The U.S. Senate votes Monday on whether to take up a constitutional amendment that would restore limits on big money in politics. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday called the drive to undo Supreme Court decisions that gutted campaign finance laws “the major issue of our time.” Monday’s showdown vote, he added, 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.