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At Miami Debate, Clinton Campaign Builds On Pattern Of Dishonesty

A Michigan primary exit poll found only fifty-eight percent of Democratic voters consider Hillary Clinton to be “honest and trustworthy.” In contrast, eighty percent of Democratic voters, including people who voted for Clinton, consider Bernie Sanders to be “honest and trustworthy.”

Clinton has been plagued by the perception that she is dishonest all throughout the 2016 presidential election, however, her campaign continues to reinforce this widespread view by deploying cheap, inaccurate, misleading, and sometimes outright fraudulent attacks against Sanders.

The attacks have the fingerprints of Clinton operative David Brock and his super PAC, Correct the Record, which works more as a disinformation operation than a fact-checking operation. In fact, Correct the Record pushed smears while the debate was still in progress, which were aimed at painting Sanders as a supporter of the Koch brothers and the anti-immigrant Minutemen vigilantes of the 2000s. Both smears were trending on Twitter before the debate in Miami was over.

Astonishingly, Clinton brought her lie about Sanders voting against the auto bailout to Florida—the same lie, which potentially helped cost her a victory in the Michigan primary.

In January 2009, according to Clinton, “A new piece of legislation was offered that contained the money that would be used for the auto rescue.” Sanders voted against the bill. But the truth is this bill referred to by Clinton was a second round of bailout money for Wall Street, which Sanders opposed.

David Axelrod, who worked as chief strategist for both of President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, previously said, “It is a real stretch to say voting no on TARP [money] was vote against auto bailout.” Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, who have endorsed Clinton, took issue with her portrayal of the bailout vote. Both voted against the bailout, like Sanders, because they believed they were voting against more funds for Wall Street.

Clinton claimed Sanders “stood with the Minutemen vigilantes in their ridiculous, absurd efforts to, quote, ‘hunt down immigrants.'” Again, Axelrod took issue with this attack. “Hard to sell the idea that Senator Sanders hangs with vigilantes and Minutemen,” he tweeted.

While it is true Sanders voted for a 2006 amendment that was beneficial to the Minutemen, the Associated Press clarified the amendment was an “obscure and largely symbolic amendment that sought to prohibit Washington from giving information to foreign governments about the activities of a civilian group operating along the border.” Clinton was “perhaps over the top” in her characterization, especially given the fact that it is a hugely insignificant vote in the scheme of Sanders’ pro-immigration record.

“I just think it’s worth pointing out that the leaders of the fossil fuel industry, the Koch brothers, have just paid to put up an ad praising Senator Sanders,” Clinton declared during the debate. Later, after Sanders took issue with her characterization, she insisted the video praising him for standing with Republicans to “try to eliminate the Export-Import Bank” constituted siding with the Koch brothers. And she accused Sanders of being against “hundreds and hundreds of companies here in Florida,” which have exported goods and employ Floridians thanks to the bank.

That Sanders sides with the Koch Brothers could not be farther from the truth. He has a page on his senate website, “What Do the Koch Brothers Want?” It states, “The agenda of the Koch brothers is to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country.” And, “Our great nation can no longer be hijacked by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers.”

Sanders only had a short amount of time to address this attack from Clinton, but he replied, “The Export/Import Bank is often called the bank of Boeing, because Boeing corporation gets 40 percent of the revenue,” and, “It is corporate welfare, and yes, I oppose corporate welfare.” He also said, “There is nobody in the United States Congress who has taken on the Koch brothers, who want to destroy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and virtually every federal program passed since the 1930s more than Bernie Sanders.”

He was the star of a Brave New Films documentary in 2012 called, “Koch Brothers Exposed.” Anyone can watch it on his official YouTube account. Anyone can also watch Sanders rail against the Koch brothers on the Senate floor in 2013 and in 2014. (Note: If one does a YouTube search, there are no videos of Hillary Clinton condemning the Koch brothers, despite their tremendous influence on U.S. politics.)

