Bernie Sanders greets the "yuuuge" crowd at Safeco Field
Bernie Sanders greets the "yuuuge" crowd at Safeco Field (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Bernie Sanders and his team are cer­tain­ly hav­ing a ban­ner week.

While the Ver­mont Sen­a­tor trav­els the coun­try cam­paign­ing for Hillary Clin­ton, his team has been work­ing to ful­ly cap­i­tal­ize on Paul Ryan’s recent attempts to rile up his right wing base by invok­ing Sanders as a bogeyman.

Team Sanders has respond­ed by send­ing out a series of fundrais­ing appeals to raise mon­ey for Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates run­ning down­bal­lot in key con­gres­sion­al races.

Ryan first invoked Sanders last Fri­day while speak­ing to a group of Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin stu­dents, warn­ing of what would hap­pen should Democ­rats retake the Sen­ate major­i­ty by defeat­ing some of Mitch McConnel­l’s enablers.

“If we lose the Sen­ate, do you know who becomes the chair­man of the Sen­ate Bud­get Com­mit­tee? A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?” Ryan said, empha­siz­ing his words for dra­mat­ic effect.

It was­n’t long before Ryan’s mem­o­rable com­ments became the basis for an email appeal sent out to Bernie’s rather large cam­paign list:


Repub­li­can Speak­er of the House Paul Ryan issued a very dire warn­ing this week. You need to see it:

“If we lose the Sen­ate, do you know who becomes chair of the Sen­ate Bud­get Com­mit­tee? A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?”

You heard the man. Let’s take back the Senate.

Four of our best oppor­tu­ni­ties to take back the Sen­ate are in Neva­da, New Hamp­shire, North Car­oli­na, and Penn­syl­va­nia. Each race is incred­i­bly close. But if the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nees win, we will have a far more pro­gres­sive Sen­ate – and a major­i­ty to enact our pro­gres­sive agenda.

The final FEC fundrais­ing dead­line of the cam­paign is Wednes­day at mid­night. Split a $4 con­tri­bu­tion now between Cather­ine Cortez Mas­to, Mag­gie Has­san, Deb­o­rah Ross, and Katie McGin­ty before tomor­row’s deadline.

How close are these races? The lat­est poll aver­ages have Deb­o­rah Ross down by just two points in North Car­oli­na. In Neva­da, Cather­ine Cortez Mas­to is up by two. Mag­gie Has­san is down by a lit­tle more than two points in New Hamp­shire. And in the tight­est race of all, Katie McGin­ty is up by less than a half per­cent in Pennsylvania.

Four Sen­ate seats we need for a major­i­ty. Four ded­i­cat­ed lead­ers who could serve with Bernie Sanders. At most a two per­cent dif­fer­ence in the polls for every race.

Your con­tri­bu­tions can be the dif­fer­ence between vic­to­ry and defeat in each of these elec­tions. Small-dol­lar con­tri­bu­tions from emails like this can push Cather­ine Cortez Mas­to, Deb­o­rah Ross, Mag­gie Has­san, and Katie McGin­ty over the top on elec­tion day.

With tomor­row’s FINAL fundrais­ing dead­line for the FEC, the time is now for us to step up and help take back a Sen­ate majority.

Split a $4 con­tri­bu­tion between the cam­paigns of Cather­ine Cortez Mas­to, Deb­o­rah Ross, Mag­gie Has­san, and Katie McGin­ty before tomor­row’s deadline.

You can make the dif­fer­ence in this elec­tion to take back a Sen­ate major­i­ty. Thank you.

In sol­i­dar­i­ty,

Jeff Weaver
Team Bernie

This first email gen­er­at­ed near­ly half a mil­lion dol­lars, prompt­ing sev­er­al fol­low-up appeals which have also been very suc­cess­ful… like this one from Wednes­day, which was signed by Bernie Sanders him­self:


I heard what Paul Ryan said about me: that if the Repub­li­cans lose the Sen­ate, I will be the chair­man of the Sen­ate Bud­get Committee.

