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George Ochenski crop

Montana’s own Margot Kidder, who played ace reporter Lois Lane to Christopher Reeve’s Superman in Superman I-IV, recently released a highly controversial bombshell article of her own that has brought increasing attention to and skepticism about the so-called “superdelegate” process used by the Democratic Party and, in this case, by the Hillary Victory Fund.

As Kidder tells the tale: “In August 2015, at the Democratic Party convention in Minneapolis, 33 democratic state parties made deals with the Hillary Clinton campaign and a joint fundraising entity called the Hillary Victory Fund. The deal allowed many of her core billionaire and inner circle individual donors to run the maximum amounts of money allowed through those state parties to the Hillary Victory Fund in New York and the DNC in Washington.”

The problem, according to Kidder, is that all this pledging of superdelegates, which are basically top Democratic Party officeholders and officials, took place almost a year before Montana will hold its primary election in June. That raises the question of how Montana’s superdelegates could possibly pledge their support and votes to Hillary Clinton before the people they represent have even voted on the candidates. As Kidder succinctly put it: “The leadership of a very broke Montana Democratic Party decided in August of 2015 that this was a seductive deal they were willing to make. And by the end of that year scores of $10,000 donations came in from out of state.”

Critics of Kidder’s piece say there’s nothing new or particularly wrong with candidates at the top of the Democratic Party raising funds for down-ticket candidates and state parties. But that seems to fly in the face of what appears to be a very quid pro quo deal with the Clinton campaign. Why? As Kidder wrote: “The fund is administered by treasurer Elizabeth Jones, the Clinton Campaign’s chief operating officer. Ms. Jones has the exclusive right to decide when transfers of money to and from the Hillary Victory Fund would be made to the state parties.”

In other words, if the Democrats in any of those states decided to support Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton, they could expect the tap for the kickback funds to go dry. After all, why would the Hillary Victory Fund spend money on her opponent’s supporters?

The fact is if it weren’t for Bernie Sanders’ pledge to eschew the Super PAC money Clinton has gone after hammer and tong, none of this would likely be an issue. And of course if the Hillary Clinton coronation had gone as planned, a grateful nation would simply acknowledge the inevitability of her presidency and applaud loudly.

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The problem is, those applauding loudly are primarily at the very high-energy and exciting Bernie Sanders campaign events. Take the more than 27,000 supporters who turned out for Sanders on Thursday night in New York. Or the fact that Sanders has managed to rejuvenate young people who are justifiably excited about his promises to break up the big banks, make college free and bring an end to the terrible economic inequality wracking the nation that is seriously dimming hopes for a better future by those same young people.

It also makes perfect sense that Sanders has drawn an enthusiastic crowd of supporters when his positions are compared to those of Hillary Clinton. Her campaign wagon is rolling on the worn out wheels of “incrementalism” and “pragmatism” while being fueled by megabucks from donors who are the main beneficiaries of economic inequality.

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Goldman Sachs comes to mind and the nation is still waiting for Clinton to release the three speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs executives for which the Wall Street giant paid her almost a quarter million dollars each. Equally disturbing is that Clinton’s campaign and affiliated Super PACS have taken millions of dollars from the very same list of hyper-wealthy donors.

What’s troubling is that Montana’s Gov. Steve Bullock and Sen. Jon Tester, who paint themselves as knights in armor against dark money, are part and parcel of this deal. Bullock is also the chair of the Democratic Governors Association while Tester chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and fundraising is part of their duties since money, as they say, is the “mother’s milk of politics.”

That Kidder is a Sanders supporter will undoubtedly be tossed out by critics. But her revelations of back-door political chicanery deserve serious attention if the vote of the people is to be honored by Montana’s Democratic superdelegates.

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George Ochenski's column appears each Monday on the Missoulian's Opinion page. Contact him at oped@missoulian.com.

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