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Sanders begins: "The corporate barbarians are through the gate of American democracy. Not satisfied with their all-pervasive influence on our culture, economy and legislative processes, they want more. They want it all."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (photo: WDCpix)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (photo: WDCpix)

Stop the Corporate Takeover of Democracy

By Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News

20 January 12


he corporate barbarians are through the gate of American democracy. Not satisfied with their all-pervasive influence on our culture, economy and legislative processes, they want more. They want it all.

Two years ago, the United States supreme court betrayed our Constitution and those who fought to ensure that its protections are enjoyed equally by all persons regardless of religion, race or gender by engaging in an unabashed power-grab on behalf of corporate America. In its now infamous decision in the Citizens United case, five justices declared that corporations must be treated as if they are actual people under the Constitution when it comes to spending money to influence our elections, allowing them for the first time to draw on the corporate checkbook – in any amount and at any time – to run ads explicitly for or against specific candidates.

What's next … a corporate right to vote?

Don't laugh. Just this month, the Republican National Committee filed an amicus brief in a US appeals court contending that the natural extension of the Citizens United rationale is that the century-old ban on corporate contributions directly to candidates and political parties is similarly unconstitutional. They want corporations to be able to sponsor candidates and parties directly while claiming with a straight face this would not result in any sort of corruption. And while, this month, they take no issue with corporations being subject to the existing contribution limits, anyone paying attention knows that eliminating such caps will be corporate America's next prize in its brazen ambition for absolute control over our elections.

The US Constitution has served us very well, but when the supreme court says, for purposes of the first amendment, that corporations are people, that writing checks from the company's bank account is constitutionally-protected speech and that attempts by the federal government and states to impose reasonable restrictions on campaign ads are unconstitutional, our democracy is in grave danger.

I am a proud sponsor of a number of bills that would respond to Citizens United and begin to get a handle on the problem. But something more needs to be done – something more fundamental and indisputable, something that cannot be turned on its head by a rightwing supreme court.

That is why I have introduced a resolution in the Senate (introduced by Representative Ted Deutch in the House) calling for an amendment to the US Constitution that says simply and straightforwardly what everyone – except five members of the United States supreme court – understands: corporations are not people with constitutional rights equal to flesh-and-blood human beings. Corporations are subject to regulation by the people. Corporations may not make campaign contributions – the law of the land for the last century – or dump unlimited sums of money into our elections. And Congress and states have broad power to regulate all election spending.

I did not introduce this lightly. In fact, I have never sought to amend the Constitution before. The US Constitution is an extraordinary document that, in my view, should not be amended often. In light of the supreme court's Citizens United decision, however, I see no alternative. The ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy. It has further tilted the balance of power toward the rich and the powerful at a time when the wealthiest people in this country have never had it so good.

At a time when corporations have more than $2tn in cash in their bank accounts, make record-breaking profits and swarm Washington with their lobbyists 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the highest court in the land to suggest that there is just not enough corporate "speech" in our system defies the bounds of reason and sanity. The ruling already has led to plans, for example, by industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch to steer more than $200m – potentially much more – to conservative groups ahead of election day 2012. Karl Rove has similar designs.

Does anybody really believe that that is what American democracy is supposed to be about?

I believe that the Citizens United decision will go down as one of the worst in our country's history – and one that demands an amendment to our Constitution in order to restore sovereign power to the people, as our nation's founders intended.

If we do not reverse it and the culture of corporate dominance over our elections that it has exacerbated, there will be no end to the impact that corporate interests have on our campaigns and our democracy. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+80 # Bluegrasser 2012-01-20 15:01
First I say: SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS FOR PRESIDENT !!! But let me add: If corporations are "people", like you and me, and "the law is no respector of persons", then corporations should be required to file an annual Form #1040 the rest of us file---with no special "loopholes" and advantages, and where deductions to political campaigns are not allowed. They might then re-think their silly "corporations are people" stance!
+71 # shortonfaith 2012-01-20 15:01
One thing about Bernie is you don't have to check on what he's doing. If Bernie wants to do it he has my total support, every time, no questions asked. Thanks again
+59 # noitall 2012-01-20 15:04
It is not enough for this attack on our Democracy and our Republic to be made right, those so-called Justices responsible, should do the honorable thing (as if) and all 5 should resign their seat. Only this act would restore integrity and the faith of the American People in the "highest court in the land".
+53 # bugbuster 2012-01-20 15:27
In light of this bizarre Citizens United decision, is anyone watching the movements and associations of the US Supreme Court justices? Is anyone analyzing their finances? I wonder what they would find. We know we're being watched. What about them?
+30 # qasee 2012-01-20 15:37
'Not satisfied with their all-pervasive influence on our culture, economy and legislative processes, they want more. They want it all.' That's Fascism folks. All they need now is their Hitler or Mussolini to complete the job.
+21 # Kerry 2012-01-20 15:37
Why don't you run for President, already?
+22 # reiverpacific 2012-01-20 16:37
Quoting Kerry:
Why don't you run for President, already?

