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January 11, 2011

Sanders Cites Arizona Shooting in Campaign Fundraising Letter

Cae7b279-fec0-4ceb-ac4a-97e2ba9ef138 File this one under WTF? Today, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a campaign fundraising letter citing the recent shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the opening line.

Nope, I'm not kidding.

The letter begins: "Given the recent tragedy in Arizona, as well as the start of the new Congress, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few words with political friends in Vermont and throughout the country.  I also want to thank the very many supporters who have begun contributing online to my 2012 reelection campaign at  There is no question but that the Republican Party, big money corporate interests and right-wing organizations will vigorously oppose me.  Your financial support now and in the future is much appreciated."

Good grief.

Timing, is everything in politics, and this one breaks new ground in bad timing. The usually political savvy pol may have some explaining to do with this one. His fundraising letter is the talk of Washington this afternoon, and little of it good.

The letter has been featured on The Hill, USA Today and the Weekly Standard, to name a few. The Weekly Standard appears to be the first outlet to report the existence of the fundraising letter (which I've copied in full below).

Vermont Republicans wasted no time to ask Sanders to not only retract the letter, but return any money raised from the missive.*

"Since the senseless tragedy in Arizona, Americans of all political persuasions have come together with prayers for the victims," said Vermont GOP Chairman Steve Larrabee in a statement. "Unfortunately, there are some who are trying to score quick political points in this time of mourning. Senator Sanders' fundraising appeal is perhaps the most blatant attempt to do so. By using this tragedy to demonize those he disagrees with, the Senator is doing exactly what he pretends to deplore."

A Sanders camp defended the email, issuing this statement:

"This was an e-mail letter that the senator’s campaign sends out, and will continue to send out, to supporters in Vermont and around the country on a regular basis. This quite long newsletter gives the senator’s views on the major issues facing our country.  Most of the space in this newsletter dealt with the senator’s views on the economic implications of what will be happening in the new Congress. Given the enormity of the tragedy in Arizona, however, it would have been absurd not to comment on what happened there," said the statement.

Given some of the threats made against Giffords, and other Arizona lawmakers in the past, "one should not have been completely surprised by the tragedy of last Saturday," the statement noted. "There is clearly a pervasive climate of fear and violence in Arizona and the senator very much hopes that the state’s leading public officials will do what they can to create more civility so that people there can express their political views without fear."

The Sanders folks said the senator devoted just one sentence in a four-page newsletter — as he always does — to thank his supporters, and another sentence indicating their support in the future would be appreciated.

The last major national spotlight on Sanders was all positive when, during the "lame duck" session of Congress, he faux filibustered a tax-cut bill on the Senate floor.

Here is the full text of Sen. Bernie Sanders' letter to his supporters, appealing for cash and mentioning the tragic shooting in Arizona.

Dear Friend,

Given the recent tragedy in Arizona, as well as the start of the new Congress, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few words with political friends in Vermont and throughout the country.  I also want to thank the very many supporters who have begun contributing online to my 2012 reelection campaign at  There is no question but that the Republican Party, big money corporate interests and right-wing organizations will vigorously oppose me.  Your financial support now and in the future is much appreciated.  Also, please do not hesitate to convey to me any ideas that you may have with regard to how we can best go forward in terms of public policy, as well as politically.  While I cannot respond personally to every comment, I will read them all.

ARIZONA: What occurred this weekend in Tucson was tragic, and I join my congressional colleagues and the entire nation in sending my condolences to the victims of this horrible attack.

In terms of this savage shooting rampage, several points need to be made.  First, this horrendous act of violence is not some kind of strange aberration for this area where, it appears, threats and acts of violence are part of the political climate.  Nobody can honestly express surprise that such a tragedy finally occurred.  After all, last year, after her vote in support of health care reform, Rep. Giffords' district office was attacked and her front window was shot out.  In 2009, at an open constituent town meeting in a shopping center similar to the one in which she was gunned down, a pistol fell to the ground from the pocket of a protester attending the event.  During her last campaign, her opponent, Tea Party favorite Jesse Kelly, invited his supporters to an event at which they could fire live ammunition from an M-16 rifle as a fundraising device in his effort to help remove Rep. Giffords from office.  Congresswoman Giffords publicly expressed concerns when Sarah Palin, on her website, placed her district in the cross-hairs of a rifle – and identified her by name below the image – as an encouragement to Palin supporters to eliminate her from Congress.  Interviewed on MSNBC at the time when the cross-hairs were posted on the web, Giffords said; “When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action.”

