BILL MOYERS: I watched the Democratic Convention, as perhaps you did. And I heard all the speeches about opportunity and solidarity. And I saw that vast array of faces, of every color, every age, every gender. And I thought, "There are still two Democratic Parties in this country, the party out across the country of everyday folks like Michelle Obama's parents, working paycheck to paycheck. And then there's the Washington Democratic club, the corporate lawyers, the lobbyists, the Wall Streeters like Robert Rubin and-- and-- and Peter Orszag." And I was wondering, as I watched, if Obama wins reelection, which party goes back to the White House with him? The party of the country or the party of the club?

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, we certainly hope it will be the party of the country, the party of 25 million Americans without any jobs, the party of people struggling to keep their heads above water, the party of the people who want to see health care for all of us. But there is no question, Bill, of the enormous-- impact that big money has, certainly on the Republican Party, but on the Democratic Party-- as well. And I fear very much that unless we galvanize public opinion, unless we create the kind of progressive grassroots movement-- the big money interest-- will continue to dominate.

BILL MOYERS: Tell me how that money works. I mean, you've been on the inside 20-some-odd years, as I sit. How does it actually work? We hear "money in politics."

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, this is how it works. And-- and this is what people do not appreciate. And it's true for Republicans and Democrats, as well. You do not know how many hours every single week, how many hours every single day people walk into the-- what we call the d-- Senate-- Democratic Senate Campaign Committee or the Republican Committee. And you know what they do? They dial for dollars. They dial for dollars, hour after hour after hour.

BILL MOYERS: Who are they calling?

BERNIE SANDERS: They're calling a list of people who have money. That's who they're calling. And what happens when you do that day after day, month after v-- month, your worldview becomes shaped by those people. And most of the money coming into your campaign coffers comes from those people. And you begin representing their perspective.

BILL MOYERS: Well, there are more-- it's more than that, isn't it? Because you just-- within the last few days or at least-- a long report on the billionaires--


BILL MOYERS: --who are pouring money into the--

BERNIE SANDERS: Absolutely. We have right now-- and this should frighten every American. As a result of this disastrous Citizens United decision, we're looking now at people-- like the Koch Brothers, putting in-- one family, $400 million. Adelson, worth $20 billion, putting in $100 million. We have over 23 billionaire families making large contributions, and I think that's a conservative number. So what you are looking at is a nation with a grotesquely unequal distribution of wealth and income, tremendous economic power on Wall Street, and now added to all of that is you have the big money interests, the billionaires and corporations now buying elections. This scares me very much. And I fear very much that if we don't turn this around, Bill, we're heading toward an oligarchic form of society.

Bernie Sanders on What Money Does to Politics

September 7, 2012

In this video excerpt, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders describes how “dialing for dollars” distorts our leaders’ perspectives on who they’re actually representing, and how money’s influence is transforming both our politics and society.

“You’re looking at a nation with a grotesquely unequal distribution of wealth and income, tremendous economic power on Wall Street and now added to all of that is big money interests — the billionaires and corporations now buying elections,” Sanders tells Bill. “I fear very much that if we don’t turn this around, we’re heading toward an oligarchic form of society.”

Watch the full conversation between Bernie Sanders and Bill Moyers.

  • submit to reddit
  • MBrecker

    A suggestion for Sen. Sanders. Aside from money, another way to improve their image with voters is to try treating them with respect when constituents contact them. I’ve contact almost all of the major Democrats (in both houses) regarding lots of issues. I’ve been blown off by every progressive person in Congress (including Sander’s office). I’ve called other offices and it ranges from an assistant reading a phone script (to sound polite before they hang up?) to insults that I dared to ask about how someone will vote. The aide says, how can you say that about the Senator? Not everyone takes money, and the Senator isn’t a man of wealth. My response: I never said he was rich. And yet they have no idea why their aproval rating is at an all-time historic low.

  • Jonathan Toth from Hoth

    Bill, you keep getting closer to the truth, and transparency is the apocalypse…be careful.

  • Brent

    I have been a call time manager on 3 races – two Congressional and one gubernatorial – and the goal is 25-35 hrs a week of dialing for dollars. Truly a disgusting waste of time.

  • Allyson Gutirrez-bundy

    I think you missed Bernie’s point. YOU are NOT one of the 20 some Billionaire families donating to the party, so….. YOU are actually NOT important to the party. We have Citizen’s United to blame for this and we have ourselves to blame for not doing something about that Supreme Court decision before NOW!!! We must face it, our complacency since the Clinton era has landed us on the brink of either Corporate Facism and/or Pleutocracy/Oligarchy. The average USA citizen’s affinity for corporate sponsored media is like the affinity for fast food. “You are what you eat”. In other words “In where lies the surprise?” – we get what we don’t change. Obama is but ONE – he cannot save us – however – with sacrifice on our parts – he can help to spring board change. This is what Obama has been saying for 4 years. It is OUR fault that we are where we are – we have been sheeple – not people – having forgotten what our “forefathers” meant with “We The People…” Like the 10 Commandments, the Constitution is not upheld by most of us. Thus, we get what we deserve (don’t change).

  • Robert E.

    I don’t think we’re heading toward an oligarchic society, I think that’s what we have now.

  • Anonymous

    Theodore Roosevelt, that rare, progressive Republican icon, “targeted stock gamblers ‘making large sales of what men do not possess,’ writers who ‘act as the representatives of predatory wealth’ and ‘men of wealth, who find in the purchased politician the most efficient instrument of corruption.’ He reserved his strongest warnings for these multimillionaires.”

