Free Press Staff Writer
Pending action on the meltdown in Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders is slated to go south this week and spread the word on his view of things.
Sanders, I-Vt., is the featured guest for the political action committee South Forward at events in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina from Wednesday through Friday.
Why Sanders? It was the senator’s idea, South Forward Executive Director Jay Parmley said.
“He contacted us some months ago, or his political folks did, expressing interest in being helpful in the South,” Parmley said.
The four-stop tour of “town hall meetings” could be shortened, altered or canceled if Sanders has to stick to Washington because of federal shutdown, Parmley said. “We’re just crossing our fingers,” he said.
Sanders is due Wednesday night in Jackson, Miss.; Thursday in Birmingham, Ala.; and Friday in Atlanta and Columbia, S.C.
South Forward is a new organization trying to help elect left-leaning candidates to mostly local offices in the South, a place where they often are not quite in abundance. The group typically makes independent expenditures in support of those candidates, as opposed to donating directly to candidates, he said.
Sanders has decried such PACs and election influence as recently as last week, joining a rally at the U.S. Supreme Court as justices heard a campaign-finance case, and blaming the court’s Citizens United decision for leading to the federal shutdown. This, presumably, is a case of if-you-can’t-beat-’em,-join-’em.
In a 2012 interview with the Burlington Free Press, Sanders acknowledged he was raising far more campaign money from across the country than he needed for himself, that he planned to take a higher national profile to advance his political views, and that although he was unsure what form it would take, spreading the progressive word around the country was likely.
As of July, Sanders had plenty of money to do that with: $4 million in his campaign account, and no campaign of his own until 2018. (The shutdown seems to have shut down any fundraising updates from the Federal Elections Commission.)
Parmley said the events are free to attendees and are not fundraisers for either South Forward or for Sanders. The group, he said, is not paying Sanders.
“He’s covering his own expenses,” Parmley said. “It’s so rare.”
The goal, Parmley said, is that Sanders will fire up the crowd so they’ll be inspired to go out and elect like-minded candidates.
“Here is someone with credibility who is speaking to economic issues better than just about anybody in Congress,” Parmley said. “It really does help raise the level of debate.”