What should be understood is that the violence, and threats of violence against Democrats in Arizona, was not limited to Gabrielle Giffords.  Raul Grijalva, an old friend of mine and one of the most progressive members in the House, was forced to close his district office this summer when someone shot a bullet through his office window.  Another Democratic elected official in Arizona, recently defeated Congressman Harry Mitchell, suspended town meetings in his district because of the threatening phone calls that he received (Mitchell was also in the cross-hairs on the Palin map).  And Judge John Roll, who was shot to death at the Giffords event, had received numerous threatening calls and death threats in 2009.

In light of all of this violence – both actual and threatened – is Arizona a state in which people who are not Republicans are able to participate freely and fully in the democratic process?  Have right-wing reactionaries, through threats and acts of violence, intimidated people with different points of view from expressing their political positions?

My colleague, Senator John McCain, issued a very strong statement after the shooting in which he condemned the perpetrator of the attack.  I commend him for that.  But I believe Senator McCain and other Arizona Republicans need to do more.  As the elder statesman of Arizona politics, McCain needs to stand up and denounce the increasingly violent rhetoric coming from the right wing and exert his influence to create a civil political environment in his state.

THE NEW CONGRESS: The 112th Congress convened last week.  Republicans now control the House of Representatives and have increased their membership in the Senate to 47.  The media and pundits will talk about a million things with regard to this new Congress, but let me stress to you what I consider to be the most important.

The right-wing Republicans now leading their party are extremely confident that the political momentum is with them.  They not only won decisive victories in the last election but, as a result of the disastrous Citizens United  Supreme Court decision, they correctly believe that they will have a huge financial advantage in future elections because billionaires and corporate interests can now contribute as much as they like into the political process without disclosure.  At this moment, Karl Rove and other Republican operatives are organizing big money interests to become financially involved in the next election in a way that will completely revolutionize campaign financing.  Republicans now believe that no matter what they do or say, they will be able to buy many seats in Congress because of their financial advantage.

Further, and equally important, the right-wing media echo chamber of Fox TV and talk radio (Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, etc.) are becoming increasingly effective in transmitting a reactionary world view to the tens of millions of Americans who watch or listen to them every day.  For many of these Americans, the only news that they receive comes from these extreme right-wing commentators.  While the progressive community has made some significant media gains with excellent websites and informative blogs, compelling television news and commentary on MSNBC and some fine and engaging radio talk shows, we would be very naïve not to understand that our progressive analysis of contemporary political issues is being overwhelmed by the right wing.  We have some good shows on MSNBC; they have a network.  We have over a million radio listeners to Thom Hartmann and Ed Schultz; Rush Limbaugh has 14 to 25 million, and Sean Hannity has 13 million.

All of which brings me to what the Republican agenda, pushed by an extreme right-wing, will likely be in the coming Congress. And here it is.  The Republicans in this Congress, in a way unprecedented in modern American history, will begin a political assault on the very foundations of modern American society.  Yes, of course they will continue their usual day-to-day efforts to give tax breaks to billionaires and cut back on programs desperately needed by the middle-class, but now they are prepared to go much further.  Now, in a very well-orchestrated effort, they are determined to undo virtually all of the major pieces of social legislation passed since the 1930s, and move this country back to a time when workers, the elderly and the poor had virtually no protections against the vicissitudes of life.  They want to return this country to a time when large corporations and the rich had all the power – economic and political.

They do not simply want to repeal the Health Care Reform bill passed last year.  There are many Republicans in Congress who believe that any federal efforts in health care are unconstitutional.  This means, over a period of time, completely eliminating Medicare, Medicaid and other public health programs.  In other words, if you’re sick and you don’t have a lot of money, you’re on your own.  Good luck.

They do not want to simply cut back on Social Security.  They want to privatize it.  With the backing of Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson and others, the Republicans are not just pushing to raise the retirement age for Social Security and cut benefits in the short- term.  Their long-term goal is to create a situation in which the retirement accounts for workers will be administered by Wall Street – at great profit for financial investment firms.  And when the stock market crashes and you lose your retirement savings, you’re on your own.  Good luck.

They do not want to simply deny the extension of unemployment benefits to workers who lost their jobs in this recession – the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression seven decades ago.  Some of them want to eliminate the concept of unemployment compensation.  Their position is: Lose your job?  You’re on your own.  Good luck.

And on and on it goes.  Whether it is Social Security, health care, environmental protection, education or workers’ rights, the Republican Party is now prepared to dismantle virtually all of the protections that workers and the middle class have successfully fought for over the last 75 years.

Today, in the United States, while the middle class collapses and poverty increases, the richest people in our country have never had it so good.  In 2007, the top one percent earned 23 percent of all income in our country – more than the bottom 50 percent.  The top one percent also owns more wealth than the bottom ninety percent.  While in recent years we have seen a huge increase in the number of millionaires and billionaires in this country we continue to have, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. 

