At a congressional summit Wednesday about the Citizens United decision, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said the U.S. Congress was only concerned about the “wealthy and powerful” because of the influence of campaign contributions.
“This country faces enormous problems, the middle-class is declining, poverty is increasing, we’re worried about global warming, we’re worried about health care, we’re worried about education,” he said, “and the American people are looking to Washington and saying, ‘What’s going on? We have enormous problems, and you’re not addressing those problems.’”
“One of the reasons that Congress is not addressing those problems is the power of big money in terms of campaign contributions and in terms of lobbying,” Sanders continued. “Working people are trying to keep their heads above water, and here on Capitol Hill all kinds of money is flooding into this institution so that Congress spends day and night worrying about the wealthy and powerful, and forgetting about the middle-class and working families.”
He blasted the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which held that limiting corporate campaign spending violated the First Amendment. The ruling gave rise to super PACS, which can raise an unlimited amount of money to influence federal elections as long as they do not directly coordinate with a candidate’s campaign, allowing campaign spending by outside groups to skyrocket.
“Bank of America, Citigroup, Exxon Mobile, just like you and me, they can go into their corporate treasury and spend as much money as they want in campaigns to buy politicians and to buy elections,” Sanders claimed.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), who was also at the summit, said that efforts to ratify a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United were unlikely to succeed in the near future. However, those efforts were setting up a “ground game” that legislators could capitalize on later.
“It’s about American’s everywhere signing petitions and taking action and charting out a path to a more perfect union,” he said.
Hawaii and New Mexico have passed resolutions calling on Congress to overturn the ruling, and similar resolutions are being considered by 17 other states.
Sen. Charles Schumer said at the summit that the Citizens United decision was the worst since Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld state laws enacting racial segregation.
“Something like 17 people have given half the Republican super PACS half of their money,” he noted. “What is happening to America?”
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube on April 18, below: