Bernie Sanders: Saving American Democracy

Sen. Bernie Sanders on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer talking about his proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court decision in a case called Citizens United vs. FEC. Blitzer asked Sanders about the time he
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Sen. Bernie Sanders on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer talking about his proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court decision in a case called Citizens United vs. FEC.

Blitzer asked Sanders about the time he "worked with" former Speaker of the House and now presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich and I love his response here. They served together in the House at the same time, but never "worked together" as Blitzer described it and Sanders was didn't pull any punches with calling Gingrich out for what he is, which is a right-wing ideologue who doesn't have the interests of the working class at heart.

Sanders also noted that he wasn't a fan of the payroll tax holiday because of what that might mean for the solvency of Social Security, which I agree with, but was sure to point out that what he did support was giving some tax relief to the working class and making sure the rich start to pay their fair share in taxes.

Bernie then moved on to his petition and just how dangerous the Citizens United decision was to our democracy in the United States with the rich being allowed to essentially buy off our politicians.

You can sign Bernie's petition here -- A Petition to Support the Saving American Democracy Amendment.

Transcript via CNN below the fold.

BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Senator Bernie Sanders. He is the independent senator from Vermont.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

I want to get to your latest initiative to try to deal with the unlimited amount of money that can go into campaigns, constitutional amendment you are pushing. But let me pick your brain for a minute a little bit on politics while I have you.

Newt Gingrich, I believe you worked in the House of Representatives when he was speaker. Is that right?

SANDERS: I was in the House when he was speaker. That's right.

BLITZER: What do you think of him as potentially Republican nominee?

SANDERS: Well, all can I say is, you know, Mr. Gingrich's views are very different than mine. I think he is out of touch with mainstream America and I suspect he will not be a strong candidate.

BLITZER: Give me one example where he is out of touch with mainstream America.

SANDERS: Actually -- you know, actually, I'm much more interested in talking about Citizens United.

BLITZER: I am, too. But I want to get to it in a minute. But I just -- only because you worked with Newt Gingrich when he was a speaker.

SANDERS: I worked with him. I didn't work with him. I was in the House when he was in the House. He was the Republican speaker. You know, Newt Gingrich is a right wing leader.

And I think that extreme right wing views are not what the American people are looking for right now. They want to see us create jobs. Gingrich does not support a strong jobs program. Rebuilding our infrastructure and putting our teachers back to work.

I think the American people in many cases want to transform our energy system. The American people, which is not Gingrich's view, the American people want to protect strongly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which is also not Mr. Gingrich's Point.

BLITZER: And you also obviously want to extend the payroll tax cut at least for another year so that millions of middle class families, working class families out there, won't see a tax increase.

SANDERS: Well, I am not a great fan of the payroll tax holiday because I'm nervous about what it does to the future of Social Security.

But what I do believe absolutely is that in the middle of a recession, the American middle class and working class needs a tax relief.

And we also have to fund that in a progressive way, i.e, asking the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes.

BLITZER: If they can't get that, raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, would you support allowing that pipeline to be built to Canada through the United States, which the Republicans are now demanding as quid pro quo? SANDERS: No, that would be an environmental disaster.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about your constitutional amendment right now. The Supreme Court says that it is freedom of speech to give money to politicians. What's wrong with that?

SANDERS: Well, what's wrong with that is by 5-4 disastrous decision, the Supreme Court said that Bank of America, ExxonMobil and other corporations are flesh and blood people entitled to first amendment rights.

There is nobody that I know who believes that Bank of America is a human being who should be entitled for the same constitutional rights that the people of our country are.

What's wrong with it is that at a time when money already plays a horrendous role, in terms of what goes on in Congress, what Citizens United has done, is made a terrible situation worse.

Here is what the practical impact of Citizens United means. What Citizens United means is that corporations call hundreds of millions of dollars into television ads, radio ads, and other forms of advertising to defeat those candidates who stand up and take them on.

It also means obviously they can support those candidates who support their agenda. What it means now, is you're going to have an unprecedented, hence and hundreds of millions of dollars coming into the political process, controlled by the wealthiest people in this country and largest corporations.

That, to me mind, is not what American democracy is supposed to be. I just will tell you this. We put up a petition on our web site on Thursday, and in three days, we have over 120,000 names on that petition.

The American people, whether you are Democrat, independent, Republican, progressive, conservative, do not believe corporations are people or that corporations should be able to buy elections.

BLITZER: But it's not just corporations. It's anyone who wants to create these kinds of super packs. Labor unions, for example, progressives can do the same thing. In fact, some of President Obama supporters have generated some super pacs to generate support for their respective causes.

SANDERS: That's absolutely right. Anybody can do it. My guess is that Republicans will be the major beneficiaries, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if it's Republicans. It doesn't matter if it's Democrats.

In my state, we have town meetings. People vote on their school budget, one person, one vote. People fought and died to defend democracy in this country, with the understanding that all of us together are what makes the democratic process real.

Most people that I know don believe that a handful of corporations request sit together without disclosure, by the way, and pump hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars into the political process. That is not the democracy that many of us believe America should be.

BLITZER: So basically, just to wrap this up, whether it is done by the Koch brother, let's say, on the right or George Soros on the left, you hate this, and you want to see it changed?

SANDERS: This is going to be a real blow to the American democratic process, no matter who is funding it. What it means in practical sense is that when somebody comes up to vote, walks up to the table in the Senate and decides whether or not to vote against Wall Street, vote against drug companies, vote against the coal companies.

They're going to be thinking. If I cast that vote, will I go home next week and find millions and millions of dollars of corporate campaign ads this come back against me. So it allows countries who already have enormous power to have even more power.

BLITZER: We're out of time. Very quickly, the last time we spoke, you weren't yet ready to endorse President Obama's re-election. Have you made up your mind?

SANDERS: Well, President Obama is I believe strong to be candidate. I believe in President Obama begins the fight of the working family in this country, show working people that he's going to stand up to big money interest. I think he will win this election and I look forward very much to supporting him.

BLITZER: All right. That's a change from our last conversation, always good, Senator, to speak with you. Appreciate it very much.

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