By BRIAN SLODYSKO and STEVE PEOPLES, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders is in talks with the Democratic National Committee to headline the first of two party fundraisers, where he will likely appear before the same big-dollar donors that he has repeatedly railed against on the campaign trail.
A DNC official confirmed the conversations on Wednesday. They come as Sanders’ relationship with the party’s establishment takes on greater importance following a victory in Tuesday’s New Hampshire presidential primary and an essential tie for first place last week in Iowa’s caucuses.
While establishment leaders have raised alarms about Sanders’ far-left candidacy in recent weeks, the strong finishes in the two opening contests of the 2020 primary season all but ensure he will be a force in party politics at least through the national convention in July.
Raising money for the party will be an especially urgent task in 2020. Whoever wins the primary will inherit a party that is $6.5 million in debt and has been outraised by over 6 to 1 by President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee, who collectively pulled in more than $600 million last year alone.
As a condition of gaining access to the party’s voter file, all 2020 contenders — Sanders included — are required to headline at least two fundraisers for the DNC’s “Unity Fund,” which will go to the eventual nominee.
Sanders, the only presidential candidate who has yet to do an event for the party, has spent years railing against big-dollar fundraisers. His victory speech in New Hampshire was no exception.
“This is a movement from coast to coast which is demanding that we finally have an economy and a government that works for all of us — not wealthy campaign contributors,” the Vermont senator told supporters.
He’s also railed repeatedly against the DNC, which he accused of rigging the 2016 primary in favor of rival Hillary Clinton.
As the headliner at one of their events, he will not only be courting big-dollar donors he has criticized, but he will also be doing so to raise money for an organization that he and his supporters have called corrupt.
Under campaign finance rules, a single donor attending a DNC event can cut a check exceeding $300,000.
Sanders’ campaign didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday.
While the details, including location and format, have yet to be locked in, a DNC official said talks with Sanders’ campaign are ongoing. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.