Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is pessimistic about the current state of our democracy. Chastising the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, Carter says that elections have become “legalized bribery.”
During an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s “Today,” 91-year-old Carter reflected on how campaign finance has changed since he ran for president.
“I didn’t have any money,” Carter said, according to The Guardian. “Now there is a massive infusion of millions of dollars into campaigns for all the candidates. Some candidates like Trump can put in his own money but others have to be able to raise, let's say $100 million to $200 million just to get the Republican or Democratic nomination. That’s the biggest change in America.”
Carter on Citizens United, which lifted caps on how much private interests could spend on election contribution through Super PACs:
The erroneous ruling of the supreme court, where millionaires, billionaires, can put in unlimited amounts of money, give legal bribery the chance to prevail, because all the candidates, whether they are honest or not, or whether they are Democratic or Republican, depend on these massive infusions of money from very rich people in order to have money to campaign.
Carter added that this trend has contributed to income inequality.
“As the rich people finance the campaigns, when candidates get in office they do what the rich people want,” Carter said. “And that’s to let the rich people get richer and richer and the middle class get left out. All the statistics show that the middle class are stagnant or going down in their income for the work that they do.”
A 2014 student conducted by Professor Martin Gilens of Princeton and Professor Benjamin Page of Northwestern University provided data that backs up Carter’s claim.
Reviewing records of public policy surveys spanning decades and breaking down the answers by the income of respondents, the study concluded that the U.S. resembles an oligarchy, according to BBC.
“When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose,” the study concluded.
In the 2016 presidential election cycle, no candidate has made campaign finance reform a more central platform than Democratic Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Sanders, during a Jan. 21 campaign stop in New Hampshire, pledged that if he were elected president, he would only appoint Supreme Court judges who would overturn Citizens United, Union Leader reports.