email to supporters on Monday comparing Sanders to Jeremy Corbyn, the new UK Labour Party leader, who has compared U.S. actions in Iraq to those of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, among other anti-American comments.

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The Correct the Record email highlighted Corbyn calling Osama bin Laden’s death "a tragedy" and members of terrorist group Hezbollah his "friends," according to the Huffington Post.

It also noted an overlap between Corbyn’s and Sanders’ support for the regime of the late socialist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Sanders brokered a deal in 2006 that imported Venezuelan heating oil.

Some prominent Democrats quickly criticized the attacks.

"I am one who thinks Clinton should engage Sanders, but this is clumsy from her allies," said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama.

Hilary Rosen, an adviser to the Democratic National Committee, called Correct the Record’s attack an "odd move."

"Looks to me like a play to Bernie’s strength," she wrote.

Sanders supporters recoiled at the effort. Actress and left-wing activist Mia Farrow said the attacks were "more reason to respect Bernie."

The Washington editor of the Nation accused the "Clinton message machine" of "smearing Bernie Sanders."

That machine is run in large measure by Brock and groups to which he has ties. In addition to Correct the Record, those groups include opposition research outfits Media Matters for America (MMFA), a nonprofit, and American Bridge, a Super PAC.

Some critics of Correct the Record’s anti-Sanders offensive noted overlap between the Super PAC’s explicitly political efforts and the ostensibly nonpartisan activities of other arms of Brock’s sprawling advocacy network.

"This maybe would explain why mediamatters.org front page currently has 9 Clinton stories and zero Sanders stories," Johnson wrote.

He pointed to Federal Election Commission records showing that Correct the Record rents office space from Media Matters, saying it "shows again how MMFA is overtly pro-HRC."

"When it was just those big bad republicans it was fine, but now Brock is turning his propaganda machine on Sanders and it seems tawdry," he wrote.

The Clinton campaign has blazed new trails in the post-Citizens United campaign finance environment by announcing recently that it would openly coordinate with Correct the Record.

Most experts believed that campaigns were completely prohibited from coordinating with Super PACs, but the Clinton campaign has argued that Correct the Record’s online communications are exempt from that prohibition.

As her campaign has pushed the boundaries of Super PAC coordination, Clinton has decried the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case and vowed to overturn it through a constitutional amendment, an effort that legal experts say could dramatically restrict nonprofit groups’ free speech rights.

The Supreme Court case in Citizens United revolved around a documentary film critical of Clinton produced by a nonprofit group.