San­ders Ties Gov­ern­ment Shut­down to Bil­lion­aire

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM - Wash­ing­ton, DC

Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.) yes­ter­day at­tended oral ar­gu­ments be­fore the Supreme Court in a case that jus­tices could use to throw out some le­gal lim­its on con­tri­bu­tions by in­di­vid­ual donors to po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns.

“Free­dom of speech, in my view, does not mean the free­dom to buy the United States gov­ern­ment,” San­ders told a rally out­side the Supreme Court af­ter the one-hour oral ar­gu­ment.

The court’s rul­ing later this term in McCutcheon vs. FEC could fur­ther erode cam­paign fi­nance laws and ex­tend the con­tro­ver­sial 2010 Cit­i­zens United rul­ing which opened the flood­gates on cam­paign spend­ing by cor­po­ra­tions and wealthy in­di­vid­u­als.

Tak­ing ad­van­tage of the Cit­i­zens United rul­ing, the bil­lion­aires Charles and David Koch and other wealthy in­di­vid­u­als have pro­vided fi­nan­cial back­ing for the move­ment that forced a now week-old gov­ern­ment shut­down, ac­cord­ing to The New York Times. Some House Repub­li­cans, San­ders said, have gone along with their party’s right-wing Tea Party wing to fend off well-funded pri­mary chal­lenges.

“We are liv­ing in a so­ci­ety where a hand­ful of peo­ple with in­cred­i­ble sums of money like the Koch brothers and oth­ers, are un­der­min­ing what this democ­racy is sup­posed to be about,” San­ders said. “Right now, as we speak, in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives there are peo­ple who are be­ing threat­ened that if they vote for a clean CR [con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion to re­open the gov­ern­ment] that huge sums of money will be spent against them in the next elec­tion,” San­ders said.

At is­sue in the new case is a limit on how much donors may give to all can­di­dates and po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions dur­ing a two-year fed­eral elec­tion cy­cle. The cap now is $123,200. That in­cludes a sep­a­rate $48,600 limit on con­tri­bu­tions to in­di­vid­ual can­di­dates dur­ing 2013 and 2014. A sep­a­rate $2,600 limit on how much one in­di­vid­ual may give to any spe­cific can­di­date for Congress in any elec­tion is not di­rectly at stake in this case.

San­ders said the court’s pre­vi­ous rul­ing in Cit­i­zens United re­sulted in a record $7 bil­lion be­ing spent in the 2012 elec­tion cy­cle, in­clud­ing at least $400 mil­lion by the Koch brothers alone.

San­ders has pro­posed a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to over­turn that rul­ing. His amend­ment and a com­pan­ion mea­sure in the House by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) would make it clear that the right to vote and the abil­ity to make cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions and ex­pen­di­tures be­long only to real peo­ple. The amend­ment would ef­fec­tively pre­vent cor­po­ra­tions from bankrolling elec­tion cam­paigns. Congress and states would have spe­cific au­thor­ity to reg­u­late cam­paign fi­nances by, for ex­am­ple, lim­it­ing do­na­tions, re­quir­ing dis­clo­sure of donors or cre­at­ing pub­lic-fi­nanc­ing sys­tems for cam­paigns.

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