Bernie Sanders has the momentum in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, winning 7 of the last 8 primaries, and the massive data leak known as the Panama Papers has given Sanders extra ammunition to attack the front-runner, Hillary Clinton. This feeds directly into Sander’s narrative of the corrupt political system that exists today along with the wealthy elites taking part in criminal activity and escaping unscathed from prosecution. The Panama Papers has been deemed the largest data leak in history, exposing immense tax evasion by wealthy corporations and world leaders. 400 journalists were supposedly working on this for years, secretly decoding 11.5 million documents tied to a Panama-based law firm. The Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, the primary focus of the data leak, allegedly was taking part in helping its clients avoid being subjected to higher taxes within their home countries. The revelation is not particularly a surprise, as wealthy businessmen have been known to stash their money in offshore tax havens, where their money is subjected to a lesser tax.
Repercussions have already been felt throughout the world with the prime minister of Iceland resigning from office and not to mention, the president of China, whom is implicated in the document leaks, has prevented the state-run media from covering the issue.
Aside from the international repercussions that the Panama Papers have caused, this could be a huge factor in the upcoming Democratic primaries. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have increased their attacks on each other in recent weeks, as Sanders gains ground in the race; but if Sanders utilizes this information right, he could deliver a major blow to the Clinton campaign. In the past, Sanders has trashed Clinton for her support of various trade deals that have led to the outsourcing of US jobs, which simultaneously leave the door open for these tax havens. When Clinton supported the free trade deal between Panama and the US in 2009, her rationale was that the deal would lead to job creation in the US; however, Bernie Sanders warned of the tax haven issue before the deal was struck.
Clinton’s support of the 2009 Panama-US trade deal, in light of the Panama Papers leak, resulted in Sander’s claiming she is unqualified for president.
Specifically, Sanders stated: “I don’t think you are qualified (for president) if you supported the Panama Free Trade Agreement, something I very strongly opposed, which has made it easier for wealthy people and corporations all over the world to avoid paying taxes owed to their countries.”
The Clinton controversy does not end there with her ties to the Panama Papers. Her name has been connected to a Russian-controlled bank linked to Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, is explicitly tied to the leak, with the documents revolving around Podesta’s lobbying firm. Reportedly, the Podesta lobbying firm took on Sberbank, a Russian-based bank, that is accused of shifting government funds from Putin’s inner circle to foreign accounts. In fact, John’s brother, Anthony is listed as the lobbyist for the bank.
Now, this obviously does not necessarily mean Clinton has been taking part in any criminal activity, but it makes the common voter wonder. Can the US have a president that is tied to so many scandals? Whether it is the incident in Benghazi, her use of a private email server as Secretary of State, or her most recent problem: the Panama Papers; Hillary just cannot seem to get out of her own way, paving the way for Sanders insurgency into contention for the Democratic nomination. This could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in Clinton’s case; she has dealt with major adversity before, showing she is capable of enduring the pressure, but if more information comes out, tying her to the Panama Papers, then the Democratic primaries could shift enormously. This development will only help Bernie Sanders going forward, highlighting the clear contrast between the two candidates; Sanders is the anti-establishment, while Clinton is the establishment. Therefore, will this scandal negatively affect Hillary? It is hard to say since she is accustom to this type of adversity, but there is one thing she cannot control: the internet. If more information comes out tying her to this, then voters will surely take notice.
–Contributed by R.A.