ROLLINSFORD, N.H. – Decrying the influence of big money in American politics, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday said he will introduce legislation to provide public funding of elections. “We’re going to introduce legislation which will allow people to run for office without having to beg money from the wealthy and the powerful,” Sanders said.
He called the current campaign finance system a “sad state of affairs.” Public funding, he added, would level the political playing field and make elections more competitive. It also would let candidates spend more time meeting voters and discussing issues and less time raising campaign funds. “That’s called democracy and I am going to do everything I can to bring that about,” Sanders said.
Sanders spoke about campaign finances during an hour-long speech to about 300 people at a town meeting. It was his first stop on Sunday as part of a two-day swing through New Hampshire, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary election next February.
Public funding of campaigns would counteract the disastrous Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Citizens United. That 2010 case and others which followed in its wake have gutted decades-old limits on campaign funding and paved the way for millionaires and billionaires to spend unlimited sums to influence election outcomes. “We must overturn that decision before it’s too late,” Sanders told the crowd here. “We are increasingly living in an oligarchy where big money is buying politicians,” Sanders added.
He cited former President Jimmy Carter’s concerns about how the Citizens United ruling resulting in “unlimited political bribery.”
The senator compared politicians to NASCAR drivers with their sponsor’s logos emblazoned on their uniforms. He imagined a politician with a sign saying, “I’m sponsored by the Koch brothers” or “I’m sponsored by Big Oil.” Said Sanders, “It’s a really sad state of affairs.”
In his own presidential campaign, Sanders has said he does not want help from super PACs, which the Citizens United ruling spawned. Instead, during the first two months after he declared his candidacy, Sanders has relied on contributors who gave him small donations.
Altogether, more than 76.5 percent of all contributions – totaling more than $10.5 million – came from individuals who donated less than $200.