That sounds like a very good idea to me. It means that we can estab­lish pri­or­i­ties for work­ing peo­ple, and not just the bil­lion­aire class.

What would be equal­ly excit­ing is if the Democ­rats took back the House, and Con­gress­man Ryan was no longer Speak­er. That would mean the clear­est pos­si­ble path to enact our agen­da – the most pro­gres­sive agen­da of any par­ty in Amer­i­can history.

In the last day, you have respond­ed tremen­dous­ly to our call to sup­port four lead­ers who will help shift the bal­ance of the Sen­ate. More than 20,000 peo­ple have con­tributed more than $900,000 to ten can­di­dates who are inspired by the polit­i­cal revolution.

Dur­ing our cam­paign we pushed our­selves to reach goals that many thought impos­si­ble. That is why we set a very big, very auda­cious goal that we did­n’t know if we could reach, but that we thought it was very impor­tant to try. But you’re about to smash that $1 mil­lion goal.

So, we’re going to need a big­ger goal.

Let’s raise $2 mil­lion before tonight’s final FEC dead­line of the cam­paign for can­di­dates for the House and Senate.

Can you start with a $3 con­tri­bu­tion between Paul Clements, Cather­ine Cortez-Mas­to, Deb­o­rah Ross, Zephyr Tea­chout, Mor­gan Car­roll, Nanette Bar­ra­gan, and Rick Nolan?

Con­sid­er for a moment the pow­er that exists in the U.S. Sen­ate. Right now, the Repub­li­can major­i­ty is using their pow­er to block any mean­ing­ful action on address­ing income inequal­i­ty or cli­mate change. In addi­tion, with­out a Demo­c­ra­t­ic major­i­ty the Sen­ate is refus­ing to con­firm fed­er­al judges and, incred­i­bly, has left open a crit­i­cal seat on the Supreme Court.

With a Demo­c­ra­t­ic major­i­ty, we can change all of that. What Paul Ryan is specif­i­cal­ly afraid of is the pow­er of the bud­get com­mit­tee. That com­mit­tee defines the spend­ing pri­or­i­ties of the entire gov­ern­ment. The work of that com­mit­tee says how much rev­enue the gov­ern­ment should have, and where its mon­ey should go.

I have some thoughts on how the gov­ern­ment should allo­cate its spend­ing. I’m sure you do, too.

The first step to being able to enact our pro­gres­sive agen­da is tak­ing back the Sen­ate. And if we take back the House… well, the sky is the lim­it for what we can achieve.

Help us reach for our new, auda­cious goal of rais­ing $2 mil­lion for can­di­dates for the House and Sen­ate by mid­night tonight. Add a $3 con­tri­bu­tion now split between Paul Clements, Cather­ine Cortez-Mas­to, Deb­o­rah Ross, Zephyr Tea­chout, Mor­gan Car­roll, Nanette Bar­ra­gan, and Rick Nolan.

Thank you for all you do.

In sol­i­dar­i­ty,

Bernie Sanders

Paul Ryan’s oper­a­tives respond­ed by for­ward­ing the email to their own list in an attempt to gen­er­ate more cash for endan­gered Republicans:

— Foward­ed Message –

From: Paul Ryan
Sent: Thurs­day, Octo­ber 20, 2016 5:09 PM
Sub­ject: FWD Bernie’s Email (Please Read)

I spoke last week about what would hap­pen if we lose our major­i­ty in Con­gress. It looks like Bernie Sanders was lis­ten­ing, because a staffer showed me the mes­sage he sent to his sup­port­ers yesterday.…

Read it and find out why it is so impor­tant to hold the House and Sen­ate this November.

Bot­tom line: we must stop Bernie Sanders, Nan­cy Pelosi, and the Pro­gres­sive Democ­rats from tak­ing over Con­gress. Please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion today to stop this dan­ger­ous, pro­gres­sive agenda.

Thank you.