But, for my Republican colleagues, all of this is not enough.  They need to help the rich get more, more and more.  That is what their agenda is all about.

Needless to say, as Vermont’s senator, I will do all that I can to defeat this disastrous set of policies.  And I will be joined in this effort by other members of the Senate, and by many members of the House.  But we can’t do it alone.  We’re all in this together.

I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead.

Thank you for your support.


Senator Bernie Sanders

PS: If you know friends or family who would like to receive an occasional news update from me, please forward them my message and ask them to sign up on my website, Thanks.

* This post has been edited since it was originally posted, deleting a sentence indicating that Sanders' campaign had not responded to inquiries about the letter. The campaign did, in fact, respond just as the post was ready to go live and that sentence wasn't edited out.


Hasn't Bernie seen this?

Or how about these?

I guess he's using that "selective moral indignation" yet again! Really...What an embarrassment to Vermont!

Bernie is the left-wing mirror-image version of the very people on the right whom he accuses of using destructive, hateful rhetoric. His political behavior is EXACTLY like that of the people he despises, for the very same reason he despises them!

He's been demonizing his opponents for years, and he does it to get your money and get your votes.

The excerpts below are just from the above fundraising letter: If this rhetoric isn't demonizing your adversaries, I don't know what is:

big money corporate interests
right-wing organizations
right-wing reactionaries
the right wing
right-wing Republicans
corporate interests
Republican operatives
big money interests
the right-wing media
reactionary world view
extreme right-wing commentators
the right wing
an extreme right-wing
large corporations
the rich
Wall Street billionaire

Here's another one that Bernie should look at:

As far as I can tell, It's Bernie's friends that engage in the most hate speech! People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones!

PS I'm really getting tired of Bernie's Class warfare tactics!


Read this:

And yet another!

Bernie, you should quit while your ahead and get your facts straight before sending out another campaign letter railing against the "evil republicans".

As one of your Independent candidates, I condemn this latest outrage from the office and handlers of 'Bernie' Sanders.

I can't speak for all Independents; anyone who is a true Independent speaks for onesself. But to me, what he does seems to be all about power, power and power.

Senator couldn't you at least have waited for the bodies to be in the ground before you try to pin this on your political opponents? This is a disgrace.

Holy crap. Welp, I guess this past election you got my last vote for you Bernie. Disgraceful.

Seriously, Bernie?! I always knew you were an idiot, but this is truly appalling! How can you go from asking for money to citing BS about the Arizona tragedy to hardcore Republican bashing?! Get your facts straight & stop trying to cause more problems.

I hope you get un-seated from Congress. Until then, I suggest you learn the following: 1) do research & know your facts 2) learn to write a proper letter 3) how to brush your hair & how to dress - who wants a disheveled looking person on tv representing their state? 4) how to manage your hostility towards the Republican party

First, I am not a Bernie-basher. I think he has done some very good things. Yet, I cannot condone using this crime to raise campaign funds.

Second, having said that, many of those who go after Bernie on this should also go after every politician and business that have exploited 9/11, beginning with George Bush, to either push for war or, in one case, to sell tires. I believed then and believe now that much of the 9/11 rhetoric amounts to dancing on the victims' graves.

So, yes, Bernie is wrong in this case. But don't give the folks who use 9/ll to justify wars, campaigns (Rudy Giuliani) and sell products a free pass.

While Alice was on her squirrel hunting trip she should have picked off a couple crows to feed Sen. Sanders, as he seems not to realize his errors here, and refuses to eat crow himself.
Sen. Sanders owes all of America an apology for his behavior on this matter.

As a citizen of Vermont, I am incredibly embarrassed by this horrendous letter. How low can someone go? How is it that Vermonter's actually voted this man into office, AGAIN! Smarten up Vermont! Because there's no doubt he'll take us all down if allowed.
Bernie, this makes me sick.

Shay. Just read fair game this week and putting it together with this Bernie Blurt Blog came up with the following.
Imagine the adds for a Salmon-Sanders race. Starts out with the Franco produced DUI stop of Sanders with the title"do you want this man leading us in Washington?" The next add by Salmon would be all about Bernies mistake and stubborness on this fundraising letter.
Let the campaign season begin, been kind of boring lately with only issues like 150 million dollar problem for Gov. Shumlin to solve, and a 16.9 million dollar problem that Kiss created.

bernie's done an excellent job in his time as senator, and will continue to do so for as long as he can, i'm sure. this one sentence in one letter which was probably not even written by him doesn't cancel out the good he does regularly. it's in poor taste, that much seems clear. but if one written mistake really should mean the end of someone's political career, there'd be a whole lot of friggin vacancies in government.

