Sanders says 'no' to billionaires, while Clinton previously accepted Trump money
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As the 2016 presidential race heats up, Democrats fearful of Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersBiden team discussed 2020 run with O'Rourke as VP: report Teen quits job at Walmart over intercom, tears into company over employee treatment O'Rourke doubles support in CNN poll of Dem presidential race MORE's (I-Vt.) challenge to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonLanny Davis says Nixon had more respect for the Constitution than Trump Clinton commemorates Sandy Hook anniversary: 'No child should have to fear violence' Sanders, Warren meet ahead of potential 2020 bids MORE and the status quo have come out of the woodwork. Former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), only several years removed from having his political career derailed by numerous sexting scandals, recently questioned the Vermont senator's decision to run as a Democrat and asked, "After a career of steadfastly insisting that the Democratic [P]arty was not his home, now he wants to not only be a member of the party but its standard bearer?"

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington McCaskill: 'Too many embarrassing uncles' in the Senate FEC votes to allow lawmakers to use campaign funds for personal cybersecurity MORE (D-Mo.), another Clinton supporter, recently stated that Sanders is "extreme" and "too liberal" to become president. No doubt, more attacks against Sanders will come from establishment Democrats terrified of a man who says the following during a "Face the Nation" interview:

Look, let me be very clear. This disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision is undermining American democracy. ...

I worry about us moving toward oligarchy, where our political system is controlled by the rich and the powerful. I am raising money from small individual contributions. BernieSanders.com has raised now -— some 200,000 people have sent in small contributions. I don't have a super-PAC. I don't want money from the billionaires.

Why would people like McCaskill, Weiner and even the Clinton campaign fear a man who uses words like "oligarchy" when describing Citizens United? The answer lies in the primary reason every voter in this country should choose Sanders over Clinton, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.), Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAustralia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israeli capital, won't move embassy Mulvaney will stay on as White House budget chief Trump touts ruling against ObamaCare: ‘Mitch and Nancy’ should pass new health-care law MORE and any other politician who accepts money from billionaires, super-PACs and powerful special interests.

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Whereas others need money even from the competition, Vermont's senator won't compromise his value system for cash. Sanders wants to break up the banks, since the six largest U.S. banks have assets equaling 60 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and the top 1 percent earn more than 23 percent of U.S. income. Sanders is the rare politician who says, "I don't want money from the billionaires" and consistently makes wealth inequality a focus of his campaign. He's addressed Wall Street greed, wants to stop endless American military involvement in the Middle East (saying "I'll be damned" if American ground troops are sent back to the region), and championed gay rights long before it was popular to do so.

Last I checked, those were all Democratic values. Furthermore, they're being championed by a man who could care less about pandering to conservatives for donations. Sanders represents a genuine paradigm shift in American politics; something McCaskill and Weiner know is a real threat to the Clinton campaign.

Trump might actually believe undocumented immigrants "wreak havoc on our population," but it's difficult to believe Clinton's criticism of his statements when she previously accepted campaign donations from the New York billionaire. In America today, politics and money make strange bedfellows, and one ordinarily doesn't think of Clinton and Trump helping each other politically, but it's happened in the past.

In contrast to Sanders, not only does Clinton side with Republicans on issues like war and trade, but she's also willing to accept large sums of money from conservatives. While Clinton was "disappointed" in Trump's latest comments, the former New York senator certainly wasn't disappointed in his campaign donations. A Daily Caller article notes the amount of money Clinton received from Trump:

But at least one organization is holding onto The Donald's dough, it seems. The Clinton Foundation is not saying whether it has any plans to return $100,000 the real estate mogul donated several years ago. ...

Clinton said nothing about Trump's six-figure donation to the Clinton Foundation. Nor did she address the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions Trump and his son, Donald Trump, Jr., gave her during the mid-2000s.

It is doubtful Clinton will return money to Trump, just like it is doubtful the Clinton Foundation will return up to $25 million to Saudi Arabia; however, there's another element to this story that voters should carefully analyze.

Unlike Clinton and Trump, who oppose one another in the media, yet have no problem uniting over campaign donations, Sanders offers Americans a genuine alternative. Sanders is getting funding primarily from his website, not from the same GOP politicians he's opposed in Congress. The fact that Clinton will accept money from anyone, regardless of whether or not they're conservative billionaires, speaks volumes about American elections in this day and age.

Furthermore, the Clinton and Trump political relationship has existed for years. A Politico piece explains how both political figures have a long history with one another:

Clinton, the Democratic front-runner and former New York senator who had some say over policy that could have impacted Trump's vast business dealings, received donations from both him and son Donald Trump Jr. on separate occasions in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007, according to state and federal disclosure records. ...

Trump defended his donations to New York Democrats in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity that April, proclaiming that in the state, "everyone is Democratic" and implying that to donate otherwise would be waste of his money. ...

To Trump's credit, he is correct about one thing: He would have "wasted" his money by donating to a Republican in New York. Therefore, he donated to a Democrat because at the end of the day, he knew that there would be utility in doing so; Clinton has been tied to conservative stances in the past.

Therefore, it's important in 2016 not to "waste" a vote on either Clinton, Trump or any other Democrat or Republican willing to either accept or donate money to opposing political parties. Sanders is too "extreme" for people like McCaskill and Weiner because he's not willing to kowtow to money and take contributions from a billionaire like Trump. Sanders has honesty and integrity, and while he says "I don't want money from the billionaires," Clinton has no problem doing exactly that; cash trumps values for some candidates.

While Anthony Weiner wonders why Sanders is running in the Democratic primary, and Claire McCaskill thinks Sanders is too liberal, their primary goal is, ironically, to marginalize the same ideals Democrats are supposed to uphold and embody. In reality, Sanders epitomizes the progressive values, principles and ideals of what the Democratic Party embodied during President Franklin Roosevelt's era and what it claims to represent in 2015. The problem with the naysayers is that their candidate was against gay marriage until 2013, voted for the Iraq War, pushed for the Trans-Pacific Partnership on 45 separate occasions and once said she was "inclined" toward the Keystone XL pipeline. Therefore, anyone like Sanders, who honestly champions the ideals they've been entrusted to uphold (without pandering to opinion polls on war, for example) is either "extreme" or "too liberal."

Ultimately, people like Anthony Wiener should focus more on their own political careers than asking questions of a man who's clearly stated his value system in the most forthright and unapologetic manner. Bernie Sanders is the antithesis of today's money-hungry presidential candidate, and for this reason, Americans tired of Citizens United and unfettered campaign contributions should support the Vermont senator.

Goodman is an author and a journalist.