How Bernie Sanders should use the Panama Papers

How Bernie Sanders should use the Panama Papers

The Panama Papers provide Bernie Sanders an excellent opportunity to double down on his campaign messaging. In fact, He should argue that the papers provide the clearest evidence that our campaign finance system is broken and unduly favors the wealthy and powerful.

Here’s the messaging angle I would take:

Hillary Clinton and those who supported the Panama Trade Deal either had the audacity to believe they would never get caught helping their wealthy donors evade taxes, or they were so blinded by their big-money contributions that they simply ignored the outcry against the Deal in favor of pleasing their contributors. And because generally the nominee who raises the most money wins, elected officials are spending a ridiculous amount of time schmoozing with the elite, and not listening to experts nor their constituents. In essence, we maintain a system that rewards negligence.

Worse yet, the campaign finance system effectively operates as a prisoner’s dilemma – with Bernie Sanders managing to escape the jail.

Here’s what Bernie said:

From his official statement:

“I was opposed to the Panama Free Trade Agreement from day one. I predicted that the passage of this disastrous trade deal would make it easier, not harder, for the wealthy and large corporations to evade taxes by sheltering billions of dollars offshore… My opponent, on the other hand, opposed this trade agreement when she was running against Barack Obama for president in 2008. But when it really mattered she quickly reversed course and helped push the Panama Free Trade Agreement through Congress as Secretary of State. The results have been a disaster…The American people are sick and tired of establishment politicians who say one thing during a campaign and do the exact opposite the day after the election”

In the short term, tying Hillary to the Deal itself is a good strategy. However, connecting The Secretary’s Trade Deal support to the she’s-a-flip-flopper-and-will-say-anything-to-win narrative is not the most effective story the Sanders campaign could be telling. A stronger angle would be to use the leak to support the narrative that she is indebted to the elite and to the establishment. I’m not sure he could have been gifted a better opportunity to hammer down key elements of his campaign finance reform and citizen equality messaging.


No matter what, the longer this stays in the news cycle, the better for Bernie Sanders. And just how long it stays in the news will determine how well he framed his messaging. IF we aren’t talking about it in days before New York, he will have botched an easy narrative win.


Ryan Black is a content creator, marketing professional, and political consultant who writes about Progressive Politics.

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