Senate poised to vote on constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United

News Release — Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sept. 7, 2014

Contact:
Michael Briggs
(202) 224-5141

BURLINGTON, Vt., Sept. 7 – One day before the U.S. Senate votes on a constitutional amendment to restore limits on big money in politics, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called the drive to undo Supreme Court decisions that gutted campaign finance laws “the major issue of our time” and said Monday’s showdown vote is “a pivotal moment in American history.”

“Billionaires buying elections is not what our Constitution stands for,” said Sanders. He is a cosponsor of the amendment to reverse Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and later court rulings that let millionaires and billionaires spend virtually unlimited and unregulated sums to sway elections.

“The major issue of our time is whether the United States of America retains its democratic foundation or whether we devolve into an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires are able to control our political process by spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect candidates who represent their interests,” Sanders said.

Vermont and 15 other states along with voters and city councils in more than 500 cities and towns already have passed measures supporting a constitutional amendment. A survey last spring conducted by the Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner polling firm found that the Citizens United ruling was opposed by 80 percent of those surveyed. Despite such overwhelming and growing public support, Sanders warned that Republican obstruction tactics could block the Senate from even taking a vote on the proposed amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling.

After the 5-4 decision was handed down in 2010, billionaires like the industrialists Charles and David Koch contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to Republican candidates and causes. The Center for Public Integrity recently reported that Koch brother organizations have already funded almost 44,000 ads in battleground states in the 2014 elections. Unlike overwhelming majorities in America, they support candidates who will preserve tax loopholes for corporations and the rich, favor slashing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and block legislation to address the planetary crisis of global warming.

Sanders has denounced the court’s equation of freedom of speech with the freedom to spend campaign funds. “Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to buy the United States government,” he said.

Press Release

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  • Susan Allen

    Funny- isn’t that exactly what BIG UNION has been going for generations…buying the U S Government? Maybe they’re upset because now convservatives actually have a way to counter that influx of millions of dollars to a particular political party.

    • Joseph F. Whelan

      By the way, if you are going to praise conservatives, you ought to spell the word correctly. Journalists lose a great deal of credibility when they make spelling or typing errors. Such errors indicate carelessness.

  • Paul Donovan

    The Citizens United did not unleash corporate money on the electoral process; there was a lot more money in the 2012 election it’s true, but there was no huge uptick in corporate money; corporate expenditures remained about the same, as far as can be determined. And that makes sense; corporations would rather stay out of the high-risk game of supporting particular politicians (as Target learned when they were boycotted for supporting a candidate who was against same-sex marriage), and spend their money on lobbying where it’s more effective and hidden from view. Nor did Citizens United pronounce corporations are people; they already were, and for a lot a good reasons. The real problem of billionairs buying elections is caused by a failure of the FEC to regulate the private groups spending the money. First there was the “soft money” loophole. When that was closed, there were the “issue” ads to bypass existing rules. After that there were the “527” groups and “swift boating”. The 527s have been replaced by SuperPACS and 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6)s. The entire reform game has been the regulatory equivalent of whack-a-mole. What Citizens United did was to virtually erase the line defining influence and corruption. Before, spending money and gifts and trips on politicians alone was enough to give rise to the appearance to corruption, and that acted as a brake. What Citizens United did was to state that money provided by groups like Karls Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the SuperPACs does not corrupt, thus substantially limiting the extend to which Congress and the States can regulate independent expenditures. Bernie has correctly identified the problem of creeping oligarchy, but “overturning Citizens United” only distracts from the infinitely more simple solution of enacting regulations to limit individual expenditures which Congress and the FEC failed to do.

  • Paul Donovan

    There is no evidence that the Citizens United decision unleashed an increase in corporate spending. Corporations don’t like to support individual candidates; Target learned that when they were boycotted for suporting a candidate who opposed same-sex marriage. Corporations prefer to spend their money in lobbying, where it’s more effective and hidden from view.
    Nor did Citizens United pronounce that corporations are people; they already were, and for a lot of good reasons.
    What Citizens United did do, though, is state that “ingratiation and access” are NOT corruption. Previously, ingratiation and access created the appearance of corruption, which was enough to put a brake on possible corrupt practices. Citizens United erased that distinction and unleashed a flood of private money through loopholes in the law big enough to drive a truck through.
    First there was the soft-money loophole. When that was closed, the “issue ads” were created. Then came the creation of the 527 groups and “swift boating”. When that was stopped they morphed into SuperPACs and 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6)s. This is a failure of regulation by Congress and the FEC; campaign reform has become a game of regulatory whack-a-mole. The important thing is that Citizens United substantially limited the extent to which Congress and the FEC can regulate independent expenditures by declaring what was previously corrupt, wasn’t corrupt anymore; although Bernie has correctly identified the problem, the solution lies in Congress and the FEC doing the regulatory job they’re supposed to, not in a Constitutional amendment.

    • Paul Donovan

      oops. I apologize for the duplication.

  • Paul Richards

    Between 2005 and 2011 the unions spent $4.4 BILLION on political activity. It’s interesting that when the liberal’s funding scheme is threatened they will do everything in their ever increasing power to defend it.

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