Let’s do this,

Paul Ryan
House Speaker

But two can play at that game, and Bernie’s team has now respond­ed in kind.


It looks like you got Paul Ryan’s atten­tion. And he’s not happy.

The Speak­er of the House for­ward­ed the email Bernie sent to you to his entire fundrais­ing list. You can see what he said below.

Paul Ryan real­ly does­n’t like that you donat­ed more than $1.8 mil­lion in two days to take back the House and Sen­ate (which is an AMAZING feat, and some­thing for which we are so grateful).

He even put in a big, red but­ton when he for­ward­ed Bernie’s email that says “HELP STOP SANDERS.”

We’ve got their atten­tion. Now let’s show what we real­ly can do.

Split a $3 con­tri­bu­tion between Bernie’s thir­teen can­di­dates for the House and Sen­ate so we can take back Con­gress, make Bernie a com­mit­tee chair­man in a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate, and enact our pro­gres­sive agenda.

The incred­i­ble con­tri­bu­tions you’ve made in the last two days are com­plete­ly chang­ing the dynam­ics of these races for Con­gress. We are so grate­ful, because your sup­port means cam­paigns can train more vol­un­teers, talk to more vot­ers, and turn out more peo­ple on Elec­tion Day.

Paul Ryan knows the tremen­dous impact you’re hav­ing, and he’s scared. Let’s keep it going.

In sol­i­dar­i­ty,

Team Bernie

Paul Ryan’s inten­tion in invok­ing Bernie Sanders  may have been to rile up his base, but what he may not have real­ized is that he was also doing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and its tick­et a big favor at the same time.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty lead­ers have been long­ing to see Sanders deploy his cam­paign machin­ery and email list in sup­port of Democ­rats run­ning down­bal­lot. Ryan’s com­ments pro­vid­ed Team Bernie with the per­fect grist for a days-long series of rein­forc­ing email blasts appeal­ing for funds to help Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates in piv­otal U.S. Sen­ate con­tests — right in the mid­dle of Octo­ber.

Thanks to Paul Ryan, Bernie Sanders sup­port­ers have a bet­ter appre­ci­a­tion for what  the future could hold. Effec­tive activism is all about siz­ing up the pos­si­bil­i­ties and work­ing to turn those into real­i­ty, not aim­less­ly dwelling on the past.

Bernie Sanders may not have won the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion for Pres­i­dent, but he could be a very influ­en­tial leader in a Demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-con­trolled Unit­ed States Sen­ate. He could be a key com­mit­tee chair, per­fect­ly posi­tioned to shape legislation.

I have been telling oth­er activists this for months, but I’m so glad that the Repub­li­can Speak­er of the House has now come out and said the same thing.

Ryan’s intent was to use Sanders as a bogey­man, as bait for his base. But in bring­ing up Sanders, Ryan also legit­imized him — affirm­ing his impor­tance in this election.

In the span of less than twen­ty sec­onds, Ryan con­cise­ly paint­ed a vivid pic­ture of the fierce­ly beloved pro­gres­sive Sen­a­tor’s poten­tial role in the 115th Con­gress… and his com­ments have clear­ly excit­ed the imag­i­na­tions of Sanders’ legions of sup­port­ers, who have now been remind­ed of what is pos­si­ble instead of what might have been.

Team Bernie has now exploit­ed Ryan’s com­ments to the tune of near­ly $2 mil­lion. That’s a lot of mon­ey for down­bal­lot Democ­rats in key races.

“If we lose the Sen­ate, do you know who becomes the chair­man of the Sen­ate Bud­get Com­mit­tee? A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?”

Yes, Paul Ryan, I’ve heard of Bernie Sanders. I was a proud del­e­gate for him to the 2016 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion. And like mil­lions of oth­er peo­ple in this coun­try, I’d love to see him as the chair­man of a key com­mit­tee in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate come Jan­u­ary — whether that’s Appro­pri­a­tions or HELP.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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