Jimmy Carter Says US Elections Are Corrupted
October 19, 2012
Pete Papaherakles / Agence France-Presse & Jimmy Carter / The Carter Centers
"You know how much I raised to run against Gerald Ford?" asks Carter. "Zero. You know how much I raised to run against Ronald Reagan? Zero. You know how much will be raised this year by all presidential, Senate and House campaigns? Six billion dollars. The United States and Venezuela are anomalies in the hemisphere in that they do not provide public financing for political campaigns.
(October 9, 2012) -- Injecting billions of dollars into US politics is a recipe for corruption, says former President Jimmy Carter. Placing the blame squarely on the Supreme Court for endorsing a corporate spending free-for-all in American politics, he said the justices gave unlimited freedom to special interest groups representing corporations and lobbyists to provide campaign funding through third parties that don't have to disclose their donors.
"We have one of the worst election processes in the world right here in the United States of America," he said, "and it's almost entirely because of the excessive influx of money.
"You know how much I raised to run against Gerald Ford?" asked Carter in his latest Conversation at the Carter Center. "Zero. You know how much I raised to run against Ronald Reagan? Zero. You know how much will be raised this year by all presidential, Senate and House campaigns? Six billion dollars. That's 6,000 million."
Carter did get public funding from the Democratic National Committee but received no money from private donors -- corporate or individuals.
In contrast, Romney and Obama are both on their way to possibly raising an astonishing billion dollars each in campaign funds this year. By August 31 Romney had raised $669 million while Obama had raised $766 million. In the month of August Romney raised $112 million and Obama brought in $114 million, and the stakes keep getting higher until Election Day.
These funds are a combination of public and private funds, with public funds comprising only about a quarter of the total money raised.
The Supreme Court justified its 5-4 Citizens United ruling on the basis that the First Amendment prohibits government from restricting independent political donations by corporations and unions. As a result, special interest groups have taken control of the election process making it "shot through with financial corruption that threatens [America]," according to Carter. He expressed his hope that "the Supreme Court will reverse that stupid ruling."
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is, of course, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Along with other pro-Zionist lobbies, individuals and corporations, they dominate campaign funding, thus influencing the political platform, including foreign policy, for both candidates.
Carter prefers publicly financed elections, currently used by other countries.
Perspectives on Inter-American Relations
Jimmy Carter / Excerpt from Remarks at the XVI Annual CAF Conference on Latin America in Washington DC
(September 6, 2012) -- ... Finally, I cannot ignore two significant election campaigns now underway. Venezuela will elect a president on Oct. 7, and the United States one month later. Despite the many differences between our two countries, we have some important similarities. One is that both countries are debating the fundamental relationship between state and society.
What guarantees do our governments want to provide to all our citizens, especially the most vulnerable? Who will pay for these guarantees? What mechanisms need to be strengthened to ensure that core human rights and fundamental fairness are protected? These are difficult issues, and neither country is handling the debate very well.
The political debates are influenced by another unfortunate policy our two countries share. The United States and Venezuela are anomalies in the hemisphere in that they do not provide public financing for political campaigns.
Actually, the United States offers public funding for presidential campaigns (which I accepted), but the candidates now reject the financing and the limits on spending that come with it. Money in politics undermines the fundamental tenet of democracy - political equality.
For some countries, the challenge is how to keep illicit money out of politics, especially drug money. For the United States, the issue is how to prevent undue influence of money in politics, while not infringing on freedom of speech. With candidates no longer accepting public funding, and with the US Supreme Court allowing unlimited and often anonymous private contributions, wealthy donors and special interests now flood the airwaves with negative ads not subject to campaign regulation.
As a result, basic political equality is undermined since the wealthy have a far greater opportunity to influence the election of candidates and then to shape public policy.
The problem in Venezuela is that an incumbent running for reelection can place government ads that look very much like campaign ads and command broadcast coverage of his speeches. The concern is not private money influencing the campaign, but rather the extensive use of public money and state resources in favor of the governing party.
On this and other election issues, several Latin American countries offer better practices that can benefit us all. Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and many other countries regulate television advertising. Mexico just elected a new president under laws that prevent the incumbent president from campaigning for his own party's nominee.
It prohibits negative campaigning and provides $24 million in public financing to each candidate. In contrast, the U.S. campaigns for federal office this year will cost more than $6 billion, much of it spent on destroying the reputation of opponents.
In both Venezuela and the United States, the elections will be of great importance. We believe they'll be honest, and we encourage a maximum participation of voters in both countries.
Fairness and human rights. These are basic qualities in both human and international relations. We may have different visions of how to address the fundamental challenges facing us, but we will never be able to address them satisfactorily unless we return to basic civility and a willingness to cooperate to find solutions based on common values.
We must begin with a concern for the most vulnerable among us and a commitment to treat each individual with equity and fairness. This will provide in our Western Hemisphere a bright future – to all of us.
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