A new centrist “dark money” group is working to sabotage Sen. Bernard Sanders by using a targeted digital ad campaign to stoke fears that his socialist politics would help reelect President Trump.
The group, which is aligned with the Republican Party’s Never Trump faction, aims to boost more moderate Democratic voter turnout that would support anyone other than Mr. Sanders.
Center Action Now began a digital ad campaign pushing anti-Sanders and anti-Trump content aimed at select audiences in New Hampshire a week before the primary.
The Facebook ads fell into three categories: anti-Sanders ads featuring his praise of socialist politics, anti-Trump ads featuring angry-looking supporters of the president, and ads boosting anyone but Mr. Sanders featuring the image of the late President John F. Kennedy. The most obvious beneficiaries of the ads are Democratic presidential competitors former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
“The Soviet Union already tried Bernie’s vision: It failed,” reads one ad accompanied with varying video clips of Mr. Sanders praising Cuba and Russia and wanting to raise taxes on Americans.
Another ad features the text, “He’s voting. Are you?” over a picture of a Trump supporter that is accompanied by a link to a Democratic National Committee voter registration website.
Despite some of the ads directing viewers to the DNC, the Center Action Now campaign is not a Democratic Party project. Tim Miller, former communications director for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign, is listed as the registered agent of the nonprofit group with the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Mr. Miller did not respond to request for comment.
Other ads depicting a screaming Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump directed voters to the Center Action Now website to sign a “pledge for sanity.” The website makes no mention of Mr. Miller or anyone responsible for the group, but it identifies Center Action Now as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which means it does not have to disclose its donors.
“The center must hold,” the Center Action Now website states. “Radical partisanship is crippling America’s ability to find political consensus. Progress comes from building ourselves up, not tearing everything down.”
The group is committed to “rebuilding the political center” and activating like-minded Americans to “participate in politics in a strategic fashion rather than ceding the arena to those on the extremes,” the website says.
Facebook’s Ad Library application programming interface reveals the dark money group spent $8,278 in the final seven days before New Hampshire’s primary. Facebook has eschewed pressure to eliminate political advertising in favor of greater transparency about those responsible for the ad material.
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