About a week ago, a super PAC bankrolled by a wealthy conservative donor announced that it would run an ad attacking Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for being too far along the ideological spectrum.
The group, called ESA Fund, was reportedly backed by $600,000 in spending from TD Ameritrade executive Joe Ricketts. And its ad went after Sanders for supporting things like free college tuition, Medicare for all and tax hikes on the super rich.
Something was obviously suspicious. The strategy reeked of an attempt by conservatives to actually bolster Sanders in a Democratic primary under the guise of an assault. The method has worked before -- famously deployed by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in her Senate campaign to bolster her most conservative opponent in the Republican primary, Todd Akin.
ESA Fund pled ignorance, insisting that the spot was merely in response to Sanders' strong positioning in the polls. And Sanders, as was certainly his right (really, it would have been malpractice for him not to) proudly noted that Wall Street interests were going after him.
On Sunday, however, more evidence emerged that ESA Fund is, indeed, trying to prop up Sanders as a means of taking Clinton down. In the group’s filing with the Federal Election Commission, it revealed some massive contributions from high-profile donors, including $500,000 from hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, $850,000 from Ricketts' wife, Marlene, and $500,000 from Paul Singer, another hedge fund manager (who has now given ESA over $1 million).
Those names are familiar to anyone who follows campaign finance. They’re some of the biggest Republican donors. And not only that, they’re the same exact individuals who already started another super PAC, Future45, to go after... wait for it... Hillary Clinton.
Now, it could stand to reason that these donors simply wanted to open up a second front on Sanders. Then again, they could have simply done that through the super PAC they already had, rather then funding a whole new entity. And they could have chosen attack lines that actually hurt Sanders politically, rather than elevate him in a Democratic primary.
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