When Independent Senator Bernie Sanders announced his presidential run last May, he didn’t look far for his campaign team. The staff he assembled for this highest of offices are the same men who’ve surrounded him for the past ten to twenty years.
These are not fresh faces who might offer a different slant or inject a new perspective. They’re middle-aged white guys, and with the exception of Tad Devine, none has the policy credentials or international experience for the candidate to draw upon in his bid for the presidency.
The Sanders’ campaign touted the crew as “grassroots,” hoping to reflect a populist model. However, their lack of diversity, homegrown status and deep affiliation with the candidate should give pause to voters. Is Bernie Sanders representing the state of Vermont or all of America? Does he expect to appeal to all genders or just males; heterosexuals only or the widening sexual orientations? And, what about people of color? How can his Caucasian campaign speak authentically to a voting bloc outside their own racial identity? Primary results have already answered a couple of these questions.
An ethical issue is also connected to this team, as first exposed in a Politico article from July of last year. The story looked at Michael Briggs, the campaign’s Communications director, who also collects a paycheck for a similar position as Sanders’ communications chief in the Senate. The article notes that this arrangement is often seen with reelection campaigns but is rare and problematic when an elected official runs for higher office.
The arrangement isn’t unusual for staffers serving on Senate and House reelection campaigns. But such double duty is out of the ordinary for a high-profile presidential campaign — most other political operations rigorously separate the two responsibilities, especially for a role as public-facing as communications director. |Read the full Politico article|
Politico noted that “Sanders in particular has raised eyebrows with his near-mixing of Senate and campaign activity.”
In a similar vein, Tad Devine is compensated for his role as an advisor in the presidential campaign, and his political consulting firm, Devine Mulvey, has also received over $800,000 for its work in the campaign, according to FEC reports.
Perhaps the most troubling question has to do with the insularity of Bernie Sanders. What does it mean when a presidential candidate refuses to expand his circle of confidantes? Does this reflect a distrust of outsiders or an over-reliance upon Yes men? Is he unwilling to subject himself to the tough scrutiny of a campaign advisor who is not his longstanding friend?
For those taking a serious look at Bernie Sanders, these questions demand answers. His choice of campaign staff reveals an individual with a calcified mode, one who may lack the capacity to think beyond Vermont and outside the decades-long complaint against Big Banks and Billionaires.
Here’s a look at the top presidential campaign staff for Bernie Sanders.
JEFF WEAVER – Campaign Manager
Weaver, aka the Comic Book King, is a Vermont native who has worked on Sanders’ campaigns at the state and federal level for over twenty years. He first hooked-up with the senator in 1986 when Sanders ran unsuccessfully for governor of Vermont on the independent ticket.
Five years later when Sanders was elected to the U.S. House, Weaver joined his staff as an assistant and later became chief of staff. He ran the candidate’s Senate campaign in 2006, and remained on board until 2009, when he took a break and opened a comic book store in Falls Church, Virginia . |SOURCE: Mother Jones|
TAD DEVINE – Top adviser
Devine was also involved in Sanders’ 2006 Senate campaign and his 1996 House race, covering twenty years’ of the candidate’s political life. He has the most impressive credentials of the team, having managed or advised several U.S. candidates including Michael Dukasis, Al Gore and John Kerry, as well as foreign heads of state. Devine grew up in Rhode Island, attended Catholic high school where he was an outstanding basketball player, attended Brown University and then earned his J.D. from Suffolk University School of Law. According to his bio at Harvard, “Devine is considered one of the leading experts on the Democratic Party’s presidential nominating process and general election strategy. His work in presidential politics began in 1980 on President Carter’s campaign.” |SOURCES: Harvard University, Politico, Campaign press release|
PHIL FIEREMONTE – Field director for the Sanders campaign
Fiermonte, another Vermont native, joined the Sanders’ camp back in 2002 and until recently, was state director for the Sanders’ senate office. One source also lists him as Outreach Director for Senator Sanders. His political experience is limited to his state work with Sanders and a former position as a Burlington city councilman. At one time, Firemonte was executive director of the Vermont AFT (American Federation of Teachers). |SOURCE: ZoomInfo, Campaign press release|
MICHAEL BRIGGS – Communications director
Briggs has drawn a paycheck as the communications chief for Senator Bernie Sanders and as the communications director for his presidential campaign, a questionable practice that drew the attention of Politico last summer. His previous experience as a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times migrated to the political arena, where he acted as the spokesperson for a handful of Democrats in Congress before landing a position with Sen. Sanders in 2007. Briggs is known for his remarks following the breach of Hillary Clinton’s voter data, when he “seemed to throw some shade at the Clinton campaign for leaking the story,” as reported in Paste. He also publicly assailed the Human Rights Campaign for its endorsement of Clinton.|SOURCES: Ballotpedia, Paste, Washington Blade, campaign press release|