Speaking at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics on Monday, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told students that a handful of billionaires should not be allowed to possess the power to directly influence political elections. Sen. Sanders also addressed the fact that affluent political donors and super PACs have become more influential in recent campaigns than the candidates themselves. As the Supreme Court continues to lessen restrictions against contribution limits and transparency, Sanders has vowed to return political power back into the hands of the people.
“No nominee of mine to the United States Supreme Court will get that job unless he or she is loud and clear that one of their first orders of business will be to overturn Citizens United,” Sanders told his audience.
Due to its 2010 Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court betrayed democracy by allowing super PACs and nonprofit organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns without directly funding the candidates. The reckless decision also permitted dark money to corrupt the political process by concealing the identities of many donors. Four years later, the Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission to further overturn limits on aggregate federal campaign contributions.
“I do not exaggerate when I tell you that the foundations of American democracy are being undermined,” Sanders said. “American democracy is not supposed to be about billionaires buying elections.”
Reminding his audience that the Koch brothers plan to spend at least $900 million to influence next year’s elections, Sanders asserted that Americans no longer live in a democracy. Due to the fact that a small group of wealthy political donors have recently gained staggering influence over elections, Sanders told the students, “You are not looking at democracy, you are looking at oligarchy – and we have got to change that.”
Besides seeking out Supreme Court nominees who will overturn the Citizens United decision, Sanders has also called for public financing of campaigns. Instead of prostituting themselves for the amusement of deranged billionaires, candidates would stand on equal footing and avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest or financial bias towards wealthier donors.
On Twitter this week, Sanders wrote, “This campaign is about bringing people together to demand that our government represents all of us and not just a handful of billionaires.”