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Bernie Sanders on Government Reform

Socialist Jr Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)

  
 


Citizens United means billionaires donate for THEIR interest

As a result of this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, our campaign finance system is corrupt and is undermining American democracy. Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into the political process in order to fund super PACs and to elect candidates who represent their interests, not the interests of working people.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Super-PACs pervert the democratic process

Q: The Koch brothers were big fans of Scott Walker's. He had a lot of money in his super PAC. And yet he disappeared from the presidential race. Is that a rebuttal to your argument that big money just totally calls the tune in politics?

SANDERS: I wish it were. But, I don't think the Koch brothers learned that lesson. I think the power of money over the political process is horrendous. I think that super PACs are playing a destructive role in our political system. And I will do, if president, everything that I can to see that this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision is overturned. American democracy is not about billionaires buying elections or trying to buy elections.

Source: CBS Face the Nation 2015 interview by Bob Schieffer , Sep 27, 2015

Public funding of elections to promote even playing field

The US, in theory, is a democratic republic, where the voices of the many are represented by those whom we elect to political office. But our government no longer represents most of us. Bernie says, "We need people who are ready to take on the handful of billionaires holding the power, to tell them, 'Enough is enough. This country belongs to us. This government belongs to us.' " Here's how we do it:
Source: 2016 presidential campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

We now have government of, by, and for the billionaires

Senator Bernie Sanders demands that the United States' elected government represent us, its people. He observes a disturbing trend where the average citizen is disenfranchised, and fears that we are losing what makes America great--our system of democracy. Bernie has said: "We are moving rapidly away from our democratic heritage into an oligarchic form of society where today we are experiencing a government of the billionaires, by the billionaires, and for the billionaires."
Source: 2016 presidential campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Reinforce voting rights to end voter suppression

Source: 2016 presidential campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Constitutional amendment to reverse Citizen United ruling

On Campaign finance: Limit corporate and interest-group spending in campaigns.

Sanders proposes a Constitutional amendment that would effectively reverse the Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling and ban corporations and nonprofits from unlimited campaign expenditures. The independent senator would also require disclosure of any organizations spending $10,000 or more on an election-related campaign.

Source: PBS News Hour "2016 Candidate Stands" series , Apr 30, 2015

Citizens United opens up the road to oligarchy

Q: Let me ask you on the billionaire front--

SANDERS: The Koch brothers and the other billionaires are going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. That is not a way you bring about change. We've got to mobilize the American people.

Q: If a billionaire agrees with you on issues are you okay with them participating in the process?

SANDERS: I think Citizens United will go down in history as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever. I think it is opening up the road to oligarchy, where the billionaires, like the Koch brothers--

Q: Left or right?

SANDERS: Left or right, but it's mostly right. It will always be. The Koch brothers are going to spend $400 million. Do you know what their agenda is? They want to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. More tax breaks for the rich and large corporations. Nobody in America wants that except the billionaire class. This is a real danger to American democracy.

Source: Meet the Press 2014 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Sep 14, 2014

Underclass see the political deck stacked; and don't vote

If you ask me now what one of the major accomplishments of my political life is, it is that I helped double the voter turnout in Burlington. I did that because people who had given up on the political process understood that I was fighting for working families, that we were paying attention to low and moderate-income neighborhoods rather than just the big-money interests. I went to war with virtually every part of the ruling class in Burlington. People understood that; they said, "You know what? Bernie is standing with us. We're going to stand with him." The result is that large numbers of people who previously had not participated in the political process got involved. And that's what we have to do for the whole country.

One of the great tragedies that we face today politically is that most people have given up on the political process. They understand the political deck is stacked against them. They think there is no particular reason for them to come out and vote--and they don't.