Because he knows the true score and loaded dices in an entrenched and corrupt two party system -and as we can see, the Plutocrats would like it to be one-party (theirs!), which has the current and equally if not more supreme court behind them- and is in a better position to fight from his senate seat as a Socialist Independent, so we must help him to reach a more widespread audience via Facebook and all other means at our disposal as the submerged whatever-per-ce nt.
+37 # John Locke 2012-01-20 15:41
Bernie Sanders is absolutely correct, The Supreme Court appears to be a body politic that is either out of control devoid of logic, or perhaps on someone's payroll other than the American People...Judges accepting Bribes is not so uncommon as people think, and I wonder if this is such a case...
+40 # pamitty 2012-01-20 15:58
Bernie Sanders has more integrity in his little finger than any other politician. The republican politicians have none at all!
+27 # motamanx 2012-01-20 16:11
This page and Bernie's message needs a larger audience. E mail it to everyone you know, with a note to forward it to everyone they know. A lot depends on it.
+22 # sugrem 2012-01-20 17:23
One of the worst characteristics (from a political point of view) of corporations is that they are potentially immortal. Unlike persons, corporations don't have to die but can go on essentially forever.
+26 # Wolfchen 2012-01-20 17:35
We must have public financing of elections. Without such a requirement, politicians will always by on the take from corporations and Wall Street. The electorate should demand of everyone running for public office to declare their positions on such public financing.

Further, as part of any radio and TV media licensing agreements, 2 percent of programming time during national elections must be reserved for free access by the electorate and those running for office. Enactment of these modifications of our electoral process will dynamically bring about change for the protection of our democracy that is threatened by the oligarchic elements among us.

Next time you witness politicians doing their dances of deception, let them know you'll not support them unless they' announce such public financing of elections as being at the top of their priorities.

Help spread this message, and let's make it a part of the Occupy movement. This we can do now and not run the uncertainty of passing a Constitutional Amendment to overcome the damage done by the corrupted Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.

Make no mistake: Our democracy is under threat of being severely damaged by those committing Economic Treason.
+11 # coati 2012-01-20 20:45
Overruling Citizens United is already an Occupy objective. Please check "OCCUPY Wall Street" and OCCUPY TOGETHER webs.
As is evident, the other 'fires' having to be put out like PIPA/SOPA and NDAA are generated by corporate interests. NDAA is generated by corporations within the military industrial complex servicing the needs of war personnel and mercenary organizations. Repealing or overturning Citizens United would get to the root of the problem as elected officials would be less likely to be corporate puppets.
0 # Patriot 2012-02-26 17:38
Wolfchen, a requirement exists that all TV stations air "public service" ads. Watch TV in the middle of the night; that's when they're on, along with the best programing of the entire day. Unless your 2% were specified to air in prime time, it would do no good.

Furthermore, if you would depend on the FCC to monitor your 2%, consider that for decades the FCC has categorically denied that TV commercials are louder than the programs they sponsor, which EVERYONE who watches any TV at all knows is NOT true. Like the FDA and your state's Public Service Commission, the FCC also is in the thrall of corporatedom.

Thought: The USA may go down to the CSA after all: the Corporate States of America, that is. Their takeover is well underway, with no sign in sight that anyone or anything can stop it. It was Dick Cheney's fondest desire to suspend the Constitution. Our Congress, Supreme Court, and Presidents are making progress in just that direction.

My grandfather, who died in 1974, used to say, "Comes the Revolution..." to indicate his notice of irrationality, greed, corruption, and injustice, and his expectation that they would be replaced with what is rational, fair, decent, or good.

