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'Horrible' Supreme Court Ruling, Sanders Says

Jacquelyn Martin
Sen. Bernie Sanders says the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling "moves us closer and closer to an oligarchic form of society."

"They are dead wrong," Sen. Bernie Sanders said about the Supreme Court's decision on Wednesday that struck down a major provision of the nation's campaign finance law. By a 5-to-4 vote, the justices removed the cap on the total amount of money that donors can contribute to candidates and parties in each election. Prior to Wednesday's ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the aggregate limit was $123,000.

On "buying" the government

"Rich people want to buy yachts and jet planes and big houses, that's fine," Sanders said. "I honestly don't believe that they have the right buy the United States Congress, or the White House or the United States government. And that's what these decisions are allowing them to do," said Sanders, referring to the McCutcheon ruling and the Court's Citizen's United ruling in 2010.

"I think this decision is not only a horrible decision," said Sanders. "It moves us closer and closer to an oligarchic form of society where the top one percent not only owns the economy, they're going to own the politics and political process in the United States."

On the chances of a constitutional amendment

Sanders has introduced legislation for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Court's Citizen's United decision, though he allows that passing an amendment is a "long and difficult road." But he says he feels good about the prospects of it:

"Every poll that I have seen says it's not just progressives like myself who are concerned about these disastrous Supreme Court decisions. It's conservatives, it's moderates - most people of good conscience who can disagree politically do not believe that what people fought and died for to preserve American democracy is for a handful of families to buy elections. Overwhelmingly in the polls, people say we have got to do something about this huge amount of money in the campaigns."

On running for president

Sanders describes the possibility of running for president with the word "if" but he says he does want make sure the issues he cares about are discussed in a presidential campaign.

"This country has some very, very, very serious problems. And these are issues that have got to be addressed and solutions have got be brought forward. And the old status quo isn't enough - establishment media, establishment politics is not good enough to deal with issues as to why the middle class is disappearing."

Sanders will be holding a town meeting on April 12 at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, a state that's critical to the prospects of presidential hopefuls. He likely won't decide whether to run for president until after the 2014 elections, nor has he decided whether to run as a Democrat or an independent.  But he did outline the pros and cons for that decision:

"The plusses of running as an independent is, there is profound frustration and anger with the two-party system. In that sense, running as an independent is a good idea. The negative of it is, if I run as an independent, I don't want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican as president of the United States - that's not my intention. And furthermore, not being a billionaire myself, when you run as an independent you have to build a political infrastructure in 50 states around the country. And that's not so easy."

Patti is an integral part of VPR's news effort and part of the team that created Vermont Edition. As executive producer, Patti supervises the team that puts Vermont Edition on the air every day, working with producers to select and research show ideas, select guests and develop the sound and tone of the program.
Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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