"You want to screw up your economy? Screw up your government."
Speaking outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) warned that the nation's justices are preparing to cement the power of American oligarchs to influence elections through unlimited campaign donations.
Oral arguments on McCutcheon v. FEC began Tuesday with the court's conservative majority signaling a readiness to overturn regulations that set limits on how much an individual may donate to political parties and candidates themselves.
With such a ruling so soon after the court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed corporations and unions to give unlimited sums to super PACs, a perfect money storm in the American political process may yet be on the horizon.
"Right now, as we speak, in the House of Representatives, there are people who are being threatened that if they vote for what we call a clean CR, to open the government without destroying the Affordable Care Act, then huge sums of money will be spent against them in the next election," Sanders said Tuesday, standing on the steps of the Supreme Court. "We are living in a society where a handful of people with incredible sums of money, folks like the Koch brothers and others, are undermining what this democracy is supposed to be about."
"The bottom line here is, if we don't want to move this nation to an oligarchic form of society, where a handful of billionaires can determine the outcome of these elections, then it is imperative that not only we overturn Citizens United, but that we put a lid on how much people can contribute to elections," he added. "Freedom of speech, in my view, does not mean the freedom to bribe the United States government."
Sanders was joined in spirit by President Barack Obama, who told reporters during a mid-afternoon press conference on Tuesday that he believes the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United contributed significantly to the Republican Party's decision to force a government shutdown. The president also warned that a similar ruling in McCutcheon could spell disaster.
"The latest case would go even further than Citizens United," he said. "It would essentially say anything goes. There are no rules in terms of how to finance campaigns. There aren't a lot of functioning democracies around the world that work this way where you can basically have millionaires and billionaires bankrolling whoever they want, however they want, in some cases undisclosed. What it means is ordinary Americans are shut out of the process."
This video is from YouTube, published Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013.