Sanders Proposes Public Funding of Elections to Replace ‘Corrupt’ System of ‘Legalized Bribery’

In a Senate floor speech Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders said he would introduce legislation to provide public funding of elections to replace a “corrupt” system of “legalized bribery’ with candidates “begging for contributions from the wealthy and the powerful.”

“We are talking about a rapid movement in this country toward oligarchy, toward a government owned and controlled by a handful of extremely wealthy families,” Sanders said.

Sanders agreed with former President Jimmy Carter’s description of the current campaign funding system in the United States as “unlimited political bribery.” In a July 28 radio interview on The Thom Hartmann Program, Carter spoke of “a complete subversion of our political system, as a payoff to major contributors who want, and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election is over.”

Sanders said he will formally introduce legislation when Congress returns in September to provide public funding of campaigns to make elections more competitive and allow candidates to spend more time discussing issues with voters and less time raising campaign funds.

So far in this campaign, 35 individuals have donated more than $1 million to Super PACs, according to The Associated Press. Sanders also cited a Sunlight Foundation analysis which found more than two-thirds of all the money raised by presidential candidates so far in this campaign has gone to super PACs, not to candidates’ own campaign committees. Super PACs are the new fundraising vehicles created after the Supreme Court, in a 2010 case known as Citizens United, voided decades-old limits on campaign funding by corporations and wealthy individuals. 

Just one family, the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, plan to invest some of their fossil-fuel fortune and, along with other wealthy donors, bankroll a $900 million political operation this election cycle. That’s more than either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party will each spend on the 2016 campaigns, Sanders noted.

“I will be introducing legislation which calls for public funding of elections, which will enable any candidate, regardless of his or her political views, to run for office without being beholden to powerful special interests,” Sanders said.