For decades--maybe centuries--Euro pean and Russian Jews consoled themselves, "Next year in Jerusalem...." In 1947, they finally arrived in their Jerusalem, such as it is.

Can we reach ours?
+23 # Torvus 2012-01-20 17:37
Pizzas are vegetables, corporations are persons - has the US gone mad? Surely you can't pick and choose when an entity is or is not a person - either it is or it isn't. So let's look on the positive side of this one - as a person a corporation could be sentenced to the death penalty.
+16 # Ray Kondrasuk 2012-01-20 20:34
Not sure, but I think this is a Jim Hightower-sound ing quote: "I'll know corporations are people when Texas executes one".
+18 # angelfish 2012-01-20 18:07
It's way passed time to start impeachment proceedings against the members of our SCOTUS who legislated this atrocity! Is it possible to make a Citizen's arrest? The People MUST have some sort of viable recourse against these Shills of Big Business! They hold the power of life and death Literally, Figuratively, Financially and EVERY which way over us and it is NOT to be borne much longer!
+15 # Richard Fernow 2012-01-20 19:28
I've been around a long time, put up posters for JFK at 10, child of the 60's,thought we were heading to a bright new age. And now this.Torture as a norm by our govt., no one but millionaires able to run for office. I've been accused of being unamerican when I questioned if we had forgotten if we were supposed to be the good guys! Obama held great promise but has shown a great lack of spine,still he is the best out there. I truly pray that there are enough Legislators out there who remember the principles of right and wrong to prevent corporate takeover of our Government!
+19 # Educator 2012-01-20 20:20
One of the many good things about living in Vermont is that I actually get to vote for Bernie! It feels great. There's none of that 'lesser of two evils' aftertaste.
+9 # coati 2012-01-20 20:36
RE: Voting DEM vs REP:
1. We must dismantle the two party paradigm in our country. It has become a crippling protocol demanding candidates cozy up to corporations and be of the 1% or have direct support from that constituency. While additional parties establish themselves, (like a Constitutionali st Party ! ), we need to be willing to take seriously a 'write-in' candidate ticket. If we, as a nation, keep doing the same actions that didnt work last time or the time before: hello !!! CHANGE THE SYSTEM in some fundamental way. Refuse to believe the story that we can only have 2 parties.
2. We need to, also, eliminate the electoral college, it is antiquated and very prone to manipulation and extortion. We deserve a direct vote by the people.
+8 # Carolyn 2012-01-20 20:45
what we see and hear about are the Results. It isn't the results. It isn't the Means of destroying democracy that will get rid of the problem. We have to get rid of the Cause.
tthe president has signed the death of democracy. He has had Americans killed with a trial. the American financial crisis cannot be solved by the endless printing of worthless money. the economy is going to fail.
There is a way to at least address the peoblem.There has been a solution since 1933, when FDR saved our nation from financial collagpse with the Glass-Steagall Act.
What good does it do to complain about the means of destroying America while refusing to do anything to reverse the cause.
President Obama has indeed brought great change. When will someone in our Congress stand up for Glass-Steagall. when will someone in Congress say,"It is already late. Mr. President, you have signed a bill making every inch of our country terrorist territory. You have refused to take the necessary step to begin the process of saving our financial system. American troops are stationed across the globe. We must take action to save our country.
0 # Lila 2012-01-20 22:14
If you haven't read Andrew Sullivan's excellent analysis of Obama's presidency I think you will all appreciate it. Just give it a chance, read all four pages, and see what you think.http://ww w.thedailybeast .com/newsweek/2 012/01/15/andre w-sullivan-how- obama-s-long-ga me-will-outsmar t-his-critics.h tml
+5 # Walhalla 2012-01-20 22:26
What's next - Trustfunds for Citizen United???
+12 # seeuingoa 2012-01-21 03:30
Franklin D. Roosevelt in a message
to congress in 1938:

