Oops They Did It Again

[Content Note: Hostility to consent.]

The Bernie Sanders campaign continues to have problems with misrepresenting endorsements and associated unethical campaigning.

First, in Iowa, Sanders ran a campaign ad that quoted praise from the Des Moines Register, while concealing that the paper had endorsed Hillary Clinton and tucking the quote in between two other endorsements. The Register's endorsement "came down in favor of Mrs. Clinton's candidacy–which even careful viewers would have no way of knowing."

Then, also in Iowa, Sanders sent out mailers that used the League of Conservation Voters and AARP logos, "a subtle effort to tie himself to those groups, if not implying an endorsement. But neither group has backed him. The AARP, which represents retirees, does not endorse candidates, and the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group, is supporting Sanders's Democratic foe, Hillary Clinton."

Then, in Nevada, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 reported that Sanders staffers were wearing "union pins in order to gain access to employee areas at four of the city's unionized hotels. [The union] said it was 'disappointed and offended' by what it suggested was an unethical move by the Vermont independent's campaign. The union, powerful in Nevada politics, hasn't yet endorsed a candidate in the presidential race... 'It's completely inappropriate for any campaign to attempt to mislead Culinary Union members, especially at their place of work,' Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the union, said in a statement. 'The Culinary Union button that hundreds of thousands of union members have proudly worn to work every day represents 80 years of struggle and fighting for justice.' The Sanders campaign told CNN that staffers 'did wear Culinary buttons to try to talk to workers, but did not misrepresent who they were.' That may well be true, but from the vantage point of the union that may not matter."

Then, in New Hampshire, Sanders ran a campaign ad that implied two newspapers there had endorsed him, when, in fact, they had not: "Sanders' 30-second campaign advertising spot, playing less than a week before the key New Hampshire primary, cites glowing praise from the regional Nashua Telegraph and The Valley News alongside organizations that have endorsed Sanders. But the Telegraph and Valley News have not endorsed him—a fact that is not shared with the viewer."

Then, also in New Hampshire, Sanders sent out mailers using images of people without their consent in campaign advertisements, in several cases leaving people with potentially dire professional consequences they had to address, including American Legion state officer Tom Wiley, who "is in the early stages of a campaign himself, for the post of New Hampshire's Department Commander," and was obliged to field calls asking why he was pictured in a Sanders ad wearing his American Legion hat, as "the American Legion fiercely protects its image as a nonpartisan organization."

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] And, today, there is another report that the Sanders campaign has claimed a personal endorsement they were not given: "Brenda Romero, a Nevada student leader and DREAMer that Bernie Sanders' campaign touted as someone who endorsed their campaign, tells CNN she never endorsed the Vermont senator and is backing Hillary Clinton. Romero said Monday she had agreed to be part of Sanders' Nevada Latino Steering Committee, but that she never endorsed the senator. ...'I didn't agree to such an endorsement,' Romero said Monday, noting that while she agreed to be part of the steering committee, she was told that the role would be advising the 'campaign and potentially Sen. Sanders about immigration issues.'"

This latest is reminiscent of the Sanders' campaign also having claimed as foreign policy advisors people who say they've barely had any contact with the campaign: "Five of the people cited by his campaign say they have only spoken to him once or twice. One is President Barack Obama's deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes, whom Sanders mentioned at the Bloomberg Politics breakfast. Rhodes told CNN that he had spoken to Sanders twice as part of 'standard briefings' he gives members of Congress on issues like Iran and ISIS. ...Other foreign policy pros named by Sanders seemed similarly distant from him."

Just a few days ago, I wrote: "I don't imagine these incidents to be reflective of an indifference to ethical campaigning; I think they are instead a reflection of the disorganization of a nationally untested campaign that doesn't have the competency to ensure these sorts of things don't happen."

And I still believe that, but my good will is quickly depleting. At a certain point, you've got to actually learn from your mistakes and stop making the same mistakes over and over, or else people are going to quite reasonably start to think they're not actually mistakes at all.

Even at this point, this is far too many instances of, at best, "overenthusiastic" staffers whose indifference to the rules and/or basic ethics hasn't been caught and prevented by the campaign leaders. If it really is just a function of mismanagement, that's a pretty big problem all on its own, no nefarious motives required.

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