Just when it looked like Bernie Sanders might be poised to tone down his criticism of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate signaled he won’t shy away from a fight. The Sanders campaign escalated its condemnation of the Clinton campaign’s fundraising methods on Monday, seizing on a Politico report to accuse Clinton of “looting funds meant for the state parties to skirt fundraising limits on her presidential campaign.”
The charge highlights a broader divide between the rival candidates. Clinton has worked to strengthen the institutional machinery of the Democratic Party. Her efforts have funneled money into national and state party committees in ways that are likely to build up permanent party infrastructure. Sanders, on the other hand, has run a campaign that privileges purity tests above party loyalty, and individuals above institutions. He has elevated the profile of a select pool of progressive Democratic candidates fighting for election to Congress, and cultivated a grassroots network of intensely-devoted small-dollar donors.
The trigger for the Sanders campaign’s most recent criticism was a deep dive from Politico into the inner-workings of the Hillary Victory Fund, a fundraising venture for the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and 32 state Democratic parties. It found that state parties have retained less than 1 percent of $61 million raised by the arrangement. The article also cited allegations from state fundraisers that some of the state parties are effectively “acting as money laundering conduits” for the DNC and the Clinton campaign.