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Watchdog Files FEC Complaint over Sanders-Linked Fundraising Group

Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary campaign debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, January 14, 2020.

The watchdog group Common Cause, a left-leaning government watchdog group, has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Committee relating to a non-profit founded by Bernie Sanders.

Sanders established the non-profit Our Revolution after his 2016 primary loss to Hillary Clinton. Our Revolution has since paid for some Sanders advertisements and voter turnout efforts.

In its complaint, Common Cause, which bills itself as an organization that works to “create open, honest, and accountable government,” charges that Our Revolution accepted what are essentially campaign contributions in excess of what is legally permissible, and has not disclosed its donors as required by law. The non-profit, which has never disclosed its donors, has received almost $1 million in donations from 2016 to 2018, with some individual donations reaching six figures.

In the past, Sanders has condemned efforts to allow so-called “dark money” groups, which can raise funds toward political causes without revealing donors. Sanders co-sponsored a 2017 bill that would force dark money groups to reveal their donors to the public.

“I do not have a super PAC, and I do not want a super PAC,” Sanders said after winning the New Hampshire primary in 2016, although Our Revolution functions in much the same way as a super PAC.

“Because Sanders set up Our Revolution and they have raised and spent money in candidate elections, Our Revolution is required to comply with contribution limits, register with the FEC and discloses its donors — but it hasn’t,” attorney for Common Cause Paul S. Ryan told the AP. However, because Sanders founded the group but is not technically affiliated with it, it is not clear whether Common Cause’s complaint will be effective.

“I believe that the analysis is more complicated than has been suggested, and that Our Revolution will be able to show Sanders is no longer affiliated,” former FEC attorney Dan Petalas commented to the AP. “And even if that’s incorrect, Our Revolution should be able to demonstrate that they used the money in ways that comply with the law.”

Sanders has surged in Democratic presidential polls in recent months, including in a new CNN poll released Wednesday that shows him leading the primary field nationwide. The candidate is backed by a strong base of progressive supporters and fruitful fundraising efforts.

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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