The Democratic Socialists of America Has a Super PAC, and It’s Backing Bernie Sanders

Sanders pledged to refuse super PAC support during presidential run

Bernie Sanders / AP
• August 27, 2015 5:00 am


The super PAC run by the Democratic Socialists of America has spent tens of thousands of dollars supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid, newly released campaign finance records show.

Maria Svart, DSA’s national director, told the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday that its super PAC spent $10,200 supporting Sanders’ candidacy since July. In the two months prior, FEC records show, it spent another $10,939 on the Vermont Senator’s behalf.

Those are paltry sums compared to the more heavily financed super PACs involved in the 2016 presidential contest. However, Sanders himself has disavowed super PACs, pledging to refuse their support during his presidential run.

"I will not have a super PAC," Sanders said shortly after he announced his candidacy.

Candidates cannot "have" super PACs in a strict sense, since they are generally legally prohibited from coordinating with campaigns, a prohibition the limits of which Hillary Clinton’s campaign has bypassed by coordinating directly with a super PAC that it says is not bound by that prohibition.

Neither Sanders’ campaign nor the DSA, which also professes distaste for the post-Citizens United campaign finance regime, returned requests for comment.

DSA has endorsed Sanders and created a page on its website devoted to supporting his presidential bid.

"His candidacy could help expand both the progressive movement and the democratic socialist voice within that movement," the site says.

"Those who wish to promote the goals of democratic socialism should consider taking concrete and specific actions at the grassroots level that would support Sanders' candidacy."

The largest pro-Sanders expenditures from DSA’s super PAC have gone toward fundraising efforts. The group also lists payments for bumper stickers, printing, staff salaries, and other overhead expenses.

Sanders recently received criticism from a leading campaign finance reformer who claims that he has gone soft on the money-in-politics issue.

Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard professor who is considering his own presidential bid, said on Wednesday that Sanders "has been seduced by the consultants."

"He's not giving us a reason to believe he thinks [the campaign finance system] must be fixed first," Lessig said during a question and answer session on the website Reddit on Wednesday.

Sanders has previously described himself as a democratic socialist, so the support of a group recently described as "the U.S.’s largest Marxist organization," signals longstanding ideological sympathies.

Published under: 2016 Election, Bernie Sanders