Bernie Sanders discusses the power of big money and the need for publicly funded elections

October 30, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More

How does it happen that a year after the economic crisis, Congress has enacted no real economic reform? Is it because financial corporations have spent five billion dollars on campaign contributions? Why do Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs? Why do we have an enormous military despite the end of the cold war? Independent Senator Bernie Sanders points to the common source of the problem:

On and on it goes. The reality of Washington, to a very significant degree, is that those people who have the money are able to influence public policy. Big money controls the agenda. If you don’t have the money, you get to the end of the line.

That’s the reality today. It could get worse. Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a case that could be used to open the coffers of all the big corporations to directly fund campaign ads in this country. So you would not just be dealing with political action committees and lobbyists, you would have to deal with the treasuries of large corporations.

This is a huge issue. The antidote, in my view, is public funding of elections so that everybody has the opportunity to run for office without having to be beholden to powerful special interests.

Here’s another issue where money is corrupting the debate: net neutrality. I agree with Sanders. In fact, I’m ready to concede that we are unable to deal with any important issue in the United States because the conversation has been thoroughly corrupted by money in the form of private campaign contributions. We desperately need publicly funded campaigns to have a chance to honestly deliberate important issues.

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Category: Current Events, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Brynn Jacobs says:

    Erich: Also consider the corrosive influence that corporations have had in the presidential candidate debates. They used to take place under the auspices of the League of Women Voters, but since 1988 have been under the control of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

    Since the CPD took control of the presidential debates in 1988, the debates have been primarily funded by corporate contributions. Multinational corporations with regulatory interests before Congress have donated millions of dollars in contributions to the CPD, and debate sites have become corporate carnivals, where sponsoring companies market their products, services, and political agendas. Tobacco giant Phillip Morris was a major sponsor in 1992 and 1996. The major contributor, Anheuser-Busch, has sponsored presidential debates in its hometown of St. Louis in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008.

    That the CPD has been able to raise millions of dollars in corporate contributions is not surprising. Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk, who co-chair and control the CPD, are registered lobbyists for multinational corporations. Kirk has collected $120,000 for lobbying on behalf of Hoechst Marion Roussel, a German pharmaceutical company. Fahrenkopf earns approximately $900,000 a year as the chief lobbyist for the nation’s $54 billion gambling industry. As president of the American Gaming Association, Fahrenkopf directs enormous financial contributions to major party candidates and saturates the media with “expert” testimony extolling gambling’s “many benefits.” “We’re not going to apologize for trying to influence political elections,” said Fahrenkopf.

    Of past debates, Farah questions, “In a country where corporations are the dominant political and economic force, why did the debates pass without the word “corporation” being spoken? . . . What about campaign finance reform? Corporate crime? Environmental devastation? Child poverty and homelessness? Free trade and globalization? Media concentration? Military spending? Immigration? Civil liberties and privacy rights?”

    For the last twenty years, while the CPD has sponsored the presidential debates, challenging questions, assertive moderators, follow-up questions, candidate-to-candidate questioning, and rebuttals have been excluded from presidential debates. The CPD’s formats have typically prevented in-depth examination of critical issues and allowed the candidates to recite a series of memorized sound bites.

    Walter Cronkite has called CPD-sponsored presidential debates an “unconscionable fraud.”

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Thanks, Brynn. Your information confirms what anyone can see if they notice what is NOT happening at Presidential debates: meaningful dialogue regarding many of the most important issues. If it's not going to happen at nationally televised presidential debates, where is it going to occur?

  2. Leonid S. Sukhorukov says:

    * Money is evil… and the less we have the more evil it becomes.

    * Power corrupts only the few because only the few have power. Leonid S. Sukhorukov

  3. Jay Fraz says:

    Money = Power, Money corrupts only the few because only the few have money.

    I suppose it is a better world having no money.

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