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'Good!' Says Sanders as Lobbyists Lash Out at Proposal to End Corporate Domination of US Politics

"We welcome their hatred," said Sanders adviser Warren Gunnels

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, addresses an audience on the campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill during a campaign rally on September 19, 2019. (Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders's 2020 presidential campaign late Monday enthusiastically welcomed lobbyist backlash over the senator's new proposal to dramatically curb the power of corporate money in politics and bar the Democratic National Committee from taking cash from big business.

"Good!" Sanders tweeted in response to a story in The Hill that quoted several lobbyists opposed to the senator's plan, which would ban corporate donations to the Democratic Party Convention in Milwaukee if Sanders becomes the presidential nominee. As Politico reported last month, Democratic operatives have already begun seeking lobbyist help with financing the event.

"Bernie Sanders is building an unprecedented grassroots campaign to end corruption and as a nominee would host a grassroots conventions for delegates, party members, teachers, workers, nurses, farmers, and students."
—Josh Orton, Sanders national policy director

Stewart Verdery, CEO of public affairs firm Monument Advocacy, warned that "telling companies who would like to partner with the party to take their ball and go home will easily feed into an anti-capitalist motif."

"On the substance side, hosting a convention is a major endeavor that can strap the budgets of parties and cities—the money has to come from somewhere and cutting off corporate donations may further depress interest in hosting a convention," said Verdery. "On the image side, the Democrats always have to balance their populist rhetoric with quieter outreach to the business community."

The Hill also granted anonymity to a Democratic lobbyist who bashed Sanders's proposal as a "desperate" attempt to outdo Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) anti-corruption plan.

"This is simply a game of one-upmanship from a desperate campaign that doesn’t have the ability to draft a 27-page thesis like Warren," said the lobbyist.

The Sanders campaign—which proudly touts a list of "anti-endorsements" on its website—was unmoved by the lobbyists' criticism. In fact, as deputy campaign manager Ari Rabin-Havt put it, lobbyist outrage over the proposal "is not a bug—it's a feature."

Warren Gunnels, Sanders's senior adviser, tweeted: "We welcome their hatred."

In a statement to The Hill, Sanders national policy director Josh Orton pointed to the senator's grassroots fundraising model—which brought the campaign $25.3 million from an average donation of just $18 in the third quarter of 2019—and said "corporate lobbyists will never buy influence with Bernie, period."

"Bernie Sanders is building an unprecedented grassroots campaign to end corruption," said Orton, "and as a nominee would host a grassroots conventions for delegates, party members, teachers, workers, nurses, farmers, and students."

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