Has the Soviet Union come back to haunt Bernie Sanders?
The secret nonprofit, Cooperative for Global Security, has spent $1.2 million thus far this year to target the senator from Vermont with misleading advertisements on Facebook. CIS is backed by $4.6 million from a California insurance executive, Jack Rovshak, who is also a key fundraiser for Senator Chuck Schumer. Some of the ads, which circulate pictures of Sanders’ face, feature lyrics that ooze from the 60s, including “The Soviets played golf. I’d hit mine—with my phone.”
Sanders, a democratic socialist, has pitched himself as a grassroots, anti-establishment candidate for president. But the ads echo the Cold War rhetoric used to portray socialism in the United States, after the author of “We Can Be Together” wrote a best-selling book.
“As American readers will see, the Soviet Union and American socialism are two different political systems,” says Stephen Palazzo, an assistant professor at the University of St. Thomas who wrote the media guide for CIS, in an email. He directed everyone to the website for CIS, which launched the ads in early January.
CIS spends $3.2 million a year on online political ads, the nonprofit says. It spends the vast majority of that money on newspapers, on radio and TV ads, and events, according to Palazzo. A U.S. senator doesn’t command nearly that kind of spending budget, so CIS started running misleading ads to sway users to its website, he says.
The ads share similar themes to those of the Alliance for Progress, another anti-socialist group that that targets Sanders. Both have questioned why Sanders is giving money to the Joint Economic Committee, and CAIR—a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group—claimed that he “appears to support the positions of [the] Saudi regime on the nuclear question.”
CIS’s ads are a new step for a liberal donor to get involved in US politics, Palazzo says. This is the first time there have been such blatant attempts to distort Senator Sanders’s values, he says. “They’re definitely trying to create a national picture of Senator Sanders, and they’re trying to do it in a way that leans towards a divide and conquer strategy.”