The Phantom Menace

Bernie Sanders Campaign: We Don't Pay For Comments, Thank You

After a PAC working with Hillary Clinton's campaign pledged $1 million to "correct" her critics on Facebook and Reddit, the Sanders campaign shut down persistent rumors that their side did the same.

A day after a Hillary Clinton-supporting super PAC revealed it would dedicate $1 million to “push back” against negative commenters and what they describe as “Bernie Bros” on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram, a spokesperson at Bernie Sanders’ campaign stated that neither his camp nor its messaging surrogates have participated in the same behavior.

“Our campaign and our vendors are not paying people to reply to anti-Bernie comments on social media,” said Sanders campaign rapid response director Mike Casca. “Come on man, really?”

After news of Correct the Record’s “Barrier Breakers” comments section initiative was announced yesterday, many commenters on Reddit and Twitter responded by saying Sanders’ campaign had done the same thing, citing a $16 million creative spend with the marketing company “Revolution Messaging.”

"Bernie has paid $16M to this company—basically he paid for 1 M hours of professional trolling on Twitter, Facebook and so on,” one meme reads.

“Bernie spent 16 mil on ‘Revolution messaging’ which is the same idea. I think he just gave 4 mil more. Not not a new thing,” wrote another Twitter user.

Several reference a single New Hampshire Public Radio story from February 8th.

“Sanders does the same thing, but to a greater degree,” wrote one user.

The New Hampshire Public Radio story never mentions Sanders surrogates using comments sections to correct voters.

The Daily Beast reached out to Correct the Record to ask if the organization made its staff and surrogates aware of Revolution Messaging and to elaborate on how the Barrier Breakers project is being implemented.

“The investment in Barrier Breakers 2016 is in personnel and infrastructure, not content or ads. As a coordinated super PAC, Correct the Record does not do any paid public communications,” Correct the Record’s communications director Elizabeth Shappell.

When asked to clarify if Barrier Breakers’ “personnel and infrastructure” “had been made aware of Revolution Messaging and have been told to distribute messages or images about Revolution Messaging,” Shappell responded with a “final comment from me.”

“Currently, Barrier Breakers 2016 distributes positive messages in support of Hillary Clinton for President, not anything else,” she wrote.

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A Sanders campaign official told The Daily Beast that the money paid to Revolution Messaging was spent on “online ads, email fundraising, web development, graphic design, photography and videography.”

Unfounded rumors about Revolution Marketing’s role in the Sanders campaign found their way into The Washington Post on April 7th.

Clinton supporter Kim Frederick, who created the hashtag #HillarySoQualified in support of Clinton, spoke to reporter Justin Wm. Moyer after the hashtag had been coopted by Bernie Sanders supporters.

"Referencing Revolution Messaging, the company behind Sanders' digital fundraising, she added, 'Revolution media pays interns $15 an hour to troll people on the Internet. Hillary Clinton does not pay people to sit and troll the Internet. We are real people with real lives, full-time jobs, and we don't have time to sit there,’” the story originally said.

This claim about Revolution Messaging was untrue, and the Post later removed the quote and added a correction that reads, “Editor’s note: This story has been edited to remove an inaccurate reference to a vendor for the Sanders presidential campaign.”

On Friday, Clinton spoke at length about cyberbullying at a roundtable, one day after Correct the Record announced its new initiative.

“Human nature has not changed,” Clinton said, according to CNN. “But the megaphones that are now used to trumpet these kinds of attitudes has just magnified this issue.”

Due to an FEC loophole, Correct the Record has claimed since last year it is able to communicate directly with the Clinton campaign.

“Going forward, Correct the Record will work in support of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for president, aggressively responding to false attacks and misstatements of the secretary’s exemplary record,” Correct the Record founder David Brock told The New York Times in May of 2015.