Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) blasted the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday to abolish overall federal campaign spending limits, meaning that wealthy individuals now have carte blanche to spend as much as they like to affect the outcomes of federal elections.
“Freedom of speech, in my view, does not mean the freedom to buy the United States government,” said Sanders in a statement.
Wednesday’s 5-to-4 Court vote struck down limits on total amounts that individual donors can contribute to parties, candidates and political action committees within a two-year federal election cycle.
Sanders warned that this will give billionaires like brothers Charles and David Koch unfettered access to the airwaves for campaign ad buys and to candidates themselves.
“What world are the five conservative Supreme Court justices living in?” Sanders said. “To equate the ability of billionaires to buy elections with ‘freedom of speech’ is totally absurd. The Supreme Court is paving the way toward an oligarchic form of society in which a handful of billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson will control our political process.”
Wednesday’s ruling, he said, echoes the “disastrous” 2012 Citizens United verdict, which led to an unprecedented $7 billion in political spending for the 2012 election.
The current cap on spending per individual is a limit of $123,200 per cycle. That includes a separate $48,600 on individual donations to particular candidates.
To remove these spending limits, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the dissenting opinion on Wednesday, “eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws.”
Sanders has proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would overturn Citizens United and make the type of pay-for-play Congressional culture it engenders a thing of the past. His website said that the Senator hopes to assure Americans that “the right to vote and the ability to make campaign contributions and expenditures belong only to real people.”