Former President Jimmy Carter had some harsh words to say about the current state of America’s electoral process, calling the country “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery” resulting in “nominations for president or to elect the president.” When asked this week by The Thom Hartmann Program (via The Intercept) about the Supreme Court’s April 2014 decision to eliminate limits on campaign donations, Carter said the ruling “violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system.”
The 39th president also voiced concerns that the limitless flow of campaign cash severely favors those already in office. “The same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members,” Carter said. “So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”
Carter’s comments come as the 2016 presidential race tops 20 candidates, most of them Republicans. “The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves,” Carter said. “Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.”
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also disagreed with the controversial Citizens United ruling that opened up campaign spending. She was among the dissenters in the court’s 5-4 decision that erased campaign-spending caps, and called the ruling the “most disappointing” in her 22-year tenure on the court “because of what has happened to elections in the United States and the huge amount of money it takes to run for office.”
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Obama 7 million G.W. Bush 35 million G. Bush 23 Million
Reagan 13 Million Carter 7 million Ford 7 million
Nixon 15 million Ike 8 million Johnson 98 million
Kennedy 1 billion Clinton 505 million
At the same time, access to personal wealth has become almost a prerequisite for achieving political office. An individual with a large personal fortune can very easily become a major contender in a presidential race; however, it is virtually impossible for parties or individuals without access to such funds to even obtain ballot status in the majority of American states.
The wealth of the leading Democrats makes a mockery of their occasional populist rhetoric. These people do not and cannot stand for the “little man” or “woman.” Last week, for example, Clinton met briefly with protesting independent truckers in Pennsylvania demanding that something be done about ruinous diesel fuel prices. Signs called for “fair fuel prices.” For the New York senator, this made for a useful photo opportunity.
However, Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid has received almost $900,000 in donations from the energy and natural resources sector as a whole, according to OpenSecrets.org, more than Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and over $300,000 from oil and natural gas companies. Having paid the piper, these corporations call the tune.
The arguments by various left liberal forces, like the Nation magazine, that “progressives” should “exert pressure” on Clinton and Obama in order to move them to the left are empty and absurd. These figures in the Democratic Party are millionaire politicians, who have enriched themselves along with the rest of a crass, shortsighted nouveau riche. They have no intention of hindering in any serious manner the private accumulation of fortunes by their fellow millionaires.
The direct rule by the wealthy exposes the degeneration of what is supposed to be the democratic process in the United States.
Common people: By Zaid Jilani is a former senior reporter and blogger at ThinkProgress
What has been laid out here is only a small sample of the vortex of wealth that Hillary and Bill Clinton have received from corporations, foundations, foreign organizations and others with an interest in U.S. public policy. No one with any knowledge of politics believes these payments to be disinterested or impartial; they are part of a larger political system that rewards politicians for fealty and obedience. The Clintons were simply following a path laid by other politicos, such as former U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, who raked in millions of dollars as a drug lobbyist after crafting an industry-friendly Medicare overhaul, and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who has leveraged his experience in government to enrich himself influence-peddling for a variety of corporate clients without ever having to officially register as a lobbyist.
Given their immense wealth and how they got it — politicized kickbacks from the most powerful political forces in Washington, on Wall Street and around the globe — the Clintons would do well to admit that they are unusually wealthy and stop trying to pass themselves off as ordinary folks. If they don’t, their fate may very well resemble Romney’s, as mounting public anger over growing income and wealth inequality could prevent them from returning to the White House in 2016.