BUSINESS

Bernie Sanders: Citizens United Decision 'Must Be Reversed'

Mar 13, 2013 | Updated Mar 13, 2013

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) introduced a constitutional amendment on Tuesday, aimed at reversing the Supreme Court's ruling on Citizens United.

Titled "Democracy is for People," the amendment would "stop corporations and their front groups from using their profits and dark money donations to influence our elections," Deutch said in a statement released on Sanders' official website.

Sanders has been a long time advocate of reversing the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unrestricted spending in federal campaigns. Sanders reiterated that opinion on Tuesday.

"What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to tell billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, ‘You own and control Wall Street. You own and control coal companies. You own and control oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we're going to give you the opportunity to own and control the United States government,'" Sanders said. "That is the essence of what Citizens United is all about. That is why this disastrous decision must be reversed."

Last year, Sanders and Deutch introduced the "Saving American Democracy Amendment" and brought attention to the importance of Americans understanding how campaigns were financed. In January 2012, Sanders co-authored a HuffPost blog with Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen (the group behind Democracy Is For People project), voicing their Citizens United concerns:

The ruling not only poisoned our political process. It contaminated the legislative process. It cast a permanent chill over all policymaking. Will the merits or the money tip the balance when an issue comes before Congress? What do you think? If the question is on breaking up huge banks, for example, every member of the Senate and the House, in the back of their minds, will ask themselves what the personal price would be for taking on Wall Street. Am I going to be punished? Will a huge amount of money be unleashed in my state? They're going to think twice about how to cast that vote. Not to put too fine a point on it, you will see politicians being adopted by corporations and becoming wholly owned subsidiaries of corporate entities.

In August 2012, President Barack Obama said he supported overturning the Supreme Court's ruling on Citizens United while answering a question posted in an "Ask Me Anything" discussion on Reddit.

"Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it)," Obama wrote. "Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change."

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