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Sanders: AIPAC’s Triumph Over Bowman Shows Need to Overturn “Citizens United”

“Big Money buys politicians who will do their bidding, and the results are clear,” the senator said.

The Supreme Court is seen on June 26, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is once again calling for the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to be reversed after the pro-Israel lobby unleashed a historic spending blitz against Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York), leading him to lose his primary on Tuesday.

Sanders warned that Bowman’s loss is a show that groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) can simply “buy elections” if they consolidate enough funding, completely subverting the purpose of democratic elections.

“The pundits will draw their conclusions about this race. Here’s mine: It is an outrage and an insult to democracy that we maintain a corrupt campaign finance system which allows billionaire-funded super PACs to buy elections,” Sanders said.

“It is not a coincidence that with our corrupt campaign finance system we also have a rigged economy that allows the very rich to get much richer while many working people are falling further behind,” he continued. “Big Money buys politicians who will do their bidding, and the results are clear.”

Pro-Israel and anti-Bowman super PACs had spent $18 million in the race to defeat the progressive Democrat; AIPAC-affiliated super PAC United Democracy Project alone spent $14.5 million on the race, elevating it to the status of the most expensive House primary in history. The fierce cash deluge garnered media attention in recent months, in part as a bellwether for pro-Palestine sentiment in politics as Israel carries out a campaign of extermination against Palestinians.

In the end, opponents of Bowman outspent his campaign by a margin of 7 to 1 — a gap that is “virtually impossible” for a campaign to overcome, Sanders pointed out.

Rather, Sanders said that the primary is a show of the urgent need to crack down on the ability of deep-pocketed interests to influence elections.

“We must overturn the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Buying elections is not ‘freedom of speech,’” Sanders said, alluding to the Supreme Court’s reasoning in its 2010 decision that outside spending in elections amounts to free speech protected under the Constitution.

Reports have found that much of the funding against progressive candidates this cycle is coming from sources with a vested interest in opposing progressives like Bowman who are critical of Israel and supportive of left-leaning policies. Much of AIPAC’s funding this election cycle has come from billionaires and right-wing executives, leading commentators to note that Republicans are essentially laundering money into Democratic primaries through AIPAC.

A recent Politico analysis found, in fact, that AIPAC has become the single largest source of Republican money going into Democratic primaries this cycle — and GOP donors to the group have outright said that they are pushing for the most conservative person possible to win Democratic primaries.

Supporters of Bowman and commentators also pointed out that 2024 redistricting also hurt Bowman, as his district, NY-16, was redrawn to include more of suburban, white-dominated Westchester and less of the majority non-white Bronx. Sanders alluded to the divide between the two regions, pointing out that Bowman garnered 84 percent of the vote in the Bronx, versus 42 percent in Westchester.

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