Campaign Finance

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks in front of the Supreme Court at a rally after hearing oral arguments in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case on October 8, 2013.

In January 2010, in a case of massive judicial overreach, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission that swept aside more than a century of legal precedent that banned corporate money from political campaigns. In this narrowly decided 5-4 decision, the court overturned the foundation of America's campaign finance laws that had prevented wealthy individuals and large corporations from gaining even more influence over the American political system. Sen. Sanders described it as "one of the worst decisions ever brought about by the Supreme Court of this country."

This and other recent rulings have established that corporations and individuals are free to donate unlimited amounts to independent expenditure groups, now commonly known as super PACs.  Thanks to Citizens United and its progeny, the wealthiest individuals, corporations, and special interests can use their resources to influence elections and ensure elected officials are beholden to their policy interests. In the 2012 election, 32 major super PAC donors contributed more money than the millions of “small donors”—Americans who contributed less than $200 each. An analysis by U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Demos showed that more than 60 percent of all super PAC funds came from just 159 donors, who each gave more than $1 million.   

For more than thirty years, Sen. Sanders has been a staunch advocate for effective campaign finance reform that reduces the influence of special interests and corporations. To that end, he has introduced a resolution to amend the U.S. Constitution, making it clear that the right to vote and the ability to make campaign contributions and expenditures belong only to real people, not corporations. The Democracy is for People Amendment (S. J Res 11) would effectively prevent corporations from bankrolling election campaigns. Congress and the States would have specific authority to regulate campaign finances. Read an FAQ on the amendment.

“If we cannot control billionaires’ power to buy elections, the people elected to office will be responsive to the needs of the rich and powerful, rather than the needs of everyone else.”

- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sen. Sanders has also supported other efforts to reform our nation's campaign finance system. He has continuously supported the DISCLOSE Act, which would lower the veil of secrecy over campaign finance and prevent foreign corporations, individuals and governments from interfering in our political system.  Ultimately, Sen. Sanders believes the best way to limit special interest and corporate influence over the political process is to transition to public funding of elections, effectively removing outside money from the system entirely. To read more about the history of campaign finance reform and Senator Sanders’ views, click here.