Election 2020

Koch Group Video Praising Sanders Causes Debate Scuffle

Freedom Partners, the group at the center of billionaire Charles Koch’s political network, debuted a video praising Bernie Sanders for his opposition to corporate welfare on Wednesday. Clinton supporters hit Sanders on the video, and Sanders’ campaign shot back. Both candidates also discussed the issue in the Univision debate in Miami, Fla., on Wednesday night.

“The leaders of the fossil fuel industries, the Koch brothers, have just paid for an ad that supports Sanders,” Clinton declared in the Univision debate. Earlier that day, her supporters claimed the video was proof that the Koch network was trying to help Sanders, allegedly because the Kochs see Sanders as an easier foe to beat in the general election.

Sanders shot back, declaring that no one in Congress has fought against the Kochs more than he has. Earlier today, Sanders’ campaign responded to the video, claiming that it was meant to hurt the Vermont senator by creating the perception that he is the Kochs’ favored candidate. This association would be toxic in the Democratic primary. Indeed, Sanders’ digital fundraising manager, Michael Whitney, said the ad was a “contribution” to the Clinton campaign.

That brief exchange brought Bernie Sanders the most Twitter mentions he received in the debate.

The Freedom Partners video quotes Sanders’ comments in a previous Democratic debate on CNN:

I don’t think it’s a great idea for the American taxpayer to have to subsidize — through corporate welfare — profitable contributions. Seventy-five percent of the funds [going from the federal government to the Export-Import Bank] goes to large, profitable corporations.

The video then shows the text, “We agree. That’s why we oppose corporate welfare across the board.”

After declaring that no one in Congress had done more to fight the Kochs than he has, Sanders added that he still opposes corporate welfare, a position on which he agrees with the Kochs. He again attacked the Export-Import Bank — which subsidizes some companies and not others as they export abroad — which the Koch network also opposes. Many conservatives consider someone’s position on the Ex-Im Bank to be a good litmus test for crony capitalism, where government picks winners and losers among businesses.

Sanders may try to distance himself all he likes, but on this particular issue, the most free-market conservative groups agree wholeheartedly with the self-avowed socialist. And you thought 2016 couldn’t get any stranger.