Foreign volunteers for Bernie Sanders have contacted thousands of American voters

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

FOREIGN INFLUENCE?: It’s unclear if the Sanders campaign is aware that foreign nationals are using its campaign infrastructure to call American voters on its behalf, or whether it condones the foreign support it has received in light of Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 elections.

By Andrew Kerr

Foreign nationals, under the direction of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, have sent thousands of texts and phone calls urging American voters to support the democratic socialist in the Democratic primaries.

Since October 2019, a particularly devoted contingent of about 40 Australian volunteers have sent thousands of messages a day to American voters through a phone banking system operated by the Sanders campaign, according to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“I kinda feel like what happens in America is essential to the rest of the world,” an Australian volunteer identified as Rob who has volunteered a couple of hours a day to mass-text American voters for the Sanders campaign told the ABC. “Their politics has such a big impact on our politics here.”

It’s perfectly legal for foreign nationals to volunteer for political campaigns as long as they’re not compensated for their services, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and there’s no indication that Sanders has violated any rules by accepting volunteer services from foreign nationals during his 2020 presidential bid.

However, the FEC levied a $14,500 fine on Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign in 2018 for accepting illegal in-kind foreign contributions from the Australian Labor Party.

A Facebook group with over 4,200 followers called Australians Supporting Bernie Sanders published a guide in January instructing prospective foreign volunteers on how to phone bank for Sanders from outside the U.S.

The guide directs volunteers to go to Sanders’s campaign website to watch a short training video and then register with the campaign to make calls to American voters. All that’s needed to receive login credentials and make calls on behalf of the Sanders campaign is a name, email and phone number.

The Sanders campaign does not appear to have included any mechanism in its registration system to prevent foreign volunteers from phone banking for the campaign.\When phone banking, volunteers are asked to follow a script developed by the Sanders campaign and to record any responses they receive into an online system operated by the campaign. A phone banking training video on the Sanders campaign website states that the data collected by phone bankers is “vital” to the campaign’s turn-out-the-vote efforts.

The Sanders campaign also hosts a 12,000-member group chat channel on Slack that contains messages from self-identified foreign nationals from around the world discussing their experiences phone banking for the democratic socialist.

“Ready to do foreign campaign interference from Austria,” one user posted in the Slack channel Wednesday morning.

Some foreign volunteers have questioned on the channel whether it’s appropriate to conceal their nationality when calling American voters for the Sanders campaign.

“Quick question, since i’m not a US citizen (I’m Indonesian) – when someone ask me why I support Bernie, should I disclose the fact that as an Indonesian, issues about climate change really affect me, and I believe Bernie is the only candidate with the right outlook on this issue, and the only one I can trust to be the climate candidate,” one user posted to the channel Tuesday. “Or should I just say all that without telling them my nationality?”

“I don’t think there is one right answer about whether to disclose whether we are foreigners or not,” another user who identified as a Norwegian responded. “I think you should do it makes you feel like you can make a more authentic and stronger case for Bernie.”

It’s unclear if the Sanders campaign is aware that foreign nationals are using its campaign infrastructure to call American voters on its behalf, or whether it condones the foreign support it has received in light of Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 elections. The Sanders campaign did not return a request for comment.

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Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr

12 thoughts on “Foreign volunteers for Bernie Sanders have contacted thousands of American voters

    • I consider myself of libertarian sensibilities (that’s libertarian with a small ‘l’) and will vote for Trump, not because I like his personality or his demeanor, but because I approve most of his policies.

      To cite someone as a member of the Libertarian Party is a false narrative. Libertarian is not a single party or viewpoint but includes a wide variety of perspectives. While libertarians range from market anarchists to advocates of a limited welfare state, they are all united by an understanding and appreciation of personal liberty, economic freedom, and a skepticism of government power.

      Trump is the rude libertarian that best meets our needs in this deep and broad swamp that has overtaken Vermont and the American Republic. Is he perfect? Of course not. Who is? But Trump is, today, our ‘man for all seasons’.

  1. When people in another country like what your candidate is promising more than you do, it’s time to give careful consideration to what he’s promising.

  2. And Roger Stone is supposed to get 7 to 9 years for lying to a congressional hearing about whether or not he sent and received some obscure political emails in a he said she said allegation of ‘intimidating’ a NYC comedian and talk show host. Go figure.

  3. Typical slimeball Bernie. If an opponent or a conservative was to recruit foreigners to do their bidding, he would chastised them to death. Just another do as i say and not as i do socialist tactic that he uses all the time.
    This should be against the law-period. He’s using foreigners to boost his campaign. How’s that different from what he said and did about Trump? Such a hypocrite and he gets away with it. His followers buy into it like a herd of sheep.

  4. Since the Bern rode into VT on his donkey, immediately seek and obtain public office (don’t have to work) knowing it’s a pathway to make money. Each office is a step upward and as VT became more Socialist, his chances were that much greater.

    Running for Prez makes him a multimillionaire, his ultimate goal, not being Prez so much, but making money. And his wifey makes money by bankrupting a college. All avenues are an open book.

    In his three government positions, name anything that he’s done for VT. Being a Senate chairperson on Veterans Affairs—another failure and farce.

    Ya the spinmaster on his soapbox scores well with shepople. And he plays to their “free-for-all” emotions, a true snake oil salesman. The scary thing is, the amount of people that kiss up to him in those numbers. The country’s down hill slide. And VT has the unique position it provided him for the nation.

    He allowed Clinton to demean him and plotted against him so the Prez 2016 election was rigged. He didn’t seem to care, he’s making money. This Prez election will be the same, no White House living, but perhaps another three houses and a Royals. He’ll move out of VT after this, obtained his goals leaving the shepople breathing his dust. His actions are predictable.

    Who will be the next Bern from VT? Already have the two others.

  5. What do we need Bernie to get a free education? I just read that Democrat Senator Ruth Hardy sponsored B271 to give free college tuition to low income VTers (low income in her mind is less than $100,000 a year) and the cost to the taxpayers (drum roll please)….$6M with a staff of 4 at $400,000. If Republicans don’t get out and vote the Democrats/Progressives out, this State will be run into the ground. They don’t even want to try to lower the budget or in the least not raise taxes for a few years.

    • Oh, I forgot to mention that the students that are blessed with this “free” education don’t have to complete the courses. They can walk away and Vermonters are still responsible for paying for this failure of a Bill. And if Bernie does get elected, you know that Bill is not going to be voided. The Legislature will take that money and use it for some other useless reason, maybe to give themselves another raise.

  6. I thought foreign contributions to candidates running for office was ILLEGAL!!! While one could argue making simple phone calls are not financial, they certainly could be labeled “in kind” which definitely has a monetary value. But this is Bernie so I guess it’s OK with the lib/socialists.

  7. FOREIGN INFLUENCE?: It’s unclear if the Sanders campaign is aware ” they are ” that
    foreign nationals are using its campaign infrastructure to call American voters on its behalf !!

    Comrade Sanders will use his usual answer ” I’m not aware ” statement, just more BS from
    the master of that art ……..

    Wake up Vermont.

  8. OMG…. we have a Kangaroo consortium trying to influence our elections
    get that pencil neck shiffforbrains on the case post haste…He can bring on
    the penguin naddless and mulear as well.. we’ll get to the bottom of it and get rid of the commie burneee who isn’t even a democrate,,,

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