During a rally in support of U.S. House candidate Summer Lee on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders called out super PACs bankrolled by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and billionaire donors for spending big to crush progressives in Pennsylvania and elsewhere across the country, efforts that the Vermont senator decried as “pathetic” and corrosive to democracy.
“If they are successful, they will carry this into November,” Sanders warned at the event in Pittsburgh, which was held days before the May 17 Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. “They have billions of dollars at their disposal.”
“We need a strong progressive like Summer in the Congress,” Sanders added. “But honestly it is even more important that we tell these billionaires that we will not allow them to buy elections and control this democracy.”
In recent weeks, the United Democracy Project (UDP) — a super PAC that AIPAC founded late last year — has spent more than $2 million attacking Lee or boosting her primary opponent Steve Irwin, a corporate lawyer and former Republican congressional staffer.
Billionaire Haim Saban, a longtime AIPAC supporter, is UDP’s biggest individual donor.
Democratic Majority for Israel — a super PAC with close ties to AIPAC — has also been spending in support of Irwin fresh off its success in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, where the group helped defeat progressive champion Nina Turner earlier this month.
“These ads, paid for by AIPAC, are attacking Summer because she’s not a ‘loyal enough Democrat,'” Sanders said Thursday, referring to a recent 30-second spot by UDP highlighting Lee’s past criticism of the Democratic Party. “But what you should know is that this organization is funding over 100 Republican candidates.”
“So here you have a super PAC saying ‘she’s not a loyal Democrat’ while they’re endorsing over 100 Republicans, including many who even refuse to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election,” the Vermont senator continued. “Talk about hypocrisy. Talk about a corrupt political system. And that is why Summer and so many of us are going to do everything that we can to put these super PACs out of business by overturning Citizens United.”
Lee, too, slammed the special interests that are pouring money into Pennsylvania’s 12th District in an attempt to undermine her campaign, which includes a platform of Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and tuition-free public colleges and universities.
“When people attack you or when they come for you, you must be doing something right,” Lee, a current member of the Pennsylvania State House, said in a fiery speech to the crowd of supporters gathered in Pittsburgh Thursday night. “But I want to be clear in this moment: It’s not me they’re attacking… They’re worried about you. If they were in this room right now, they would not be able to stare us in the eyes.”
“If you are somebody in this country who cares about people, why would you want to stand in the way of healthcare for everybody?” Lee continued. “If you care about this country and you care about our party the way they say, why would they stand in the way of clean air and water? How dare they get in the way of us fighting for every worker to have a living wage and a union and paid sick and family leave.”