By Gregg Re
Published May 07, 2019
Bernie Sanders' campaign on Tuesday unveiled a new "Campaign Equity Blueprint" that calls for a "buddy system" to protect staffers, as well as a recruitment system that deliberately tries to include at least "two women or minority candidates" in final interview pools, no matter what.
The blueprint, created by the workplace consulting companies Working IDEAL and Redwood Enterprise, follows accusations that Sanders' 2016 campaign leadership ignored complaints of systemic sexual misconduct.
The move also comes as former Vice President Joe Biden has opened a sizable lead over Sanders in the early days of the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, amid a slew of complaints that Biden personally touched women inappropriately. Biden has said he will be "more mindful" of others' personal space given changing "social norms."
The 16-page document released by the Sanders team contained few specifics, and included such headlines as "Your People Are Your Key To Victory" and "Your Campaign Culture Should Align With Your Campaign Values." Early on, the blueprint also calls on team leaders to "say thank you on a regular basis" and give "individual or team shout outs in emails and on conference calls."
To enhance minority representation, a "diverse interview slate policy" should be implemented, the blueprint says, because "research suggests that having at least two women or minority candidates in a finalist pool increases the likelihood that a woman or minority is hired (whereas having just one does not)."
As for microaggressions? Those should be "challenged," the document says. And the campaign should immediately "designate a safety officer or liaison to help troubleshoot housing and transportation risks."
Additionally, the campaign should use a "'buddy system' for travel and have an individual designated to troubleshoot housing and transportation risk issues," plus "clear and effective formal and informal reporting processes with multiple avenues."
That prescription might assuage concerns of campaign staffers still unnerved by the allegations that Latino outreach strategist Giulianna Di Lauro was touched in an inappropriate "sexual" manner in February 2016 by a Sanders surrogate, game show host Marco Antonio Regil.
Di Lauro was tasked with driving Regil to campaign events in Nevada, and later accused Regil of remarking that she had "beautiful curly hair" and inappropriately touching her.
Sanders' then-director of Latino outreach, Bill Velazquez, laughed off the episode, according to Di Lauro. "I bet you would have liked it if he were younger," he allegedly told her. Velazquez, in response, said he had taken Di Lauro's complaint seriously and denied the claims.
The blueprint, in an apparent last-ditch effort to appeal to Sanders staffers who might not see any inherent value in promoting a safe and inclusive workplace, goes on to declare, "An Inclusive Culture Helps Campaigns Succeed."
"Welcoming new ideas and perspectives can lead to innovations that save time or money instead of replicating the past," the document states. "A more diverse team adds value by expanding the voters, volunteers and donors the campaign can reach. Broader input can avoid policy or messaging mistakes."
Several other reported episodes ultimately forced the Sanders team to begin acting to address sexual misconduct complaints earlier this year, culminating in Tuesday's blueprint. In other incidents, according to individuals who spoke with various outlets and provided contemporaneous emails, male staffers commonly berated female colleagues and made lewd comments.
A letter written in January by more than two dozen former Sanders staffers alleged that a "predatory culture" pervaded the entire operation. Sanders' campaign called the letter a start to an "incredibly important discussion."
Sanders himself, initially, was less magnanimous. In an interview with CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," Sanders flatly claimed he was too "busy" to know about the sexual misconduct allegations that internally rocked his 2016 presidential campaign, even as he apologized to any women who had not been "treated appropriately."
Asked by Cooper whether he was unaware of the accusations, Sanders sarcastically replied: "Uh, yes. I was a little bit busy running around the country, trying to make the case." He then appeared to smile.
Sanders has made other efforts in recent days to differentiate himself from Biden, following the former vice president's sudden rise to front-runner status.
“I think if you look at Joe's record, and you look at my record, I don't think there's much question about who's more progressive,” Sanders said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Fox News' Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.