Some Bernie Sanders supporters might be looking for a refund but they’re not going to get one. The aging socialist raised hundreds of millions during the Democratic primary but spent every penny.
Now some liberals are wondering what good it did.
Bernie’s Fundraising Was Revolutionary. How He Spent His Money Was Not.
Bernie Sanders’ core pitch to Democratic primary voters was that his people-powered “revolution” would make him uniquely positioned to clean up a campaign finance system that most Americans see as hopelessly corrupted. On the strength of this appeal, Sanders raised more than $220 million, and almost 60 percent of those dollars came in the form of small individual donations.
A recent analysis by the Los Angeles Times found that about $1 out of every $4 donated to Sanders came from people who aren’t in the workforce, including the unemployed or retired. Outside groups supporting Sanders have raised just $610,000, and the only super PAC to offer him significant support this cycle—$3,262,105—was National Nurses United, which is funded from union dues, not the checks of “millionaires and billionaires,” as Sanders put it on the stump.
But what did that money buy, exactly? Where did all those $27 checks go? A close examination of public records and interviews with campaign finance experts and grass-roots organizers suggests that, in some significant ways, a campaign that took in money like folk bandits wound up spending it like drearily conventional pols.
In April, the campaign had a burn rate of 143 percent, meaning it was spending nearly half as much again as it was bringing in. A great deal of that money bought a blast of commercials preceding caucuses and primaries across the country, one effect of which was to enrich a small group of Democratic consultants whose compensation is tied to media spending.
As Margaret Thatcher once famously said, the trouble with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.
It looks like the Sanders revolution has reached that point.