Don’t Let Billionaires Buy the Senate, Sanders Tells Labor Convention

LAS VEGAS, Oct. 15 – Speaking at a labor union convention here today, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the future of American democracy is at stake. 

“We are not living in a democracy when 60 percent of Americans are not voting, while billionaires like the Koch Brothers are spending hundreds of millions to buy the United States Senate. That's called oligarchy, not democracy,” Sanders said.

The billionaires Charles and David Koch and other wealthy individuals are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into this fall’s campaigns by taking advantage of a disastrous 2010 Supreme Court ruling and subsequent court decisions that gutted federal and state laws limiting campaign spending.

“The Koch Brothers are trying to buy the Senate,” Sanders said. “This is not what democracy is supposed to be about. Billionaires should not be allowed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars electing candidates who represent the wealthy and the powerful.”

Sanders has long advocated pubic funding of campaigns to make elections more about ideas and less about which candidates have more money in their campaign coffers.

Sanders also is a co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision. Senate Republicans on Sept. 11 blocked consideration of the amendment. “While the Senate vote was a victory for Republicans, it was a defeat for American democracy. The fight to overturn Citizens United must continue at the grassroots level in every state in this country,” Sanders told the convention.

In his speech, Sanders also warned that a factor likely to skew election outcomes this Nov. 4 is that fewer than 40 percent of eligible voters are expected to cast ballots. (Only 37.8 percent of the voting age population went to the polls in the last mid-term election in 2010.) Even smaller percentages of young people and black voters are expected to turn out this Election Day.

He urged the union delegates to redouble efforts in their communities to boost turnout so the election outcomes reflect the views of strong majorities of Americans who want Congress to help create jobs, address the collapse of the middle class, close corporate tax loopholes and make the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.