Campaign Finance Is ‘Legalized Bribery’ – President Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter with his grandson Hugo

Jimmy Carter blasts campaign finance ruling as creating legalized bribery.

Former president Jimmy Carter blasted the controversial Citizens United ruling during an interview with BBC Radio.



Speaking to John Humphrys of BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Carter related that the way politics is being funded amounts to “legal bribery.” 

Speaking in the wake of the Iowa caucuses, Carter said the infusion of money in politics was the greatest change since he was elected president in 1976, noting that: ““When I ran against Gerald Ford, or later Ronald Reagan, we didn’t raise a single penny to finance our campaign against each other … nowadays you have to have hundreds of millions of dollars to prevail.”

I didn’t have any money. Now there is a massive infusion of hundreds 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 a $100m to $200m just to get the Republican or Democratic nomination. That’s the biggest change in America.

Carter went on to allude to the Citizens United ruling without mentioning it by name, stating that: “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 also noted that the current situation unfairly excludes middle-class citizens, that they are being “cheated out of an opportunity to improve their lot in life.”

“As the rich people finance the campaigns, when candidates get in office they do what the rich people want. 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.”

This isn’t the first time that Carter has spoken out against campaign finance. During an interview with Thom Hartmann last July, Carter said that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” is the essence of winning the nomination for president and going on to win the presidency.

Speaking of Citizens United, Hartmann asked Carter: “Our Supreme Court has now said unlimited money in politics. It seems a violation of the principles of democracy and the minute or so we have left – your thoughts on that?”

Carter responded that: “It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. 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.”



Then in September Carter expressed his dismay and frustration over the current political election system in an Oprah Winfrey “SuperSoul Sunday” interview trailer. [The complete interview aired Sept. 27, 2015 on the OWN network.]

Oprah Winfrey asked the 91-year old humanitarian and advocate for fair elections, if he thought he could win a presidential election today. Carter replied: “Absolutely not. We’ve become, now, an oligarchy instead of a democracy. I think that’s been the worst damage to the basic moral and ethical standards to the American political system that I’ve ever seen in my life.”

You can listen to the full BBC interview here or you can listen to the portion dealing with campaign finance here.

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Samuel Warde

Samuel is a writer, social and political activist, and all-around troublemaker.
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