KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Bernie Sanders is launching a new political organization tonight. It's called Our Revolution. It aims to support candidates and advance a progressive agenda. But the revolution is getting off to a rocky start. Several key staffers abruptly resigned over the weekend in a dispute over the group's leadership and direction. NPR's Brian Naylor has the story.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won 23 primaries and caucuses in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination while attracting millions of supporters, many of them young voters. Jeff Weaver, who ran Sanders' campaign and is now in charge of Our Revolution, says the group aims to tap into that enthusiasm.
JEFF WEAVER: We will be supporting candidates in the medium and longer term, working to help train people who want to be candidates so that we create a progressive bench.
NAYLOR: But Weaver's decision to allow the group to accept money from anonymous donors led eight staffers to resign from the group, including its organizing director, Claire Sandberg.
CLAIRE SANDBERG: Jeff chose a legal structure for the organization that prevented us from doing effective organizing for down-ballot candidates. And he did that for one reason - so that he could take big checks from billionaires.
NAYLOR: That, of course, is the antithesis of the presidential campaign in which Sanders liked to point out his average contribution was...
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Twenty-seven dollars.
BERNIE SANDERS: Twenty-seven dollars.
NAYLOR: But Weaver says there is a difference between a presidential campaign and a group like Our Revolution.
WEAVER: You know, in a presidential race, you know, the key is you don't want someone elected president who then is beholden to wealthy individuals or interests. But, you know, in the case of a non-profit, it's a much different situation. You know, I have nothing to offer people in return for their support other than pushing forward the progressive goals and agenda that I think everybody who supported Bernie Sanders shares.
NAYLOR: But because of its structure, the group can't take the money it raises and contribute it directly to candidates it supports. There's another reason for the walkout at Our Revolution, and that is Weaver himself. Sanders supporters like Claire Sandberg say Weaver mismanaged the presidential campaign.
SANDBERG: All of us who worked on the campaign and witnessed Jeff's management of the campaign saw that his failed leadership is what cost Bernie the nomination.
NAYLOR: Weaver shrugs off the criticism, saying he spent nearly his entire adult life working for Sanders.
WEAVER: You know, I understand the disappointment that people felt about that. And, you know, it's cathartic for people to sort of make me the lightning rod, or their upset about not having won. I certainly - you know, I'm certainly willing to play that role for them.
NAYLOR: What's unclear is what role Sanders himself will have in Our Revolution. As a federal officeholder, Sanders faces limits on the kind of fundraising he can do for other candidates. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.