Presidential races

Sanders bucks other candidates on super-PAC

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, 2016
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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who just announced he is running for the Democratic nomination for president, said early Thursday he won’t be using a super-PAC — a fundraising tactic that has become de rigueur for most candidates.

{mosads}“I am one of the exceptions,” he said during an interview with ABC News. “I am not going to start a super-PAC. I’m not going to go around the country talking to millionaires. Now I’m saving my time because they wouldn’t give me any money anyhow, and that’s fine.”

He said that the high-dollar donations received by the Clinton Foundation are worrying, in part, because they are symptomatic of a political system he says is dominated by the rich.

“It tells me what is a very serious problem,” Sanders said. “It’s not just about Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton. It is about a political system today that is dominated by big money. It’s about the Koch brothers being prepared to spend $900 million dollars in the coming election.”

“So do I have concerns about the Clinton Foundation and that money? I do,” he said. “But I am concerned about Sheldon Adelson and his billions. I’m concerned about the Koch brothers and their billions. We’re looking at a system where our democracy is being owned by a handful of billionaires.”

There are already some pro-Sanders super-PACs, including Ready for Bernie Sanders 2016 and Draft Bernie, that have yet to raise much money.

Though super-PACs cannot coordinate with campaigns, some candidates are sending top lieutenants to super-PACs. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), is reportedly planning to create a data bank that can be drawn on by both his campaign and the super-PAC supporting his candidacy.

“Frankly, it is vulgar to me that we’re having a war of billionaires,” Sanders said later in an interview on CNN’s “Wolf.”

He noted the big-money political spending by the right-leaning industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch and by liberal environmental activist Tom Steyer.

Sanders, whose campaign website proudly says it is “paid for by Bernie 2016 (not the billionaires),” predicted “the vast majority” of his campaign money would be from individual, small-dollar donors.

Asked if he would condone a contribution by a wealthy donor to a super-PAC supporting his campaign, Sanders said, “No.”

Though the progressive Sanders is an independent, he caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate. Running as a Democrat could give him greater visibility than if he ran as a third-party candidate.

Nonetheless, he continues to lag behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in polls.

On Thursday, Sanders also responded to president Obama’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner crack that “some folks want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House.”

“As a matter of fact, I’m not a pot smoker. I have admittedly some 30, 40 years ago,” Sanders said.

“I know people get hung up on the word socialism. … I think there are things we can learn from social democratic countries around the world where, in fact, government does work for ordinary people in a much greater degree than it does in our country.”

— This report was last updated at 8:55 a.m.

Jesse Byrnes contributed.

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