Sanders calls out Clinton, blasts DNC on donations policy reversal

Democratic presidential debate between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton © Jim Young
The Democratic National Committee is taking an “unfortunate step backward” by reversing President Obama’s ban on donations from lobbyists and PACs, said Senator Bernie Sanders, calling on his rival Hillary Clinton to join him in opposing the policy.

Sanders was reacting to reports that the DNC has quietly reversed the long-standing ban on donations from lobbyists and political action committees, put in place by Barack Obama when he became the party’s nominee in 2008.

“We support the restrictions that President Obama put in place, and we hope Secretary Clinton will join us in supporting the president,” Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs told the International Business Times.

This puts Clinton in an awkward position, as the former Secretary of State recently argued that she was more supportive of the current president’s policies than Sanders. Clinton stands to benefit from the party’s policy change far more than the Vermont Senator. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), the Clinton campaign has raised $725,000 from lobbyists in this election cycle, compared to less than $5,000 given to Sanders.

CRP data also shows that, between 2000 and 2008, Clinton received more than $30 million from lobbyists and lawyers, while Sanders accepted just over $310,000.

“We will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs,” Obama announced in 2008, after he became the party’s nominee for the presidency. “We’re going to change how Washington works. They will not fund my party. They will not run our White House. And they will not drown out the voice of the American people when I’m president of the United States of America.”

According to the Washington Post, however, the DNC has reverted to “business as usual” in recent months, repealing almost all of Obama’s policies on lobbyist and PAC money. Only one rule remains in effect: The banning of lobbyists and PAC representatives from attending events featuring President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, or their spouses, the Post reported.

“The DNC’s recent change in guidelines will ensure that we continue to have the resources and infrastructure in place to best support whoever emerges as our eventual nominee,” DNC spokesman Mark Paustenbach told the Post in an email. “Electing a Democrat to the White House is vital to building on the progress we’ve made over the last seven years.”

Sanders supporters have argued for months that the DNC is biased in favor of Clinton, once seen as the shoo-in for the 2016 presidential nomination. In December, Sanders had to sue to regain access to the party’s database after the Clinton campaign accused his people of improperly accessing their data. Last week, after Sanders won the New Hampshire primaries by a large margin, Clinton still went home with more delegates thanks to the party’s “superdelegate” system.

Asked about the arrangement, DNC chair and onetime Clinton campaign manager Debbie Wasserman Schultz told CNN last Thursday, “unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.”

Sanders has made it a major plank in his policy platform to campaign against big money interests in politics, vowing to repeal the Citizens United ruling allowing unlimited PAC donations to presidential campaigns and turning to individuals to fund his presidential bid.  He raised over $73 million from one million donors by the end of 2015, with the average donation amounting to $27.

“If we are to restore a vibrant democracy in this country, it is long past time to break the link between money and special-interest favors in politics,” Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in an email sent to supporters, following the Post’s revelations.