Bernie Sanders’ “non-partisan” nonprofit – The Sanders Institute – is collecting a lot of money, but like other so-called charities on the left, there’s been very little to show for it.
The “progressive think tank backed by star power and big money” has successfully leveraged the socialist senator’s celebrity status since its launch in 2016, despite concerns about nepotism, funding deals with the progressive Our Revolution, and questionable connections to Sanders’ presidential campaign.
In a June 2017 interview with USA Today, Jane Sanders said the institute would be producing and distributing “original content,” yet the organization’s website is largely filled with recycled work. In its first year, the group has released just four press releases, three of which were released in its first month of existence.
Under the organization’s “Research and Reports” section of its website, there are 18 posts, 16 of which are reposted from other sources, including from federal agencies and institute fellows. The remaining two posts are authored by Sanders Institute staffers. One is a breakdown of how citizens can contact their elected representatives; the text of the other — entitled A Freedom Budget For All Americans — is attributed to Wikipedia.
Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders’ wife, works as a founder, fellow, fundraiser and non-voting member of the board, while her son, David Driscoll, takes an estimated $100,000 salary to run the Institute. Funding for operations came from Our Revolution, a different Sanders nonprofit aimed at training and recruiting progressive candidates, Bernie and Jane Sanders, and others.
“The organization has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from donations, including two large donations listed in tax documents – for $15,000 and $30,000 respectively,” VTDigger reports.
The Institute’s only other paid employees include Ellyn Heald, director of its fellowship program, and Colleen Lineweaver as the director of research, both with estimated $75,000 salaries.
Lineweaver is married to Our Revolution director Shannon Jackson, while Heald worked for Sanders’ presidential campaign and The Glover Park Group, a political consulting firm. The Institute’s unpaid fellows include philosopher Cornel West, author Bill McKibben and actor Danny Glover, according to the news site.
“The Sanders family has faced charges of nepotism in the past, including when Jane Sanders, as president of the now-defunct Burlington College, brokered a favorable partnership with a woodworking program run by her daughter, Carina Driscoll,” VTDigger reports. “Carina was also a paid campaign staffer for her step-father in his 2000 and 2004 house campaigns. In January, Our Revolution endorsed her unsuccessful bid to be Burlington Mayor, and sent out a national fundraising email on her behalf.”
And while The Sanders Institute has collected a total of about a half-million dollars over the last year, it’s produced only one substantive report with help and funding from the National Nurses United union to advocate for Medicare for All, according to the news site.
A different report, released Monday by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, revealed Sanders’ Medicare for All plan world cost an estimated $32.6 trillion over a decade, and would eventually consume about 12.7 percent of the GDP, Fox News reports.
Regardless, The Sanders Institute seems to follow the same incestuous patterns of other left-leaning charities like the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Family Foundation and Onward Together, Hillary Clinton’s post-election loss “social welfare” nonprofit.
And while The Sanders Institute hasn’t collected tens of millions of dollars from Middle Eastern countries or other foreigners who wish to influence U.S. policy like the Clinton Foundation, it’s certainly enriching the Sanders family and others who support the Vermont senator’s progressive politics.