On MSNBC Sen. Bernie Sanders explained how Citizens United has destroyed our democracy, and why overturning the decision matters to every single American.
Here is the video from MSNBC:
Sen. Sanders explained how Citizens United has legalized the takeover of our government by a handful of conservative billionaires, “Here’s what it is. Right now, and I think many people may not understand this, because of the Citizens United 5-4 Supreme Court decision, you can have a group of billionaires, a group of corporate executives sitting around the room, and they’re going to say, look, here’s a guy in California. Here’s somebody in Nevada. Here’s somebody in Oregon who’s opposing our interests. They want to protect the middle class and working families. They don’t want to give the rich tax breaks. They don’t want to end Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We have got to defeat that person. All right, I want you to put $20 million into California. $15 million into Oregon. $10 million into Ohio. they do this, Dylan, without disclosure. So somebody goes home to turn on their TV, there’s an ad by Citizens for a Better America, or whatever, attacking a candidate or supporting another candidate. unlimited sums of money from corporations who go into their own corporate treasuries, from the richest people in this country, without any disclosure, bombarding the air waves, electing those people who support big money, trying to defeat those of us who support working class and middle class families.”
Sanders also discussed how Citizens United has shaped the votes of the members of Congress that the billionaires haven’t bought, “The idea that if somebody is a billionaire, they can have unlimited ability to impact an election, whether it’s the Senate, House, mayor’s election, presidential election. That is not what democracy is about. All of us believe in the first amendment. We all believe in freedom of speech. I take that very, very seriously, but freedom of speech does not mean the right of billionaires to buy elections. You know, Dylan, a moment ago, you asked me what the real world impact of Citizens United and money in politics is about. I’ll tell you what it’s about. When somebody in the United States Senate has to go up to the table and cast the vote, and you’re sitting there thinking, if I vote against the interests of Wall Street, if I vote against the interests of the military industrial complex, if I vote against the insurance companies or the drug companies, will I go home next week and find millions of dollars of ads bombarding my state against me, because I cast that vote? Maybe I shouldn’t cast that vote? Maybe I shouldn’t stand up to the big money interests? Maybe I should not oppose tax breaks for the rich, because they may unload on campaign ads in my state? Those are the day-to-day realities that elected officials deal with because of this disastrous decision.”
The Citizens United decision has been a total disaster, not for the Democratic or Republican parties, but for every single American citizen. What Sen. Sanders described was the chilling effect that the decision has had on members of Congress, but the same sort of calculus can be found at all levels of electoral politics. No incumbent wants to go home to a barrage of tens of millions of dollars worth of negative ads aimed at them from shadowy groups who aren’t required to disclose who their donors are or where the donations came from.
The discussion about Citizens United often focuses on elections, but as Sen. Sanders pointed out the Supreme Court’s granting of personhood status to corporations has also influenced policy making. Incumbents who are worried about a backlash may not introduce legislation that will raise the ire of and open the wallets of the billionaires. They may stop supporting legislation that they used to champion, and eventually they stop representing the very people that they were elected to serve.
The only way Citizens United will be overturned at the Supreme Court level is if one of the conservative Koch Bloc justices is replaced by a progressive. America can’t afford to wait and allow this disastrous decision to eat at the remains of our representative democracy. Citizens United violates the very principles that our nation was founded on. This isn’t about Democratic or Republican. Overturning Citizens United will benefit every single American who can’t afford to buy a voice at the political table.