Sen. Sanders: Supreme Court Undermines Democracy By Allowing Billionaires To Buy Elections

Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses the latest disastrous ruling to come out of the Supreme Court, giving the likes of the Koch brothers even more power to buy our elections with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman: Sen. Bernie Sanders: Supreme Court Undermines Democracy by Allowing Billionaires to "Buy Elections":

AMY GOODMAN: As the 2014 election season gets underway, the Supreme Court has issued a major ruling on campaign finance in a case described by many as "the next Citizens United." In a 5-to-4 vote Wednesday, the court’s conservative justices eliminated a long-standing limit on how much donors can give in total to federal candidates, party committees and political action committees in a two-year election cycle. Without any aggregate limit, a donor can now give millions of dollars directly to candidates and parties.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, quote, "There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders. ... Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects."

In an unusual dissent from the bench, Justice Stephen Breyer said the decision, quote, "eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve." Judge Breyer went on to say, quote, "If the court in Citizens United opened a door, today’s decision may well open a floodgate."

Meanwhile, Justice Clarence Thomas said he agreed with the majority opinion, but he wrote separately to say he would have gone further and wiped away all contribution limits.

For more, we go to Capitol Hill, where we’re joined by Senator Bernie Sanders, independent senator from Vermont. Last year he introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling that allowed unrestricted, secret campaign spending. Sanders was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He’s the longest-serving independent member of Congress in American history.

Senator Sanders, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you first share your response to the Supreme Court decision?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It was a disastrous decision, following on the footsteps of Citizens United. And, Amy, in my view, you know, what the justices, the right-wing justices, are talking about is freedom of speech for billionaires and large corporations to own American democracy. At a time when we already have enormous income and wealth inequality in this country, what the justices are saying is that these very same people can now basically purchase the United States government, can spend unlimited sums of money on elections. And I think that is a disaster for the foundations of American democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Could you pass a law that says contributions must be made transparent, and sooner than they are now?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Yeah, you could pass that law. In fact, there’s been a bill around that we didn’t get Republican support for. It’s called the DISCLOSE Act. But that doesn’t go far enough. I mean, in the real world, this is what’s going on. In the real world, you have families like the Koch brothers, and you saw the spectacle in Las Vegas last week of Sheldon Adelson. And these people are prepared. These people, Amy, have billions of dollars. The Koch brothers are worth $80 billion. For them to pop a few billion dollars into the political process, for Sheldon Adelson to call prospective Republican nominees for the presidency to come before him to hear what they have to say so maybe he can anoint them with his hundreds of millions of dollars, is just an outrage to the struggles that people have undertaken in this country for democracy.

And, by the way, if you listen carefully—and you just mentioned this—what Judge Thomas was talking about—and this is where the Republicans want to go; make no mistakes about it—they say, "This is not enough. What we want," what Judge Thomas and the Republican Party want, "eventually, is to lift all limitations," so the Koch brothers or Adelson can pour millions of dollars directly into every right-wing candidate in this country. Read on...


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