Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been one of the most outspoken politicians in recent years regarding political corruption, especially regarding lobbyists and PAC money.
Yet, while crying from the pulpit, Sanders has been funneling money, roughly $275,000 so far this year, to his wife and son's nonprofit, the Sanders Institute.
In August, Fox News reported $200,000 going from Sanders' campaign coffers to the Sanders Institute. This nonprofit organization was founded in 2017 by Jane O'Meara Sanders and David Driscoll, who are Sanders' wife and stepson.
When asked about the mission of the institute, Jane Sanders responded:
"The purpose is to revitalize democracy in the support of progressive institutions. Our feeling is at our point in time, our country is at a crossroads, and people are engaged in a political process that can be opaque.
"A vital democracy requires an informed electorate, civil discourse, and bold thinking. So we put together this team to focus on issues, but not in a partisan way, not in a way that just focuses on the latest crazy thing. It will not be about Trump; it will be about the issues facing the country."
The institute does not appear to be very active, and it has historically not raised very much money. A significant portion of what it has raised has gone to salary.
For instance, in 2021, the institute had donations of $716,618, $257,000 (35.86%) of which went to salary. Of that $257,000, $152,653 went to Driscoll.
This year, Sanders has cut two checks for $100,000 each and recently sent another $75,000 to the institute. So, it would appear that Sanders' campaign is the primary funder of the institute, which happens to pay Sanders' stepson a massive six-figure salary.
Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, says that some serious concerns are being raised about the nonprofit and that Sanders is funneling his campaign cash to the organization.
"Obviously, a senator is not allowed to use his campaign to simply transfer large sums of money to family members – regardless of the route the dollars take.
"While on its face, the percentage the nonprofit paid out in salary alone is not necessarily problematic, legally the issue hinges on whether the salaries were paid for bona fide services at fair market value. In other words, if the nonprofit and its executive director are truly producing work and actually earning the money, it is not illegal, but it is frowned upon. On the other hand, if nothing or very little is being done to earn the money legitimately, then it is highly likely a serious campaign finance violation has taken place."
Campaign funds have long been a way to help family members profit from the business of politics.
From Day One, Joe Biden had used his campaign to enrich family members, hiring his sister as his campaign manager and his brother as his treasurer.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has paid her daughter more than $1 million over the years out of campaign funds using an outdated slate mailer. For instance, during the 2020 election cycle, Karen Waters was paid around $240,000 for her work on the mailer.
This is not just something that is happening on the left side of the aisle, either, as nepotism is the norm in politics these days, as is abuse of campaign funds.
I have often referred to the movie "The Distinguished Gentleman" to refer to how today's political system works.
For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, this is a 1992 Eddie Murphy film where he plays a con artist who uses name recognition of a former candidate to scam his way into Congress. His character, Thomas Jefferson Johnson, wanted to get his hands on all those fancy perks that politicians enjoy.
Unlike today's politicians, Johnson eventually developed a conscience and started doing the right thing.
Sadly, most politicians today are in this for the perks and not to serve their constituents. And it is the money that has corrupted them.
We have to change the money funnel or we will never remove the corruption from the system, and this starts with removing lobbyists and Super PACs from the picture. For the most part, that is who politicians are loyal to because that is where most of the money comes from for their campaigns.
Secondly, really drop the hammer on how campaign funds can be used.
You do that, and you start to see people no longer interested in being in office because their little scam is gone.
Members of Congress start at $174,000, but most of them are millionaires within a few years of taking office. They all travel like rock stars, enjoying private jets and first-class accommodation wherever they go… and that money comes from campaign cash, their PACs, and lobbyists.
And, as we noted in this report, when they are not making their own lives more enjoyable, they are lining the pockets of their family members by inventing creative ways to funnel campaign cash to them.
Our system is just blatantly corrupt, and we need to change that if we ever want to see our government work for the people of this country again.