Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is urging leadership of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to vote on and pass a resolution that would ban Super PAC money in Democratic primaries as the influence of billionaires and dark money groups grows ever stronger in elections.
This week, Sanders sent a letter to DNC Chair Jaime Harrison saying that dark money spending in elections is growing out of control and the Democratic Party must “walk the walk” on campaign finance reform and reject this practice. Dark money spending especially harms progressive candidates, who are often the subject of attack from multimillion dollar campaigns and conservative-tied interests.
“Let’s be clear: the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision is undermining American democracy,” Sanders said. “Here is the simple truth. The Democratic Party must not allow Oligarchs and their super PACs, often aligned with Republicans, to buy Democratic Party primaries. If Democrats really believe in campaign finance reform, we must ban super PACs in primaries.”
Sanders urged Harrison to bring a resolution that would ban dark money spending in primaries to a vote this week, pointing out that the DNC blocked a vote on the resolution in meetings last year.
“I believe strongly that there should be public debate and a vote on this important measure,” Sanders continued. “Virtually all Democrats talk about the need for campaign finance reform. Talk is easy. Now it’s time to walk the walk. Let’s stand up for democracy.”
The lawmaker also began circulating a petition urging the DNC to pass the measure.
Progressive politicians were outraged when a panel of the DNC blocked consideration of the resolution, which would bar dark money from primaries and create a process to investigate any dark money sources used by candidate groups last year.
“Dark money taints the will of the people of these communities because dark money is doing the bidding of the elites and the oligarchs who don’t give a damn about the conditions people are living in,” former Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, who was the target of relentless dark money-fueled attacks during her U.S. House campaign, told Common Dreams at the time. “The Democratic Party, by not allowing this resolution to come to the floor, is complicit in the railroading of democracy itself.”
For the past two decades, outside spending, largely fueled by secretive dark money spending, has hit a new record high every election cycle. Last year’s midterm election was no different, with outside spending topping $2 billion for the first time, breaking the previous record of $1.6 billion in 2018.
A huge amount of this spending comes from the richest Americans: a report by Americans for Tax Fairness released shortly before the election found that just 465 American billionaires had poured $881 million into the election by the end of September and easily could have spent over $1 billion on the election by the time it was over. A comfortable majority of about 60 percent of the spending went toward Republicans.
Such spending has a direct influence on elections. An OpenSecrets analysis done shortly after the election found that 96 percent of the House races that had been called at that point were won by the candidate who spent the most.
Some progressives and Democrats have attempted to combat the influence of money in politics by introducing legislation to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows individuals and corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on influencing elections. But, though lawmakers have introduced similar bills over the years, they are never brought to a vote, regardless of which party is in power.
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