Despite all of the high-minded rhetoric put forth by mainstream Democrats to overturn Citizens United and end the influence of money in politics, those very same politicians are increasingly relying on dark money groups to serve as campaign strongmen when the going gets tough.
Less than one week after presidential contender Hillary Clinton presented her plan to overhaul campaign finance, a super PAC representing the Democratic front-runner has begun circulating negative emails bashing rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.
While Clinton herself has abstained from such negativity—and has even praised Sanders saying he's "doing a great job" after recent polling showed the Vermont senator now has a double-digit lead in both Iowa and New Hampshire—the controversial super PAC run by Clinton ally David Brock is on the offense.
In an email sent to the Huffington Post on Monday, fundraising group Correct the Record attempted to couple Sanders with what they said were the more "extreme" positions taken by the newly-elected UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, noting the mutual affection shared between the two populist lawmakers.
HuffPo's Samantha Lachman and Ryan Grim report:
The "similarities" between the two, according to the email, include Sanders' introduction of legislation to terminate the United States' nuclear weapons program, comments that NATO's expansion into former Soviet states is dangerous because it could provoke Russia, opposition to more U.S. funds for NATO, and saying he "was concerned" that proposed new NATO members had shipped arms to Iran and North Korea.
The more serious stretch comes as the email highlights how Sanders helped negotiate a program with Venezuela's national oil company in 2006 that provided discounted heating oil assistance to low-income Vermonters. The senator said it was "not a partisan issue," in the state, which was the sixth to make the deal. His support for the program was apparently enough to merit a mention, since Corbyn has written that the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez's "electoral democratic credentials are beyond reproach."
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Sanders spokesperson Michael Briggs said that it is "disappointing that Secretary Clinton's super PAC is spreading disinformation about Bernie."
"This is exactly the kind of politics that Bernie is trying to change," Briggs wrote in an email to Huffpo. "To equate bringing home heating oil to low-income Vermonters with support for the Chavez government is dishonest."
The campaign also noted that the attack was likely fueled by anxiety over Sanders' growing popularity. In an email to supporters on Tuesday, Sanders wrote, "the success of our campaign certainly has the billionaires' attention."
Addressing the fracas, he said, "It was the kind of onslaught I expected to see from the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson," adding that it was clear the billionaires are attempting to "stop the momentum of the political revolution we’re building together." For his part, the progressive presidential hopeful has sworn off super PACs for his own fundraising.
The Democratic party as a whole seems to be growing increasingly comfortable with super PACs.
Attorneys representing "two Democratic super PACs with ties to the party’s congressional leadership, Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC," on Friday filed an emergency request with the Federal Election Commission seeking guidance on certain campaign fundraising loopholes already being exploited by Republican candidates, the New York Times reported on Monday.
The request seeks clarification on certain legal gray areas, such as "how declared candidates, their campaign staff and their volunteers can help court donors for independent super PACs" or "having a candidate pretend to 'test the waters' of a candidacy for months on end while raising money."
Further, the filing makes clear that "if federal regulators determine that such practices are legal...Democratic candidates up and down the ballot are prepared to adopt these tactics in the coming months," the Times reports, with potentially "profound ramifications for the 2016 campaign."