Bernie Sanders staff shakeup: Top strategists leave his presidential campaign

Bernie Sanders, Tad Devine
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks to the campaign chief strategist Tad Devine at the Van Dam diner on April 9, 2016, in the Queens borough of New York. Copyright Mary Altaffer AP file
By Alex Seitz-Wald with NBC News Politics
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The chief strategist of the Vermont independent's 2016 campaign and two other aides cited creative differences as they parted ways.


WASHINGTON — In major shakeup to his just-launched presidential bid, some of Bernie Sanders' top strategists have left the campaign.

Tad Devine, Mark Longabaugh and Julian Mulvey, colleagues in a political consulting firm who all played leading roles in Sanders' 2016 campaign for the White House, are parting ways with the senator, citing creative differences.

"The entire firm has stepped away. We're leaving the campaign," Longabaugh told NBC News. "We just didn't have a meeting of the minds."

Devine, a veteran Democratic presidential operative, was a familiar presence on TV in 2016 as Sanders' chief strategist, responsible for setting the early direction of the campaign when few other Washington insiders believed a little-known Vermont independent could be a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Longabaugh helped design and implement the campaign's delegate-hunting roadmap and negotiated with key outside players like the Democratic National Committee on issues like debates.

Mulvey helped craft the firm's ads for Sanders, including his most famous commercial, which featured the Simon & Garfunkel song "America."

All together, the firm produced 275 television, radio and digital ads for that campaign and was involved in much of the campaign's top decision-making.

"The campaign appreciates all the good work DML has done and wishes them well," Sanders' new campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said in a statement, referring to the name of their firm.

The firm had had been hiring staff in anticipation of Sanders' 2020 campaign, and produced the video Sanders used to announce his campaign last week.

"We are leaving because we believe that Sen. Sanders deserves to have media consultants who share his creative vision for the campaign," Devine, Longabaugh, and Mulvey said in a joint statement.

The firm came under some criticism from Sanders allies for the money they made from Sanders and his small-dollar fundraising machines, with $5.3 million in direct payments to the firm from the 2016 campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission reports.

Devine also has faced renewed scrutiny for his international consulting work in Ukraine with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has plead guilty to financial crimes and is awaiting sentencing.

And Sanders has pledged to diversify the top ranks of his campaign, which has been overwhelmingly white and male.

The Sanders campaign declined to immediately say who will replace the three men in either their roles as admakers or strategists.

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