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The Sanders Campaign Is More Establishment Than You Think

Via Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images

“While he rails against the Democratic establishment as corrupt, the highest levels of his campaign are made up of Democratic Party insiders and staffers with controversial pasts.”

During the speech following his victory in the Nevada caucuses, Sen. Bernie Sanders declared that, “The American people are sick and tired of a government which is based on greed, corruption and lies.”

As a registered Independent for most of his political career, Sanders is widely seen as the outsider candidate in the Democratic primaries. Much of his appeal stems from his ability to frame his campaign as uniquely separate from the rest of the Democratic Party, which he has called “ideologically bankrupt.”

Following recent reports that the Russian government is actively trying to help his campaign, Sanders, true to form, tweeted the following:

“I’ve got news for the Republican establishment. I’ve got news for the Democratic establishment. They can’t stop us.”

While he rails against the Democratic establishment as corrupt, the highest levels of his campaign are made up of Democratic Party insiders and staffers with controversial pasts.

David Sirota

Sanders appointed veteran political operative David Sirota as the senior advisor and speechwriter for the campaign.

He was involved in a race-baiting scandal that rocked Philadelphia politics in the late 1990s. From Politico:

In a 1999 mayoral race in Philadelphia, Sirota was tied to a fake website apparently intended to scare off white residents from voting for a black opponent.

Sirota served as Dwight Evans’ deputy mayoral campaign manager in Philadelphia during which he was caught creating a fake website with damaging racial comments attributed to Evans’ opponent in the election. Evans, an African-American and now a member of Congress representing  Pennsylvania’s 3rd district, was blindsided by Sirota’s tactics and immediately relieved Sirota of his post.

Before working for Sanders, Sirota was employed by American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobby. Sanders, for his part, is an outspoken critic of the organization, recently tweeting that he remains, “…concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”

Chuck Rocha

A senior advisor and a veteran consultant for Sanders’ campaigns, Chuck Rocha plead guilty in 2013 for embezzling funds from the Union Steelworkers union.

At the time of writing, Sanders’ 2020 campaign has paid out over a quarter-million dollars to Rocha’s political consultancy, Solidarity Strategies, as reported by The Center for Responsive Politics. According to Rocha’s LinkedIn profile, since February of last year, he has been “Advising on all aspect [sic] of Bernie 2020 campaign.”

This hiring is eyebrow-raising as the Sanders campaign markets itself as one focused on eliminating all political graft and being staunch advocates for labor unions, such as the United Steelworkers.

Faiz Shakir

Serving as the campaign manager for Sanders’ 2020 election bid, Faiz Shakir is a veteran staffer of a number of famous names in the Democratic Party.

From working as a staffer on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign to serving as an advisor to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and as a senior advisor to then-Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid, Shakir has spent most of his career working for the same Party elites whom the Sanders campaign bewail.

While no campaign ought to be held to an impossible standard, it is worthy to note that Sanders has some work left if he wants his campaign to live up to its own promises.

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