Democratic campaign consultant Tad Devine produced a TV ad that criticized his client’s rival for being “deep in debt to the special interests,” accepting tens of thousands of dollars in donations from drug manufacturers, oil and gas companies and the insurance industry.
But the ad isn’t for his current client, Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed champion of the little guy. It was for his former client, Jon Corzine, a onetime CEO of Goldman Sachs, the giant investment bank that has come to symbolize the excesses of Wall Street.
Devine has used the same strategy for extremely different candidates: Corzine, a man so wealthy he spent millions of dollars of his own to finance his campaigns for U.S. Senate and governor in New Jersey, and Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist from Vermont who’s running against Hillary Clinton’s political connections.
It’s a potentially odd position for Sanders, who garners enormous crowds and millions of small donations as a champion of the underpaid, overworked American worker. Corzine is the type of guy Sanders is railing against.
“We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world. But most people don’t know that, because almost all of the new incoming wealth is going to the top 1 percent,” Sanders said at Sunday’s debate in Flint, Michigan. “We need in this country a political revolution where ordinary people stand up and reclaim the government that men and women fought and died for.”
Devine and Sanders’ campaign did not respond to requests for comment this week.
Devine, president of Devine Mulvey Longabaugh, a media consulting firm, served as senior adviser to Democratic presidential nominees John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000. He has worked on many campaigns for president and prime minister around the world and for the Senate in the United States.
Bernie’s argument is that it is the system that is corrupt. . . . He believes that, and I think he’s right.
Sanders consultant Tad Devine, to Politico
Corzine, who had a long career in banking and finance, was the CEO of Goldman Sachs during the 1990s, pushing for it to go public. He was forced out, but he still earned an estimated $400 million during the 1999 initial public offering. He reportedly spent $60 million to run for the U.S. Senate and $43 million to run for governor.
He spent more than $15 million on ads produced by Devine’s firm over a two-month period leading up to the 2000 general election, according to Campaigns & Elections magazine.
One Senate ad criticized opponent then-U.S. Rep. Bob Franks, saying he’d accepted campaign donations from special interests. “Jon Corzine. Unbought. Unbossed. Bob Franks. Deep in debt to the special interests.” Another ad blasted Franks for poor attendance in the House of Representatives while he was fundraising.
After being defeated in his gubernatorial re-election bid by Chris Christie in 2009, Corzine was named chairman and CEO of MF Global Inc., a financial services firm specializing in futures brokerage. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2011. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed a civil lawsuit against Corzine for “failing to properly supervise” employees who used nearly a billion dollars from customer accounts to cover the firm’s debts.
Running against Wall Street is a time-honored tradition, and it has become more popular since the financial crash in 2008. Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, said candidates who made their money from Wall Street or anywhere else might argue that they couldn’t be bought, but they had an additional problem: They might not be able to relate to everyday Americans.
Sanders had the same worry this week when he was asked to respond to New York Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s announcement that he would not run for president.
“I think it’s a bad idea for American democracy that the only people who feel, in many ways, that they can run for president are people who have so much money,” he said.
In this election, Goldman Sachs has come to symbolize Wall Street. It had $2.1 million in donations to candidates from individual employees and a political action committee through the third quarter of last year, according to opensecrets.org, a nonpartisan website that tracks money in politics.
Goldman is the second largest contributor through Clinton’s political career, according to opensecrets.org. She also has received $675,000 in speaking fees from the firm.