    TR’s early 20th century policies sought to make ordinary citizens aware of what he considered the most ominous of the great fundamental questions before us. The great issue was to reform the “unnatural alliance of politics and corporations” to enthrone privilege.
    But today the Republican Party has no Theodore Roosevelt, so its demise is apparent. Read more at

  • Louis Darnell

    The two party system’s a quadruped
    With two hindquarters and absent a head…

    A very deadly pox on BOTH political whorehouses

    Merlin Miller in 2012…screw the rest dead.
    Take out the Rothschilds and the “federal reserve” with extreme prejudice for what they have done to the world and to this country.

  • John De Clef Piñeiro

    I’m sharing this statement on my FB wall. You have nailed it! Indeed, the fault is not in our stars, or in the billionaires, but in ourselves that we have allowed ourselves to become a passive, unengaged citizenry. Gandhi was just one man, who ended up mobilizing and inspiring many because he wouldn’t buckle under. All of us need to know what it is to stand up and lobby for the common good. It is an experience and a rite of passage as citizens that lies before us, not behind us. As you succinctly put it: we get what we do not change. We need to discover the gladiator in ourselves and cast aside the mindset of victimhood and passivity. We the People must find our voice and our resolve to demand and make real the change we need. It won’t grow out of Monday Night Football, or Dancing with the Stars, or American Idol.

  • Changin

    You’re so Right On Robert E., they should visit Main Street more often!

  • Dido

    Heading there???? We’re there already! Have been for years. Never have I felt that my voice or vote mattered so little. Once upon a time there was actually SUSPENSE about political conventions. Now they just anoint a candidate whose name has long been known. Citizens United just made a bad situation worse.

  • Linda Lou

    It is so refreshing to read the comments and assures me that I am not alone in my frustration and thinking. I am in favor of changing the “rules” by which we are governed. I found an organization that so far has proposed 12 points to change Congress and 12 points to change the Presidency. They are common sense approaches . Check out No Labels and see if you agree. These are just the beginning steps to turn this mess around, but what else can we do?

  • Leslie

    make it so being a career politician isn’t so profitable .. and cancel congress pensions .. put them into SS & medicare ..

  • Elizabeth Rodricks

    We have had an Oligarchy for years now.

  • Lynn

    Vote for candidates who have supported legislation to overturn the Citizens United decision. Vote against candidates who have blocked attempts to overturn it.

  • len zamkoff

    .Posted in error.

  • Anonymous

    Linda — It is refreshing indeed. I think part of the problem is how we are represented — and the lack of diversity. Perhaps we need more than two political parties, need to get rid of the Electoral College and change how long people in Congress serve for starters.
    The Republic based on the Founding Fathers worked for 1700s America but is less relevant for a diverse and more complicated 21st Century America. No doubt, we need to keep the Constitution in tact for the most part, but we definitely do not need an elite group representing the masses.
    We need regional councils/representatives who are accessible to the people who elect them to serve. I would love to see America’s governing system get an upgrade.

  • Anonymous

    Well said,John.

  • Andrew Teichner

    Bernie Sanders definitely is for the common man. He understands democracy depends on the center not the extremes.

  • pole

    Its all about money. It has all been about money for a long time. The richest citizens, well over the $250,000 amount broadcast by corporate Media to describe the richest 2%, have found ways to control what happens in Congress and state governments for at least two decades. But the Carl Rowe creation of the so called Tea Party, paid in large part of the billionaires who saw this time as ideal to take over the country, saw the chance to get rid of a black president now. It didn’t work, thank God, because there were enough independents and assorted others to re-elect the president. The need to minimize the money influence in Washington, DC has never been greater.

  • TKList

    To remove money from politics you have to get rid of what attracts money to politics.

    Which is the Tax Code and excessive regulation.

    The voter wants regulation and taxes on business and the rich, which causes business and the rich to spend money on politics to influence taxes and regulations. Blame the voter.

    Excessive regulations and a convoluted Tax Code are the seeds of an oligarchy; they are the sperm and egg.

    If you count on the government to do it or over regulate it, it will be hijacked by special interest groups (Unions, Financial Industry, Oil Industry, Farmers, Multi-National Corporations, Religious Groups, Environmentalists, AARP, etc.), so it invites more corruption than solutions. People are given a false sense of security. A very good reason to keep government to a minimum and one of the reasons the Constitution is set up to constrain it. This regulatory capture also increases the barriers to competition, further hurting citizens/consumers.

    Blame the voter for the existence of lobbyists.

    First step to a solution:

    Support politicians that promise to get rid of laws and regulations that are obsolete or ineffective, instead of the ones that promise to enact more laws and regulations.

    Second and third steps:

    Repeal the 16th Amendment, abolish the IRS and the Tax Code, and enact the Fair Tax. Less money will go into politics because there will be no Tax Code to manipulate. There will be much less for the special interest groups to hijack.

    Reduce regulations to the minimum necessary. Less money will go into politics because there will be less to manipulate. There will be less for the special interest groups to hijack.

    Fourth step:

    Pass and ratify an Amendment to the Constitution to require a 60% supermajority in the House to pass any new legislation and a simple majority to repeal any legislation.

    Choose limited federal government. Stop making millionaires out of our politicians and lobbyists. Stop increasing the power of connected corporations.