Source: The Nation 2014 interview of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Mar 6, 2014

America struggles between organized people & organized money

Today, America is locked in a bitter struggle between organized people and organized money. The very simple political reality is that those of us is Congress who are prepared to stand up to organized money will not be successful without the strong support of millions of Americans at the grassroots level. Equally true is the reality that he average American citizen--disgusted with tax breaks or billionaires, Wall Street greed, a never-ending recession attacks on Social Security, two wars and minimal efforts against global warming--will not see his or her views translated into legislation without the support of organized people. Without the support of organized people, we progressives in Congress are no match for organized money.
Source: Sanders Introduction to `Playing Bigger`, by S. Acuff, p. 1 , Nov 8, 2012

Best dairy policy is USDA board's supply management

The best policy is to develop a system of supply management. It is my hope that we in Washington can produce legislation that will give farmers tools to slow the growth of their herds when milk prices are high--yes, there are profits to be made in the short term, but the slightly longer term result is always an oversupply of milk and milk prices that go into free-fall. Supply management curbs excessive growth of dairy herds when prices are high. And when the prices are low, a modest cushion for farmers can provide protection against a hard landing. Under legislation I proposed, the USDA, working with dairy farmers on a producer board, would set a rate for how much farmers could boost production according to US demand. I think it makes sense that, if we can manage supply so that it is never too high or too low, huge price swings should disappear. And our family farmers will live with a security--that hard work and good farming will bring reasonable returns--that eludes them today.
Source: Sanders Intro to `Milk Money`, by K. Kardashian, p. viii-ix , Oct 9, 2012

Introduced Federal Reserve Transparency Act with Ron Paul

When Fed Chair Ben Bernanke refuses to give us information about the trillions of dollars of credit that he recently passed out in the bailout process because that would be "counterproductive," he is really saying, "It's none of your business."

He may well be protected by the law, but he is in defiance of the Constitution. The courts, under today's circumstances, will never rule that the Federal Reserve Bank chairman must reveal the information that the Congress or the people seek.

One thing I have noticed in studying the issue is that the more power the Fed has gained, the greater the secrecy they demand. Transparency is currently a hot issue in Congress because the people have awoken and have sent a message. This is not a conservative or liberal issue; it's not a Republican or Democratic issue. It is pervasive, across the political spectrum.

I introduced a Federal Reserve audit bill the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, HR 1207, which Bernie Sanders introduced in the Senate.

Source: End the Fed, by Rep. Ron Paul, p.174-175 , Sep 29, 2010

Low-income workers don't vote because it's irrelevant

Today, most low-income workers do not vote, and many have very little understanding of the relationship of politics to their lives. The average American worker has come to accept that he or she has no power on the job. The company is moving the plant to Mexico. How can I stop it? The CEO earns 173 times more than the average worker. Who am I to contest management prerogatives? Corporations are asking for give-back in health care, despite record profits. What authority do I have to challenge big capital? In our "democracy," the vast majority of working people feel helpless-- ARE helpless given the current political structure--to protect their economic interests or chart their future.

Why bother to vote? And millions don't.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 26 , Jun 17, 1997

Competitive bidding saves government money

During the first term, I discovered that the city was wasting substantial sums of money on its insurance policies. Local companies, year after year, were getting the city's business at substantially higher than market rates. I instituted a radical socialist concept, "competitive" bidding, which saved the city tens of thousands of dollars. We were showing that to be "radical" did not mean that we wasted taxpayer dollars. Quite the contrary. For those of us committed to the idea that government should play an important role in the life of our community, it was absolutely necessary to show that we could run a tightfisted, cost-effective administration. There is no excuse for wasting taxpayer money.
Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 59 , Jun 17, 1997

Receives more contributions, but fewer dollars, than GOP

As the only Independent in Congress, I face unique fundraising handicaps which my campaign works very hard to overcome. Unlike Democrats and Republicans, I do not receive any funds from a political party. I do not benefit from the coordinated campaigns that Democrats and Republicans utilize. My campaign does not get support from a party organization which provides staff, polling, literature, offices, mailings, voter checklists, and other services.

Most importantly, the vast majority of my contributors do not have a lot of money and are unable to give large amounts. In campaign after campaign, I receive MORE individual contributions from Vermont than my opponents, but FEWER total dollars. Our average campaign contribution is less than $35. My Republican opponent will always have a much higher average contribution.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 73-5 , Jun 17, 1997

Accepts PAC money, but not from special interests

As a Progressive, I have adamantly refused financial support from Big Money interests. Throughout my political career, I have never accepted one penny from a corporate PAC. (Of the Banking Committee's 52 members, only 2, including myself, receive no PAC funds from interests associated with the corporate financial community.)

