News April 3

Senator Sanders

Supreme Court Rules for the Rich Sen. Bernie Sanders denounced a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that fundamentally undermines American democracy by striking down limits on total donations that individuals may make to political candidates and parties, the Burlington Free PressMoyers & Company and London’s Daily Mail reported. “These five justices are working night and day to make the wealth and powerful more wealthy and more powerful,” Sanders told nationally syndicated radio host Leslie Marshall. We have to be careful that we do not let this great country … become a plutocracy or an oligarchy. That, frankly, is the direction that we are moving,” Sanders said in a Senate speech shown on WFFF-TV and WVYN-TVLINK, LINK, LINK, VIDEO 

Democracy Now! Sen. Sanders said the Supreme Court’s ruling only offers “freedom” to a handful of wealthy donors who can afford to dump more than $125,000 into campaigns. “For them to plop a few billion dollars into the political process,” Sen. Sanders told Amy Goodman in a Thursday morning interview for Democracy Now! “It’s just an outrage… I suspect in the next presidential campaign, the Koch brothers themselves will spend a billion dollars to elect the candidate of their choice.” VIDEO

Court Commentary The decision elicited strong disapproval from a host of Democrats and liberals. President Barack Obama, a spokesman said, was “disappointed,” and Sen. Sanders predicted that henceforth, “billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson will control our political process,” according to a Chicago Tribune editorial. “Freedom of speech, in my view, does not mean the freedom to buy the United States government,” Sen. Sanders said in a Rutland Herald and Times Argus editorial. Writing for Politico, National Review editor Rich Lowry didn’t like the way “Sanders natters on about the decision creating ‘an oligarchic form of society.’” LINK, LINK, LINK

Oligarchs and Plutocrats An oligarchy is a system of "government by the few." Rooted in Greek, oligos means "few" and arch means "rule," as in monarch or hierarchy. Plutocracy has been used in English since the middle of the 17th century to refer to the rule or power of the wealthy. Pluto comes from the Greek for "wealth." Back in 1917, Theodore Roosevelt said government by a plutocracy is un-American. It took Sen. Sanders to roll both terms into one sentence in a speech railing against domestic spending cuts, he said: "This is not what democracy looks like. This is what oligarchy and plutocracy look like," the Christian Science Monitor reported. LINK

Burlington Bus Strike A new contract proposal was reached after talks wrapped up at 3 a.m. Thursday. A vote at noon Thursday could effectively end the strike that has affected more than 9,000 daily bus riders. Sen. Sanders has talked to both sides to help them reach a deal, New England Cable News reported. Both sides met Wednesday with Gov. Peter Shumlin and Phil Fiermonte, Sanders’ outreach director, the Burlington Free Press reported. VIDEO, LINK, LINK


NASA Breaks Most Contact With Russia NASA said Wednesday that it was suspending most contacts with Russian space agency officials, underscoring just how rapidly the Russian-American relationship is deteriorating in the wake of the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and hinting at further ramifications that will go beyond previous rifts. The one exception, NASA said, would involve operations of the International Space Station, the primary space collaboration between the two countries, The New York Times reported.


Democrats Consider Smaller Minimum-Wage Increase Senate Democrats, currently lacking the votes needed to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, are opening the door to talks with Republicans about a smaller wage increase. Senate leaders said they wouldn't take such a step until their chamber votes on a Democratic bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25, and index it to inflation. That vote could come as soon as next week, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Senate to Release of Report on CIA Torture Two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday announced their support for declassifying parts of a long-delayed report on the C.I.A.’s defunct detention and interrogation program, all but assuring that the committee will approve the report and send it to President Obama for eventual release, The New York Times reported. LINK

Health Enrollment Numbers Lift Hopes After months of pummeling by Republicans and with a grim election season approaching, Democrats on Tuesday had a rare bright day. With President Obama’s announcement that the new health care plan had enrolled 7.1 million Americans, Democrats for the first time this election year showed confidence that they have at least stanched the bleeding, according to The New York Times. LINK


Shap Says Shummy Goes Too Slow on Minimum Wage Gov. Peter Shumlin earlier this year jump-started a push to raise the minimum wage, but House lawmakers say his plan doesn’t move fast enough. The governor and the Legislature could be headed for a showdown on the high-profile labor bill, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

VPT Boss Gets Boot Vermont Public Television President John King is leaving the station. VPT did not say why King was leaving or whether he was fired or resigned. The VPT board named Charlie Smith interim president and CEO, effective immediately. The move comes after what Seven Days reported as an internal dispute between King and VPT’s board chairwoman Pam Mackenzie, VPR reported. LINK