Bernie Sanders has a big week ahead. In Iowa, which will kick off voting with its caucus next week, he is almost neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton. In New Hampshire, the second state to vote, he leads her by double digits, though nationally he trails by a wide margin.
But as Sanders puts more pressure on Clinton, some cracks are emerging in his campaign’s image, raising questions that first came up when Sanders staffers accessed data belonging to the Clinton campaign due to a computer glitch.
This week, the Vermont senator’s campaign included the logos of the AARP and the League of Conservation Voters in mailers it sent out to Iowa voters, without the groups’ permission. The AARP is non-partisan and does not support specific candidates, and the League of Conservation Voters has actually endorsed Sanders’ rival, Hillary Clinton.
“AARP did not authorize the Sanders campaign to mention AARP or use the AARP logo, and we did not participate in its production,” the organization said in a statement.
Separately, the Sanders campaign was accused of impersonating union workers to gain access to the dining rooms of the powerful Culinary Union, in order to talk to its members.
The campaign denied staffers were impersonating union members, but acknowledged they were wearing the Culinary Union button “in solidarity with people.”
The tiff has since been resolved, but a union representative said earlier this week they were “disappointed and offended” and that it was “completely inappropriate for any campaign to attempt to mislead Culinary Union members, especially at their place of work.”
Some of the alleged gaps between Sanders’ high-minded rhetoric and the reality of his campaign are in dispute. The New York Times’ Nicholas Confessore reported this week that Sanders likes to lament the flow of big money into politics, yet he is in fact the biggest recipient of super PAC independent expenditures in the Democratic race, with $1 million coming from a group backed by the National Nurses United union.
However, Lee Fang at The Intercept argued the Times analysis hinges on a “a technicality in campaign finance law.” When all super PAC spending is totaled—not just independent expenditures, which are a distinct category under campaign finance law—Hillary Clinton has received twice as much Super PAC funding.
This week’s kerfuffles follow a larger scandal in December, when Sanders staffers illicitly accessed Hillary Clinton’s voter data from a Democratic National Committee database due to a software glitch. After the DNC cut off Sanders’ access to the database, the campaign sued the party, saying it was unfairly favoring Clinton, and access was eventually restored. One Sanders staffer was fired as a result of the breach.