Depending on whom you ask, Bernie Sanders’ “secret weapon” is either his email list … or the FBI. (More)

“An ATM and you throw some words at them and they’ll give you money”

Politico’s Jack Shafer reports on Democratic candidates and interest groups vying for access to Sanders’ email list:

Bernie Sanders shows no sign of dropping out of the presidential race anytime soon, but the vultures are already circling over his email list – perhaps the most coveted and valuable catalog of potential voters and donors in the Democratic Party at the moment.
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“There’s efforts ongoing,” said Faiz Shakir, [Senate Minority Leader Harry] Reid’s digital director, pointing to Wisconsin Senate hopeful Russ Feingold as the kind of candidate – a liberal in a state where Sanders campaigned extensively – who lines up ideologically and would be eager to use the list.

“He’s built up an incredible list of passionate believers in bold, Democratic ideas,” added Shakir. “In order to remain impactful, relevant, and helpful to the party, I think you have to find a way to leverage the enthusiasm he’s generated after his campaign has concluded.”

Sanders’ staffers won’t comment on the exact size of the list, but his campaign has said it has 2.2 million donors, and the New York-based firm eDataSource estimates that there are 5.2 million email addresses on it. The very fact that Sanders’ online fundraising prowess has become a focal point means that the question of what to do with the list is all the more complex.

“There’s this view among the Washington consultant class that these members are an ATM and you throw some words at them and they’ll give you money no matter what,” said Neil Sroka, a former Obama 2008 campaign aide now working as communications director of Democracy For America, which has endorsed Sanders. “Everyone in the Democratic Party is going to want Bernie Sanders’ seal of approval and a chance to share their message with the people on his email list.”

I don’t think email lists are as valuable as consultants believe. Most of Sanders’ supporters are probably already on other candidates’ and interest groups’ lists. More’s the point, many may get irritated if they’re suddenly deluged with emails from new candidates and groups.

“I want to see them come up with ideas”

In terms of practical, electoral politics, the more important question is whether Sanders will actively campaign for Hillary Clinton and down-ballot Democrats. And so far he’s still playing coy … or smug:

The senator from Vermont, who has vowed to stay in the race until the Democratic convention, was asked by Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC whether he would try to persuade his young supporters to back Clinton in the same fashion that she supported President Obama after losing the nomination to him in 2008.

“Well, first of all, I’ve got to find out what her platform is, what the views are that she is going to be bringing forth, to what degree she will adopt many of the ideas that I think are extremely popular and I think very sensible,” Sanders told Mitchell.

He described the process as “a two-way street.”

“I want to see the Democratic Party have the courage to stand up to big-money interests in a way that they have not in the past, take on the drug companies, take on Wall Street, take on the fossil fuel industry, and I want to see them come up with ideas that really do excite working families and young people in this country,” Sanders said.

I said “smug” for several reasons:

First, Clinton has already laid out her platform, and in far greater detail than Sanders. His claim that he needs to “find out what her platform is” is a rhetorical dodge. After that he gets to his real question: “to what degree she will adopt many of [Sanders’] ideas.”

Second, if he means the Democratic Party’s 2016 platform, that will be drafted by the Platform Committee and voted on by delegates at the convention. Clinton and her delegates will have a voice, but so will Sanders’ delegates. And like all party platforms, it will be a negotiated compromise … leaving Sanders free to withhold his support because the platform lacks the purity he demands.

Finally, there’s that “I want to see them come up with ideas” line. Again, Clinton and her campaign have already proposed detailed policy proposals. Sanders has, by contrast, offered vague talking points and plans grounded on magical math. He seems to want Clinton to do his homework for him, to turn his lofty visions into workable policies. And if Clinton tries to do that – with proposals that reflect economic and budgetary realities – Sanders can dismiss them as not pure enough.

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“I assume that somebody in the FBI is going to leak these reports”

Sanders’ other ‘secret weapon,’ of course, is the FBI investigation of Clinton’s email use. Salon’s resident troll H.A. Goodman explains:

At the end of the day, Americans everywhere will realize that the rule of law applies to Hillary Clinton, and that honesty and integrity will propel Bernie Sanders to the presidency. The FBI’s reputation is at stake, both globally and at home, and I explain why in this YouTube segment. James Comey and the agents who’ve devoted endless hours to Clinton’s email investigation will soon disclose their findings to the American people; to think nothing will result from this year-long probe is naive. Remember, the FBI doesn’t give parking tickets.

Goodman presumes the FBI has evidence of a crime – never mind that experts in classified information law say there was no crime – and she would have been indicted already but The Establishment Machine is protecting her. Because it’s always a conspiracy.

And Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) seems to agree:

Grassley, Iowa’s senior senator and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said an anonymous and unauthorized release of FBI investigative materials could result if officials at the agency believed prosecution of Clinton was stymied for political reasons.

“Is there going to be political interference? If there’s enough evidence to prosecute, will there be political interference?” Grassley wondered aloud during a breakfast meeting with the Des Moines A.M. Rotary club on Friday. “And if there’s political interference, then I assume that somebody in the FBI is going to leak these reports and it’s either going to have an effect politically or it’s going to lead to prosecution if there’s enough evidence.”

Note that he’s not saying there has been or will be “political interference.” He’s just asking questions. And of course he’s absolutely not suggesting that some FBI agent with an axe to grind (or debts to pay off) should maybe offer some selectively-redacted documents to the media (for a price):

“I wouldn’t be encouraging it because if it’s a violation of law, I can’t be encouraging a violation of law,” he said. “This is kind of my own opinion, this is something I’ve heard.”

Wink-wink-nudge-nudge.

“It must be a brilliant, insightful, world-shattering speech”

Maybe Sanders also holds out hope for that ‘secret weapon.’ That may be why he continued to smear Clinton yesterday in Pennsylvania:

Mr. Sanders told an audience in Reading, Pa., that Mrs. Clinton is benefiting from super PACs raising millions of dollars from Wall Street firms and “special interests.” In a mocking tone, he took aim at her for delivering paid speeches to Wall Street at $225,000 a pop in some cases.

And he called on her to release the speech transcripts, sarcastically saying that she should be eager to let the public read texts so eloquent that they commanded such high fees.

“Now, I kind of think if you’re going to get $225,000 for a speech, it must be a brilliant, insightful, world-shattering speech, don’t you think?” Mr. Sanders said. “It must be a speech that would probably solve all of the crises facing our planet and then some. And it was probably written in Shakespearean prose.

“And I think a speech of that extraordinary magnitude should be shared with the American people.”

In fact Clinton is hardly the highest-paid celebrity speaker – that would be Donald Trump – even if she may be the highest-paid female speaker … and not by much. Condoleeza Rice, Sarah Palin, and even Katie Couric have also received six-figure speaking fees.

Apparently Sanders plans to smear Clinton from now until June. Then he’ll demand that she shelve the platform she’s campaigned (and won) on and “come up with ideas” to turn his magic-based promises into concrete policies. And then, if her ideas pass his purity test, maybe he’ll encourage his fans to vote for her. Because his support for the Democratic nominee must be “a two-way street.”

I wonder what a one-way street looks like.

Maybe Sanders’ secret weapon is just arrogance.

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Photo Credit: Jim Cole (AP)

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Good day and good nuts