In an effort to avoid the kind of criticism that dogged Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s wife and son are suspending their nonprofit think tank, The Sanders Institute.
The institute’s board of directors agreed to shut it down, at least during Sanders’s campaign for president, “so there could not even be an appearance of impropriety,” Jane Sanders told the Associated Press, which first reported the story.
The two-year-old nonprofit, which promotes the senator’s liberal ideology, accepts donations but does not disclose who gave them. To continue the practice while Sanders (I-Vt.) is running for president would be akin to what Sanders and others criticized Clinton for doing as a candidate.
When he was running against her, Sanders accused Clinton of using her family’s nonprofit, the Clinton Foundation, as a way for donors to buy access to her without having to disclose their contributions.
Sanders, who has built his political brand around issues of fairness, risked being viewed as a hypocrite if his family continued operating an organization funded by Sanders’s political allies.
The institute’s fellows include top supporters of Sanders’s campaign. Among them is Nina Turner, a campaign co-chair, and Shaun King, a Black Lives Matter activist and writer who helped introduce Sanders at his kickoff rally in Brooklyn earlier this month.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who is also running for president, is listed as a fellow on the institute’s website.
Like the Clinton Foundation and the Trump Foundation, the Sanders Institute would have come under intense scrutiny if it had continued to operate.
Additionally, Sanders’s personal financial record will be closely examined in the coming months if the senator makes good on a promise to release 10 years of his tax returns to the public. Sanders has not given a specific timetable for when that might happen, which leaves him open to attacks about his transparency.