There's nothing unusual about a super PAC digging up dirt on an opposing candidate and sending it to the news media. That's what they do.
But when Correct the Record, a super PAC supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton, emailed opposition research on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to the Huffington Post on Monday, it evidently failed to secure an agreement with a reporter that the source of the information would be kept off the record.
"Yesterday, one of Hillary Clinton's most prominent super PACs attacked our campaign pretty viciously," Sanders emailed supporters Tuesday, adding that it was "the kind of onslaught I expected to see from the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson." He called on supporters to "make the super PACs pay for attacking us" by contributing to his campaign.
They did. Within 48 hours, Sanders' campaign announced Thursday, it had raised $1.2 million off the attack.
“I hope that sends a very clear message that the American people are sick and tired of politics as usual and negative campaigning,” Sanders said in a statement.
The episode is yet another example of the Sanders camp's success at using digital media to convert a swell of support into cold, hard cash. Unlike Clinton and other top rivals, Sanders has held few traditional fundraisers. Instead, he's raised the vast majority of his contributions online.
Much of that money flows through ActBlue, a web platform that helps Democrats raise money over the internet. According to ActBlue executive director Erin Hill, Sanders' two-day campaign to exploit the Correct the Record oppo dump broke records for the nonprofit.
"We've never seen an immediate donor response like what the Sanders campaign received on Tuesday. At one point, it drove 180 contributions through our platform per minute," Hill said in a statement circulated by the Sanders campaign. “Over its 11-year history ActBlue has sent money to over 11,000 campaigns and committees — and the Bernie Sanders campaign holds the record for the two biggest donor days ever for a campaign on our platform."
Correct the Record's email attempted to tie Sanders to controversial remarks made by Jeremy Corbyn, who recently won a race to lead the United Kingdom's Labour Party. Sanders and Corbyn, who are both seen as hard-left insurgents, have expressed admiration for one another from either side of the Atlantic. The email also attempted to tie Sanders to the late Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez.
The episode is unlikely to spell the end of Correct the Record's attempts to raise doubts about Sanders. In an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday, founder David Brock defended the email, saying it was "just standard opposition research."
"You've seen it before, you'll see it again," he said.