While I will not accept PAC money from corporate America, I gladly accept PAC contributions from organizations fighting to improve life for ordinary people. Over the years, my campaigns have received strong financial support from PACs associated with organized labor, the environment, women, senior citizens, human rights, and the needs of children. My opponents call me a "hypocrite" for accepting PAC money. How can I accept PAC money, they say, and then claim that I am fighting against "special interests"? Isn't a PAC, by definition, a "special interest"? [It does] make a difference who the PAC represents--the problem is NOT that ordinary people have too much influence.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 74-5 , Jun 17, 1997

Same-day automatic voter registration & 3-day voting

Revitalizing the electoral process is, in some ways, a simple matter. If the goal is to get more people to vote--and that certainly should be one of our goals--then it is high time we establish automatic voter registration for every American who is 18 or older. Given the growth of technology through the "information highway," a social security card or driver's license should be all that is required for voting. Same-day registration, allowing every American to register up until election day, would substantially increase voter turnout.

Similarly, we must make it more convenient for people to vote. We can open the polls, as is done in other nations, over a 2- or 3-day period--including at least one weekend day-- so that working Americans will have more time to vote. Oregon has shown us another possible route: in that state, voting can be done by mail over a period of up to 4 weeks, and as a consequence voter turnout has risen.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p.226-7 , Jun 17, 1997

Publicly fund elections, or small individual contributions

This whole campaign fundraising situation stinks to high heaven. In the past, I have fought hard for campaign finance reform which limits the amount of money that can be spent in an election and which emphasizes public funding of elections and small individual contributions. Ordinary Americans should have a chance to win elections, not just the rich or representatives thereof. If reelected, I will accelerate my efforts in this area.
Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 73 , Jun 17, 1997

Voted YES on Congressional pay raise.

Congressional Summary:
    Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:
  1. expense allowances;
  2. representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
  3. salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
  4. agency contributions for employee benefits;
  5. inquiries and investigations;
  6. the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
  7. the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
  8. miscellaneous items;
  9. the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
  10. official mail costs.
Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.

Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act; Bill HR2918&S1294 ; vote number 2009-S217 on Jul 6, 2009

Voted YES on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am cosponsoring the legislation to provide a House seat for DC and an additional House seat for Utah. Representation and suffrage are so central to the American system of self-government that America's founders warned that limiting suffrage would risk another revolution and could prevent ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in 1820 that Congress' legislative authority over DC allows taxation of DC. Do opponents of giving DC a House seat believe that DC is suitable for taxation but not for representation?

Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I make a constitutional point of order against this bill on the grounds that it violates article I, section 2, of the Constitution. I appreciate the frustration felt by the residents of DC at the absence of a vote in Congress. According to many experts, DC is not a State, so therefore is not entitled to that representation. Also, one has to raise the obvious question: If DC is entitled to a Representative, why isn't Puerto Rico, which would probably entail 9 or 10 Members of Congress? [With regards to the seat for Utah], this is obviously partisan horse-trading.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S.160 ; vote number 2009-S073 on Feb 26, 2009

Voted YES on granting the District of Columbia a seat in Congress.

Cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act:[Washington DC currently has a "delegate" to the US House, whose vote does not count. Utah had complained that the 2000 census did not count many Utahns on Mormon missions abroad].

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BYRD: In 1978, I voted for H.J. Res. 554, that proposed amending the Constitution to provide for representation of D.C. [That amendment passed the Senate but was not ratified by the States]. While I recognize that others believe that the Constitution authorizes the Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation" over D.C., the historical intent of the Founders on this point is unclear. I oppose S.1257, because I doubt that our Nation's Founding Fathers ever intended that the Congress should be able to change the text of the Constitution by passing a simple bill.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HATCH. There are conservative and liberal advocates on both sides of this issue,and think most people know Utah was not treated fairly after the last census. For those who are so sure this is unconstitutional, [we include an] expedited provision that will get us to the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision. It will never pass as a constitutional amendment. There are 600,000 people in D.C., never contemplated by the Founders of this country to be without the right to vote. They are the only people in this country who do not have a right to vote for their own representative in the House. This bill would remedy that situation.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S. 1257 ; vote number 2007-339 on Sep 18, 2007

Voted NO on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections.