This is a desperate maneuver to neutralize a strength of the Sanders campaign. The Clinton campaign seeks to tie Sanders to characters, who are unsavory to Democratic Party voters. The campaign sees this tactic as similar to how Sanders has gone after Clinton for her links to donors, who represent unattractive corporate interests. But the Koch brothers are not funding the Sanders campaign, so they are not like the Wall Street executives funding Clinton’s campaign.

In fact, Clinton has taken contributions from firms, which work for Koch Industries.

Clinton called out Sanders for criticizing Obama and her husband, Bill Clinton, which she has done previously. Stunningly, she escalated her attack and added, “I wish he would criticize and join me in criticizing George W. Bush, who I think wrecked the economy and created the conditions for the great recession.”

From 2012, on the senate website for Sanders: “A member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders has said there is a deficit crisis because a $236 billion surplus when President Bill Clinton left office was squandered during the administration of President George W. Bush. He blamed the deficits on unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax breaks for the wealthy and the recession.”

After Jeb Bush criticized Obama’s economic policies early in the presidential campaign, Sanders reminded MSNBC viewers, “His brother left us an economy in which we were hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs a month,” and said the criticism made no sense.

This is an attack born out of anxiety. Clinton does not want to talk about her role in supporting disastrous free trade policies like NAFTA, which she helped Bill Clinton promote when she was First Lady. She does not want voters to focus on her record cozying up to executives of major financial institutions, and so she tugs at the loyalties voters may have to the Democratic Party to dodge criticism of past actions.

Clinton baselessly attacked Sanders for wanting to delay Obama’s Clean Power Plan. It was another entry in a growing list of claims intended to make voters believe Sanders will destroy Obama’s legacy if he is elected president. PolitiFact rated this claim “false.”

Clinton repeated a prior attack on Sanders for voting against immigration reform in 2007. He voted against this legislation because it contained an atrocious guest worker provision.

“I think our best chance was in 2007, when Ted Kennedy led the charge on comprehensive immigration reform,” Clinton suggested. “We [had] Republican support. We had a president willing to sign it. I voted for that bill. Senator Sanders voted against it.”

As Sanders argued during the debate, the guest worker provision enabled programs akin to slavery. However, Clinton scoffed, “I think it’s very hard to make the case that Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama, me, La Raza, United Farmworkers, Dolores Huerta, leaders of the Latino community, would have supported a bill that actually promoted modern slavery. That was one of the many excuses used not to vote for the 2007 bill.”

Some grassroots advocacy organizations made a pragmatic choice to tolerate provisions in comprehensive immigration reform legislation, which amounted to slavery, while others like League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), one of the largest Latino advocacy organizations in the U.S., opposed the legislation because, in addition to the guest worker provision, it would “separate families and institute draconian enforcement measures without offering a meaningful legal pathway for immigrants.”

Whether Clinton thinks it is fair or not, the guest worker programs in the United States have been described as “close to slavery.” The proposals in the 2007 immigration reform bill would have built upon an already existing H-2 program, which employers used to bring 121,000 guest workers into the United States in 2005. The workers are “systematically exploited and abused. Unlike U.S. citizens, guest workers do not enjoy the most fundamental protection of a competitive labor market—the ability to change jobs if they are mistreated. Instead, they are bound to the employers who ‘import’ them.” [For more, here’s the 2013 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which Sanders alluded to during the debate: PDF]

Remarkably, even the United Farmworkers Union, which has endorsed Clinton, condemned Bush’s guest worker program in 2007. Then-UFW President Arturo Rodriguez echoed the concerns of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which had just published a report, “Almost Slavery,” on guest workers.

Even as Clinton maintains a more than 200 delegate lead over Sanders in the primary and pundits believe there is no way she can lose, Sanders has momentum after the big upset in Michigan. The Clinton campaign is afraid of people learning the truth about Sanders. Their solution is to fabricate attacks so they can run against the Sanders they want voters to see. It is a Bernie Sanders that many in this country should think twice about supporting, but that is only if one believes the deception and falsehoods of the Clinton campaign.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."