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.

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