Vote on Dole Amdt. S.2350, amending SP2350 (via the College Cost Reduction Act): To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. DOLE. I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. FEINSTEIN. If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote for this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election]. I urge a "no" vote.

Reference: Dole Amendment to the Help America Vote Act; Bill S.2350, amending SP2350 ; vote number 2007-269 on Jul 19, 2007

Voted NO on requiring photo ID for voting in federal elections.

Requires that to vote in federal elections, an individual present a government-issued, current, and valid photo identification. After 2010, that ID must require providing proof of US citizenship as a condition for issuance. An individual who does not present such an ID is permitted to cast a provisional ballot, and then present the required ID within 48 hours. Exempts from this requirement the absentee ballot of any eligible overseas military voter on active duty overseas.

Proponents support voting YES because:

The election system is the bedrock that our Republic is built on and its security and oversight is of paramount concern. Only US citizens have the right to vote in Federal elections, but our current system does not give State election officials the tools they need to ensure that this requirement is being met.

This bill is designed to increase participation by ensuring that each legitimate vote will be counted and not be diluted by fraud. There are many elections in this country every cycle that are decided by just a handful of votes. How can we be certain that these elections, without measures to certify the identity of voters, are not being decided by fraudulent votes?

Opponents support voting NO because:

There is something we can all agree on: only Americans get to vote, and they only get to vote once. But what we are talking about in this bill is disenfranchising many of those Americans. It is already a felony for a non-American to vote. We had hearings and what we found out was that the issue of illegal aliens voting basically does not occur.

The impact of this will disproportionately affect poor people and African Americans, because many are too poor to have a car and they do not have a license. We have no evidence there is a problem. We have ample evidence that this will disenfranchise many Americans. This is the measure to disenfranchise African Americans, Native Americans. It is wrong and we will not stand for it.

Reference: Federal Election Integrity Act; Bill H R 4844 ; vote number 2006-459 on Sep 20, 2006

Voted NO on restricting independent grassroots political committees.

A "527 organization" is a political committee which spends money raised independently of any candidate's campaign committee, in support or opposition of a candidate or in support or opposition of an issue. Well-known examples include MoveOn.org (anti-Bush) and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (anti-Kerry). Voting YES would regulate 527s as normal political committees, which would greatly restrict their funding, and hence would shift power to candidate committees and party committees. The bill's opponents say:
  • This legislation singles out 527 organizations in an effort to undermine their fundraising and is a direct assault on free speech.
  • This bill would obstruct the efforts of grassroots organizations while doing nothing to address the culture of corruption in Congress.
  • H.R. 513 is an unbalanced measure that favors corporate trade associations over independent advocates. Corporate interests could continue spending unlimited and undisclosed dollars for political purposes while independent organizations would be subject to contribution limits and source restrictions.
  • H.R. 513 also removes all limits on national and state party spending for Congressional candidates in primary or general elections--an unmasked attack on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and clear evidence that the true intention in advancing H.R. 513 is not reform, but partisan advantage in political fundraising.
    Reference: Federal Election Campaign Act amendment "527 Reform Act"; Bill H.R.513 ; vote number 2006-088 on Apr 5, 2006

    Voted NO on prohibiting lawsuits about obesity against food providers.

    The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act ("The Cheesburger Bill") would prevent civil liability actions against food manufacturers, marketers, distributors, advertisers, sellers, and trade associations for claims relating to a person's weight gain, obesity, or any health condition associated with weight gain or obesity. A YES vote would:
    Reference: The Cheesburger Bill; Bill HR 554 ; vote number 2005-533 on Oct 19, 2005

    Voted NO on limiting attorney's fees in class action lawsuits.

    Class Action Fairness Act of 2005: Amends the Federal judicial code to specify the calculation of contingent and other attorney's fees in proposed class action settlements that provide for the award of coupons to class members. Allows class members to refuse compliance with settlement agreements or consent decrees absent notice. Prohibits a Federal district court from approving:
    1. a proposed coupon settlement absent a finding that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate;
    2. a proposed settlement involving payments to class counsel that would result in a net monetary loss to class members, absent a finding that the loss is substantially outweighed by nonmonetary benefits; or
    3. a proposed settlement that provides greater sums to some class members solely because they are closer geographically to the court.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA]; Bill S.5 ; vote number 2005-038 on Feb 17, 2005

    Voted YES on campaign finance reform banning soft-money contributions.

    Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Overhaul: Vote to pass a bill that would ban soft money contributions to national political parties but permit up to $10,000 in soft money contributions to state and local parties to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. The bill would stop issue ads from targeting specific candidates within 30 days of the primary or 60 days of the general election. Additionally, the bill would raise the individual contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000 per election for House and Senate candidates, both of which would be indexed for inflation.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT, and Meehan D-MA; Bill HR 2356 ; vote number 2002-34 on Feb 14, 2002

    Voted NO on banning soft money donations to national political parties.

    Support a ban on soft money donations to national political parties but allow up to $10,000 in soft-money donations to state and local parties for voter registration and get-out-the vote activity.
    Bill HR 2356 ; vote number 2001-228 on Jul 12, 2001

    Voted YES on banning soft money and issue ads.

    Campaign Finance Reform Act to ban "soft money" and impose restrictions on issue advocacy campaigning.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT; Bill HR 417 ; vote number 1999-422 on Sep 14, 1999

    Proportional IRV voting for Electoral College.

    Sanders co-sponsored for proportional IRV voting for Electoral College

    OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To provide that a State may use a proportional voting system for multiseat congressional districts.

    EXCERPTS OF BILL:

      It is the sense of Congress that:
    1. A State should award its electoral votes for President and Vice President to the candidates who receive a majority of the votes cast in the State for such offices.
    2. An instant runoff voting (IRV) system is an effective and appropriate method for ensuring that one set of candidates will receive a majority of the votes cast in the State. Under instant runoff voting, voters rank their favorite and subsequent choice candidates, and if a majority has not voted for one candidate, the candidate with least number of votes is eliminated and another round of counting occurs. In the next round and each subsequent round, ballots are counted for the highest remaining candidate ranked on each ballot, and rounds continue until a candidate has received a majority of the votes cast.
    3. Each State should adopt an instant runoff voting system for the election of electors for President and Vice President.

    LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to House Committee on Judiciary; never came to a vote.

    Source: Voters' Choice Act (H.R.1189) 01-HR1189 on Mar 22, 2001

    Criminalize false or deceptive info about elections.

    Sanders co-sponsored criminalizing false or deceptive info about elections

    OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Amends federal criminal law to prohibit any person from knowingly deceiving any other person regarding:

    1. the time, place, or manner of conducting any federal election; or
    2. the qualifications for or restrictions on voter eligibility for any such election.
    Creates a private right of action for any person aggrieved by a violation of such prohibition. Prescribes a criminal penalty for such deceptive acts.

    SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: Voter participation is fundamental to our democracy, and we must do all we can to encourage those who can to vote. I also hope voters go to the polls with accurate information about what is on the ballot, where they are supposed to vote, and what our Nation's voting laws are.

    It might surprise some of you to know, but even in this awesome age of technological advancement and easy access to information, there are folks who will stop at nothing to try to deceive people and keep them away from the polls. These deceptive practices all too often target and exploit vulnerable populations, like minorities, the disabled, or the poor.

    Deceptive practices often rely on a few tried and true tricks. Voters are often warned that an unpaid parking ticket will lead to their arrest or that folks with family members who have been convicted of a crime are ineligible to vote. Of course, these warnings have no basis in fact, and they are made with one goal and one goal only: to keep Americans away from the polls.

    The bill I am introducing today provides the clear statutory language and authority needed to get allegations of deceptive practices investigated. It establishes harsh penalties for those found to have perpetrated them. Deceptive practices and voter intimidation are real problems and demand real solutions like those offered in my bill.

    LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; never came to a vote.

    Source: Voter Intimidation Prevention Act (S.1975/H.R.4463) 05-S1975 on Nov 8, 2005

    Require full disclosure of independent campaign expenditures.

    Sanders co-sponsored DISCLOSE Act

    Congressional Summary:

    Wikipedia & OnTheIssue Summary: