Sanders, Still Recovering, Tackles Campaign-Finance Reform

BURLINGTON, Vt. (CN) – Despite taking a break from the campaign trail to recover from his heart attack last week, Bernie Sanders unveiled a plan Monday to take corporate cash out of the political process.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., answers a question during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston on Sept. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Sanders is calling for a law enforcement agency to replace the Federal Election Commission, which he called worthless, while also passing a constitutional amendment to overturn the landmark Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, as well as its 1876 predecessor Buckley v. Valeo.

The Vermont senator also wants to increase regulation of political funding on the federal level, place a $500 cap on individual donations for the Democratic National Convention and inauguration events, and ban corporate contributions for such events all together.

According to Sanders’ campaign, 17 donors gave three-quarters of the Democratic National Convention funding in 2016, with corporations like Comcast, Bank of America and Facebook donating millions. At the 2013 presidential inauguration, corporate donors including AT&T, Microsoft and Chevron donated millions.

“Our grassroots-funded campaign is proving every single day that you don’t need billionaires and private fundraisers to run for president,” Sanders said in a statement. “We’ve received more contributions from more individual contributors than any campaign in the history of American politics because we understand the basic reality that you can’t take on a corrupt system if you take its money.”

Sanders notes that his plan to replace the FEc with the Federal Election Administration takes a cue from the original proposal by former Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold.

McCain and Feingold’s landmark Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 attempted to curb corporate spending in politics, but it was essentially gutted in 2009 with decision in Citizens United affirming that corporations have freedom of speech.

Sanders wants a constitutional amendment to clarify that money is not speech and that corporations are not people.

He announced last week that his campaign brought in $25.3 million in the last three months, which came from 1.4 million different donors. Senator Elizabeth Warren, to his closest rival financially, announced a $24.6 million haul for the third quarter.

Both Sanders and Warren has denounced corporate and PAC donations during the primary, unlike their two closest Democratic nominee rivals, Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

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