Progressive Spotlight: David Sirota.

The Lever Founder Combats Corporate + Political Corruption.

An image of David Sirota next to the logo for his media company, The Lever. Image Description: An image of David Sirota next to the logo for his media company, The Lever.

Summary: The journalist, political strategist, radio personality, and screenwriter has built an independent media network that challenges authority through rigorous, unflinching investigative reporting.

Where do you start with David Sirota?

The journalist has had a long and impactful career spanning various mediums, including radio, podcasting, and the written word. Briefly interrupted for a stint as a political adviser at various levels—a stint as a Bernie Sanders presidential campaign speech writer among these—his journey culminated in the founding of The Lever, one of the country’s most significant progressive media outlets.

Sirota has left no journalistic stone unturned as he established himself as one of the premier investigative reporters in the field, with much of his work devoted to scrutinizing the intersection of corporate power, corruption, and politics.

His star truly began to shine during the period he spent as senior editor of investigations at the International Business Times, where he reported on all sorts of corporate malfeasance and political wrongdoing. Peruse Sirota’s still public profile on IBT’s site and you’re immediately struck by the breadth of his coverage and award-winning work. One such piece in 2017 exposed how foreign governments use U.S.-based lobbyists to funnel campaign money—a creative loophole skirting campaign finance laws prohibiting campaigns from accessing foreign money.

“It’s a big, open, bipartisan business, with foreign government lobbyists delivering millions of dollars of campaign cash to elected officials in Washington,” Sirota reported.

Before taking on multinational companies, the donor base, and powerful politicians in Washington and beyond, Sirota made his mark in local journalism and radio in Denver. Prior to that, Sirota advised the campaign of former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, and later served as Bernie Sanders’ press secretary when he was in Congress.

Sirota would parlay that experience—and his relentless advocacy for progressive policies—into a role in Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. He helped produce the campaign’s hard-hitting newsletter, appropriately titled “Bern Notice,” and was instrumental in articulating the campaign’s messaging as a speech writer.

As Sirota told The New York Times in 2020 about his role: “I’m a ‘speech researcher,’ nobody tells Bernie Sanders what to say,” he said, noting that Sanders largely constructed speeches himself. While Sirota had no problem making a name for himself in progressive circles, the Times article helped introduce him to a wider audience, albeit by focusing almost exclusively on his criticism of establishment media.

Sirota isn’t alone in playing political adviser for the Sanders campaign and journalist. Briahna Joy Gray, host of the “Bad Faith” podcast, was a senior political editor at The Intercept before joining Sanders’ 2020 campaign as national press secretary. She’s now among the most prominent progressive voices in independent media—as is Sirota.

Interestingly, Sirota acknowledged to the Times that his work with the Sanders campaign could preclude him from returning to journalism.

As it turns out, Sirota discovered he could be a champion for anti-corruption policies and progressive programs and simultaneously pursue journalism: In 2020 he founded The Lever, which has transformed from a newsletter-styled project to a multimedia outlet that includes a podcast—“Lever Time”—hosted by Sirota himself.

Oh, and if you didn’t think Sirota was well-rounded enough, he also co-wrote the Oscar-nominated film “Don’t Look Up,” a critique of our institutions’ inability to confront disaster—including the media.

If the medium is the message, you’ll be able to hear Sirota loud and clear on any and all platforms.

Pretty good for someone who questioned his prospects only a few short years ago.

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Rashed Mian is the managing editor of News Beat. Mian previously covered civil liberties and the Muslim American community for Long Island Press. Mian graduated with a degree in journalism from Hofstra University. Mian is interested in under-reported stories that impact disenfranchised communities as well as issues related to civil liberties.