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Amazon and Bernie

You have to admire the ingenuity.

Sen. Bernie Sanders

It turns out you can’t buy everything on Amazon.com after all.

The online retail giant is quashing an effort by a Texas teenager to use the company’s website to funnel cash into his newly formed pro-Bernie Sanders super PAC.

The Bern2016 super PAC was officially launched [last] week by 15-year-old Sebastian Burnham of Austin — a high school senior who cannot yet vote for his preferred candidate but is legally allowed to create a super PAC to advocate on Sanders’ behalf.

Super PACs can raise unlimited sums of money to advocate for or against federal politicians, although they cannot coordinate their spending with candidates. Conversely, the candidates themselves have virtually no control over these independent efforts.

Burnham, an active blogger who plans to study political science in college, says he wants to focus on raising money from grassroots givers — as Sanders himself has — and he thought he had developed a novel plan to do so.

Until recently, Burnham’s group stated on its website — ProgressivesForBernie.com — that pro-Sanders shoppers could use a specialized Amazon.com link to donate to the super PAC “for free.”

The idea was to have a percentage of every purchase made by users who were referred there by Bern2016 benefit the super PAC.

But Amazon.com isn’t on board.

“It has come to our attention that you are not in compliance with the Associates Program Operating Agreement,” Amazon.com wrote in an email to Burnham after questions from the Center for Public Integrity. “If you are not in compliance within five business days, we will be forced to terminate the Operating Agreement, close your Associates account and withhold advertising fees.”

In an emailed statement, Amazon.com spokesman Tom Cook said the company takes “the appropriate action” when it becomes “aware that an organization or company has violated the operating agreement.”

Burnham called the company’s decision a “setback” for his super PAC, adding that he had removed the specialized Amazon.com link but would continue searching for other similar programs that could be used.

Gotta admit, this wouldn’t have occurred to me. I honestly don’t know how much one might be able to raise via this mechanism – among other things, I’d think that the universe of avid Sanders supporters contains a non-trivial number of people who are repelled by Amazon’s labor practices – but if you get past the questionable legality and the apparent resistance by Amazon, it’s pretty ingenious. Too bad we won’t get a chance to see how it might have worked in practice.

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