Nina Turner has a corruption problem

Photo: Nikolas Liepins, NSPA & ACP. (License)

Amid news that President-elect Joe Biden has selected Democratic Congresswoman Marcia Fudge to be the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, former Bernie Sanders surrogate and former head of Sanders-aligned group, Nina Turner is apparently throwing her hat in the race to replace Rep. Fudge. Turner enters the race a political operative steeped in nepotism, corruption, and revolving-door politics.

Although publicly a critic of "revolving doors" in which political operatives move from election campaigns to political action committees or the private sector and back, Turner has plenty of practice walking back and forth through her own revolving doors. After playing a visible role in Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign, Nina Turner moved to the helm of the post-campaign organization Our Revolution as its president in mid 2017. When Sanders decided to run for president again in 2019, Turner walked back through the revolving door right back into the campaign as National Co-Chair.

Installing personal cronies and score-settling at the expense of mission at Our Revolution.

But what transpired between the two Sanders presidential campaigns and during her tenure at Our Revolution is the more interesting story here. Almost immediately after she became president, other Our Revolution Board members and former Sanders delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention started raising alarm that Turner was using the organization - whose stated mission is to build a downballot bench of progressive candidates and elected officials - to settle scores with the Democratic National Committee instead. Despite the explicitly stated purpose of the organization being to "transform the Democratic party," she openly advocated for a third party and gave a speech at an alternate convention.

Turner's grudge against the DNC appears to stem from being denied a speaking slot at the 2016 convention to nominate Bernie Sanders. Sanders's name was ultimately placed in nomination by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, one of the few members of Congress to back Sanders's 2016 bid.

Our Revolution toiled in relative electoral obscurity throughout the 2018 electoral cycle, and a big part of the reason appears to have been that the group's president was more interested in using the money the organization raised - which also quickly dwindled under Turner's leadership despite being in possession of the formidable email list that the Bernie 2016 campaign had amassed - to soothe her personal ego, rather than to serve the goals they told their gullible supporters they were serving. With Turner at the helm, Our Revolution missed opportunities to get involved in promising campaigns, and when it did, it overpromised and underdelivered.

As if her use of her organizational standing to settle scores at the expense of the organization's mission wasn't problematic enough, as she neared her one-year anniversary at Our Revolution, Turner blatantly attempted to install - and pay - her personal political consultant Tezlyn Figaro as her chief of staff. Figaro had no political organizing experience, and was a regular Trump-acolyte on Fox News, who had supported Sanders but saw Sanders as Trump both as populists who would take what she saw as a much-needed wrecking ball to the system. Figaro is also a Trump-sympatico on immigration who has claimed that immigrants were getting benefits that native born Americans weren't.

I should note that it takes no great feat of investigative journalism to unearth Figaro's views; a simple YouTube search suffices.

Even after the rest of the Board of Directors of Our Revolution intervened and dismissed her appointment as chief of staff, Turner kept Figaro on the Our Revolution's payroll as a consultant.

But Bernieworld protected Turner. Jeff Weaver, Sanders's 2016 campaign manager and Turner's predecessor as Our Revolution's president, came to Turner's defense again and again as she faced internal criticism. What happened during mid-2017 may help explain why.

Cross-organizational nepotism you can believe in, with money from Nina.

Turner's instincts for pay-for-play politics was not limited to the Trump-style installation of unqualified cronies at Our Revolution. Right around the time Turner was taking over from Weaver, Bernie Sanders's wife Jane Sanders was founding another Sanders-aligned organization. Envisioned to be something of a think tank for socialists, the organization was named the Sanders Institute. But they needed seed money to fund what would later turn out to be salaries of Sanders family members who also had no experience in political organizing or public policy, and Jane Sanders turned to Nina Turner.

Our Revolution loaned almost $200,000 to the Sanders Institute to get them started. David Driscoll, Jane Sanders's son and Sen. Sanders's stepson, took the helm of the new organization, making $100,000 a year. Driscoll's qualifications for this position, aside from being the stepson of a backbencher senator who'd recently made a ton of money by running for president? Working at Burton Snowboards.

But Our Revolution's seed loan to the Sanders Institute - which mysteriously shut down in early 2019 just as Bernie Sanders's second campaign for president, with Nina Turner as National Co-chair, was being launched -  did not go just to fund a nice salary for Jane Sanders's inexperienced kid. Why, that would be wrong. It also went to fund a $75,000 salary for Colleen Lineweaver, the spouse of Our Revolution's Executive Director at the time, Shannon Jackson. Lineweaver had barely cut her teeth as an associate at a political consulting firm when the Sanders Institute picked her up as their Research Director. Nice promotion.

If you're keeping track, that is at least three people, in just a one-year span who got jobs thanks to Nina Turner's control over what she apparently understood to be the Our Revolution slush fund whose only qualifications for those jobs were that they were closely connected to Tuner personally or to Bernieworld.

Smells like corruption to me.