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of corporative powers to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence is fascism."
+8 # Sweet Pea 2012-01-21 07:08
Our current system of elections breeds corruption. With our current system of election, it is just a matter of which of the wealthy provides the most money, and then these wealty contributors or groups such as corporation can call the shots through "their" candidate. It surprises me that the system has "worked" so long. People have no vote - people talk -- but money elects.
+6 # joe l 2012-01-21 08:55
Just as Grove Norquist started a campaign to have congressmen sign pledge that commits them to not raising taxes, Senator Sander should start a campaign to have them sign a pledge to end super-pacs and vow to disassociate themselves from Citizens United.
I believe some candidates must compete for election with the help of pac fund as long as their opposition is doing likewise but a simultaneous end to pac funding would solve that issue.
+6 # Bev 2012-01-21 10:13
Richard, when you say "I truly pray that there are enough Legislators out there who remember the principles of right and wrong to prevent corporate takeover of our Government!" You are already too late! There was testimony before a Congressional hearing live on CNN last year concerning testimony of a computer programer, directly involved, who explained how voting machines were set up to control and were used to manipulate the elections, including the defeat of Al Gore among others.
"Corporate America" our shadow government, donates shamelessly to both parties not caring which party wins as long as they control who gets elected.
They heavily donated to Obama because they felt, being black, that he would more easily be a patsy. They had "another think a comin'" In spite of their obstruction at every turn he has been able to accomplish many things which many citizens don't yet recognize.

One example is the requirement for the for-profit "Disease Care" Insurance industry to spend 80% of patient health care premiums directly on patient care and not to include costs of sales reps as patient care.
This Year of the Dragon will show just how much we are controlled by the Corporate States of America.
+5 # 1984 2012-01-21 11:44
I have heard that Senator Sanders is retiring after his present term. I am very very distressed about this. We would loose not only one sane, moral, compassionate vote we will loose his initiaves which can bring to combat the barbarians. He is in a position of power as a senator. If he gives that up, it will be a terrible loss.
+2 # infohiway 2012-01-22 22:34
The vile nation destroying, anti-constituti onal word 'democracy', AKA mob rule,it NOT in the U$':
Articles of Confederation,
Declaration Of Independence,
Bill of Rights nor the
Constitution of 1787.
The U$A was a constitutional republic and became a failed state IN ADMINISTRATION as of 1861 when CONgre$$ did not convene.

What we are witnessing is the legacy of the bankster's Marxist 'demockrazy' imposed after the U$' un-civil, un-declared, not-really-ant- never-ending 'war'.

If you want and support vile and rudderless 'democracy', YOU'VE GOT IT NOW - and you deserve it for not reading, and insisting on obeyance of, the U$' long abandoned constitution.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~
+1 # infohiway 2012-01-22 23:37
What is a PERSON?
It is a juristic FICTION. A legally certified THING. A chattel 'created' in CAPITAL LETTERS.;read=115708
What is a PERSON?
Your birth certificate states you are a CERTIFIED PERSON.
Likewise a corporate chapter certifies and grants the same status as ... a legalised FICTIONAL PERSON.
That is HOW is was done AND justified.

+3 # infohiway 2012-01-22 23:43
The CORPORATE CHARTER is a man-made organisation. A 'legal' paper fiction that does not live nor breathe.
+3 # Kimberly999 2012-01-23 08:12
If corporations are considered people, then they should have the same responsibility -to pay taxes (mine are 32%). Since it is illegal to vote twice - do all members of the "corporate body" give up their independent rights to be part of the larger body? Are any corporations doing business with enemies of the US considered terrorist organizations- do we send their members to Gitmo?
+1 # mwd870 2012-01-24 08:16
I hope there will be strong support for this amendment. We all know the corrupting influence of big money in politics needs to be stopped. Introducing a resolution in the Senate calling for the amendment is an important first step. If the media would inform the public, it could make a big difference.

The issue of tax reform is separate, but will happen because we can't afford not to change it. We do need people like Bernie Sanders in Washington - it will be a loss when he leaves Congress.
+2 # stan van houcke 2012-01-24 10:20
i quote mr. sanders: 'Stop the Corporate Takeover of Democracy.'

but this has always been so since the very beginning of the republic, all through the time of the robber barons, to today. it was in the beginning of the twentieth century and the mass society that people like edward bernays and walter lippmann pointed out that a real democracy was not wanted, because it would hinder the freedom of the corporations. bernays spoke about 'regimenting the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments the bodies of its soldiers.' the elite paid bernays and lippmann and others handsomely for their services. the congress was in favor of this development, the consumers loved it. american democracy was always in the hands of the corporations. so now finally also the middle class has to pay for this system. sanders is too late, and a bit hypocritical.

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