The Republican party is deeply corrupt and today we got the latest example of that. GOP members of the Senate voted overwhelmingly in support of a bill that would speed up and expand offshore oil drilling, even though experts say that such a move has almost nothing to do with lowering gas prices. But what it does do is make these oil companies much richer. It comes a day after Senate Republicans blocked an attempt to repeal $21 billion in oil subsidies tor the five big oil companies. This is part and parcel of what the GOP is these days: they are corporate robots. To further prove that point they’re furiously trying to repeal all regulations on the banks right now so that they can make even more money by taking wild risks and endangering the whole economy. Now why would they do that?
In 2010 alone GOP Congress members received $58,797,874 in contributions from the financial industry. They are not your representatives. They are the representatives of the multinational corporations who buy them. But as corrupt as the GOP is, it is about to get worse.
Now the Republicans are trying to solicit unlimited contributions from a so-called Super PAAC. Now here’s how it works. Let’s say a candidate approaches a wealthy donor to contribute to their re-election campaign. Under federal law, that person can only give $2,500 to the candidate. In the past, that’s the end of the conversation. But under the new plan, the candidate could ask that same donor to pony up an unlimited amount of money to the Republican super PAC. Now the donor could specify that all that money be spent supporting that particular candidate or attacking their opponents. Then the super PAC could buy ads, send out mailings, and all those things that a political campaign does.
So if it wasn’t clear enough that the politicians were bought before, this will make it super clear. They will literally be working for the highest bidder. It’s a disaster in the making. Let’s see if anyone can stop it. We’re going to talk to Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who I know is not in favor of the super PAC. Senator Sanders, how do you stop it? It looks like they’re on a steamroller, headed in that direction The more money they have, the more misleading ads they can run. How do you get in front of it?
In this particular indicates, I think the lawyers are going to have to take a hard look at it, because it certainly violates the spirit of existing campaign finance law, as weak as that law currently is. Because what you’re having is the RNC setting up another organization with the same members that exist in the RNC to violate the limits on campaign contributions, and to be able to bring in huge amounts of money without any transparency: to do it in secret, and that is a violation of the law. So I think the lawyers are going to take a deeper look.
But the deeper issue, as you just articulated, is that big money owns and controls much of what takes place in the United States Congress. We had a bad situation before, since Citizens United, the situation is much, much worse. And in a variety of ways we’re going to have to take apart Citizens United. We need to pass legislation to minimize what it is doing. And at the end of the day, we probably will have to pass a constitutional amendment, which brings forth the radical opinion that, guess what, a corporation is not a person and that a handful of billionaires cannot pollute and take over the political system by spending unlimited sums of money in secret in order to elect candidates who support their agenda.
I couldn’t possibly agree more with on you that front. I do want to discuss the legal issue with you more. The guy who is leading this for the Republicans, a guy named James Bopp, Jr., and he’s the one who created the 527s in the first place, those are the nonprofit groups that do the attack ads, he’s the one who brought the Citizens United case in the first case, and he’s the one who is pushing the super PACs. And to your point about how it might be illegal, here’s what he says, “Who cares?… The supreme court doesn’t care and I don’t care? the FEC [Federal Election Commission] doesn’t care? No one that matters cares.” Wow, what a quote, but you know what? Is he right about that, Senator Sanders? The Supreme Court is 5 to 4 conservatives. If it goes there, we’re going to win anyway. It doesn’t matter whether we’re right or wrong.
The answer is we have to give him credit for his incredible arrogance and for his contempt for the political process, and for his belief that, in fact, the supreme court with a 5 to 4 vote is there to protect big-money interests. I’m not so sure that he is right. Even the supreme court I think may take a hard look at this and rule that it is absolutely in violation of existing campaign finance law. I think in this case they may have gone too far. But the end of the day, the point that he is making is saying, money runs everything, and we can’t be stopped.
And you’re asking me how ultimately we fight back against that. Well, the way you fight back effectively is through grass-roots organizing. These guys may have billions of dollars, they may have the supreme court, they may be able to atract the money from the Koch Brothers and all the billionaires, but if we can build a strong grass-roots movement of politically conscious people who understand that the function of government is to represent working people and the middle class and not billionaires, you know what? We can beat them.
And I think one of the important points that we now have is to make it very, very clear. How corrupt the system is, to what degree the billionaires and large corporations are manipulating the campaign finance system in order to give tax breaks to the rich, in order to continue unregulated free trade, in order to deregulate Wall Street and the oil companies and environmental protection laws. So I think their arrogance may be something that we can effectively use against them.
Senator Sanders, I think that the system is corrupt, as you said, and I agree, but I want to get into the more specifics. I believe the Republican party is a wholly owned subsidiary of these corporations. I don’t think they are honest actors. I don’t think they think, “Oh, how about this drilling law, how will it affect the American people? How about these oil subsidies, how is it going to affect the American people?” I think they only care about how it affects their bottom line. Do you think that’s accurate?
Let me speak as an Independent, and that’s as the longest standing Independent in the United States Congress. I think at this particular point, not all, but many Republicans are doing what they are doing, not for these great philosophical reasons, but for the fact that what they do can attract huge sums of money. You can get money from Wall Street when you talk about deregulating Wall Street and not bringing back Glass-Steagall Act , for example. You get money from the oil companies when you talk about continuing to give them these tax breaks despite the fact that they are making billions in profits. You get money from the military industrial complex if you continue to support large military budgets and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So if you’re asking me are there feelings just philosophical and not related to the money that’s coming in and their dependence on big money and corporate interests, I would think you’re right. But as an Independent, to say it’s only the Republicans and not any Democrats I think would be inaccurate. I think there are a number of Democrats who you can make that charge against as well.
I am glad you said that. I couldn’t agree more. I think it affects the Democratic Party as well. I think the only difference is that the Republicans are wholly bought by the corporations; the Democrats are partly bought by the corporations. A quick example: blue-dog Democrats, a lot of them lost in the last election; a third of them are already lobbyists, working for the same corporations that they supported while in the House, and those are Democrats.
I think a better example is, the middle class is collapsing, and poverty is increasing and the rich are getting richer. What you’re seeing from the Republicans, for example, is tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, oil companies profits are soaring, they are protecting the tax loopholes for the oil companies. They areworking day by day by day for the interests of the wealthiest, the most powerful people. The needs of the middle class and working families are not being heard at all. In fact, as you well know, the budget that passed the House is going to decimate medicaid, voucherize medicare, huge cuts to education, environmental protection and the needs of our kids. so this is the party that is there to protect the interests for the wealthy and the powerful. We need to educate, we need to organize, we need to defeat them, we need to put pressure on those Democrats who are also indebted to corporate interests.
Absolutely. We need to fight back. And the one leading the fight is Independent Senator, Bernie Sanders. Really appreciate your time tonight.
Good to be with you.