Frankly, I don't see what the big deal is.

Politician's ask for money in 99% of their correspondences.

Heck, at least he didn't include a target graphic, right?

If you want to be sensitive to something, be sensitive to your 22 year old neighbors who live in their mom's basement are are obsessed with mind control. Have them get help before they buy a gun...

"Frankly, I don't see what the big deal is."

That's a sad reflection on you. And it's not just disgraceful that Bernie would use a national tragedy to malign his political opponents and raise money, it's amazingly hypocritical in a stunningly ironic way.

"Have them get help before they buy a gun..."

Bernie first got elected to Congress in 1990 by appealing to the NRA and smearing Peter Smith as "anti gun."

I was prepared to be upset about this, until I saw it in the context of the complete "newsletter." After seeing it, I'm far less concerned about it.

The news coverage suggested that somehow Sanders had sent out a fundraising letter that used the Giffords shooting as the hook for asking for money. That would have been completely outrageous.

Instead, providing the full text makes clear that it wasn't a "fundraising letter" but rather an update letter to supporters and past contributors that comments on numerous issues and includes a brief fundraising hook at the end (anyone who has worked in political fundraising can tell you the difference between the two).

It was in extremely poor taste to include the Arizona discussion and the contribution hook in the same newsletter (albeit 14 paragraphs apart). It would have been far more appropriate for Bernie to send out his comments on the Arizona shootings in a separate email, divorced from any political comments. But this is very different than attempting to raise money off of the Giffords shootings, which is what the national right wing media is accusing him of.

Still wish he hadn't done it this way, but not something I can work up any outrage about.

There is no mirror image of violence on the left; that is MSM propaganda. Look at the record of political violence in the last few years and you find it is from the right from the killing of abortion providers to the killing of people in a Unitarian church for being liberals. And then there were the Republican bullies who went to Florida on their congressional bosses dimes to intimidate poll workers from doing a legitimate vote count. These people are the brown shirts of our time and they are being funded and encouraged by the Dick Armys and Koch brothers of the right wing noise machine. I see they have supporters in Vermont too.
Good luck if you're not millionaires because you too will be sold out by these vicious corporate war profiteers.

I find this fund raising ploy a cheap greedy money grab it is shameful that Sanders is such a greedy money grubber that he would use this tragedy for his own gain.

Speak out against the atrocity but to use a small childs death so he can plump his war chest is just begging for blood money . Sanders should be ashamed his actions are deplorable.

@ Luhrs:

Thanks for pointing out what everybody here already knows: the American Right engages in class warfare and inflammatory political hate speech.


So, I guess that makes Sanders' disgraceful exploitation of the Arizona tragedy okay?

I guess that makes it okay to raise re-election money by citing the Arizona massacre when you've already got millions of dollars in your campaign war chest and absolutely no opponent in sight, much less any viable one?

Don't gimme any "context" shit about Bernie's letter. That's like one of the two brats in the back seat saying, "Well he hit me first."

This isn't "self-defense." This isn't "contextual." This isn't "justified." This is good old fashioned disgraceful tragedy-exploitation and conservative-baiting of the first order.

Oh come on Murphy, you ol' windbag! You wouldn't recognize reason if it hit you in the face!

And the rest of you! What a bunch of sour Suzies!

A political mistake doesn't make the politician a bad person, it simply makes them a person! Remember Bill Clinton? Remember what HE did? Remember how you felt disgraced to be led by such a president?

Now, see, we move on.

People make mistakes, politicians too. Let's move on.

Bill Williams Tell your drivel to the anti free speech free press who is the right arm of the Police state in Burlington dissent and be watched by the police, Speak out against Bernie Sanders and his blood lust money grab and be censored.
I know they own the boards but this is a slippery slope that the local police are willing to slide down.

God forbid anyone asks Jane Sanders how she came up with ten million to buy the property on North Ave last year Burlington College didnt have enough money to buy coffee for the staff.

Sanders should donate every last penny of this blood money to a battered Woman's Shelter or a mental health clinic in Tuscan.

His actions speak MUCH LOUDER than all of his words. At the root he is a callow venal individual who is all about self promotion IMHO.

Williams, this wasn't a "mistake." This is the very essence of Bernie. He's been calling anyone who disagrees with him "right wing reactionaries" and "right wing extremists" for years. He name-calls, yells, shouts, and screams as much as anyone on any of the conservative shouting shows.

All while using political office to amass extreme power and wealth.

while we are at it lets all praise Pat Leahy for his work on "internet security" his proposed bills will allow the government to make "blacklists" and perform illegal search and seizures of digital information with out the need for a pesky warrant. he kills two of our constitutional amendments in on e fell swoop of a pen.

Term limits anyone?

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