Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill To Stem Campaign Donations by Corporations
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a constitutional amendment recently that would counter the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling and forbid secret and unlimited campaign spending by corporations.
“In my view, a corporation is not a person,” Sanders said on Dec. 15. “In my view, a corporation does not have First Amendment rights to spend as much money as it wants without disclosure on a political campaign.”
According to the proposed amendment, corporations do not have constitutional rights as human beings do and, therefore, are subject to regulation and cannot make campaign contributions.
The Saving American Democracy amendment would overrule the controversial 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission, which established First Amendment free-speech rights for corporations in 2010. Sanders called that ruling “disastrous” earlier this month.
Sanders also expressed concern over the nature of the campaign finance system before that ruling, and he now argues that it has grown much worse since.
“Make no mistake: The Citizens United ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy, further tilting the balance of the power toward the rich and the powerful at a time when already the wealthiest people in this country have never had it so good.” Sanders said. “Do we think American democracy is about a couple of wealthy billionaires putting hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns without disclosure? Is that really the democracy that Americans have fought and died for in war after war?”
A spokesperson for Sanders' office confirmed that Sanders is not the lawmaker that hip hop mogul Russell Simmons referenced when he announced in November he was working with a “a senior member of Congress” to draft a similar amendment.
Sanders has previously voiced support for the concerns of demonstrators at Occupy Wall Street and similar protests that have spread around the nation and world. Corporate personhood and influence in politics have been key issues at the protests and encampments.
“It is not only the greed and recklessness of Wall Street, the other important issue that the demonstrators have been right about raising is the moral and economic aspects of a grossly unequal distribution of wealth,” Sanders told Current TV.
The amendment is the first Sanders has proposed during his career in the Senate.
Jon Christian is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Christian.