Three of the top media strategists for Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders stepped away from his 2020 campaign on Tuesday, citing creative differences over their vision for his fledgling White House run.
Prominent consultants Tad Devine, Mark Longabaugh, and Julian Mulvey, who played leading roles in Sanders’ insurgent 2016 presidential campaign, said they would not work on the Vermont senator’s 2020 bid for the Democratic nomination, which was launched last week.
“We are leaving because we believe that Senator Sanders deserves to have media consultants who share his creative vision for the campaign,” the three said in a joint statement.
The three are partners in a media consulting firm that produced 275 television, radio and digital ads for the Sanders campaign in the 2016 race. It also put together the video that Sanders used to launch his 2020 campaign, and advised Sanders on his announcement schedule and rollout, Longabaugh said.
In 2016, Devine also served as a top political strategist and frequent spokesman for Sanders, while Longabaugh was a senior adviser and Mulvey was creative director for the ad campaigns. Many of the firm’s 2016 ads drew wide notice and critical acclaim during the campaign.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to have worked for Senator Sanders in his historic 2016 campaign for president,” the strategists said in their statement.
According to Federal Election Commission records, the Sanders campaign paid the firm about $5.3 million during the 2016 cycle for its services.
“The campaign appreciates all the good work DML has done and wishes them well,” Sanders’ new campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said in a statement, using an acronym for the firm run by the three.
As he launches his second run, Sanders has been under pressure to bring in a more diverse set of advisers than the largely white inner circle that ran his 2016 bid.
Sanders has already proven to be a fundraising juggernaut in the first week of his presidential run. His campaign said on Tuesday he had raised about $10 million from nearly 360,000 donors in the first week.
He will make his first campaign trail appearances this weekend with rallies in Brooklyn, where he was born and raised, and Chicago.
The split comes after Devine drew attention last year for his connections to former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. Devine worked with Manafort to help elect pro-Russian Victor Yanukovich president of Ukraine in 2010.
Manafort has been convicted of multiple felony counts by Special Counsel Robert Mueller related to his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Devine testified at Manafort’s trial, but was not accused of wrongdoing.
Russia has denied meddling in the election. Republican President Donald Trump has called Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt.
Reporting by John Whitesides; editing by Jonathan Oatis