If Sen. Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2020, he plans to halt all corporate donations to the party’s convention next summer. This as party leaders actively court donors for millions of dollars to pay for the event scheduled to take place next July.
The pledge from Sanders is part of a multi-prong campaign finance reform package rolled out by the presidential candidate while he recovers in Burlington, Vermont, from a heart attack suffered last week during a campaign event in Nevada.
“Our grassroots-funded campaign is proving every single day that you don’t need billionaires and private fundraisers to run for president,” Sanders wrote in the press release for the plan.
“We’ve received more contributions from more individual contributors than any campaign in the history of American politics because we understand the basic reality that you can’t take on a corrupt system if you take its money.”
The tough stance by Sanders sets the stage for a potential showdown with the Democratic National Committee and threatens to completely upend the way the made for television nominating contests are produced. The conventions, no longer a substantive deliberation by party delegates to pick a nominee, have largely become scripted coronations in glitzy sports arenas. The events, by both parties, are heavily funded by large corporations who may contribute limitlessly to the production because it falls under a soft money designation in the Federal Election code.
Sanders, who refuses to take money from corporate donors, wants to eliminate the practice completely.
“When Bernie is the nominee, everything will fundamentally change for corporate elites. Bernie Sanders fights for the people, cannot be bought, and is under no obligation to fulfill any transaction with a corporation trying to corruptly buy access. A Bernie Sanders convention will be a people-powered convention,” said Sanders policy director Josh Orton.
Politico reported last week that Democratic party leaders had already begun the process of selling packages to fund the event – specifically approaching well-heeled corporate donors with ties to K-Street lobby shops. DNC officials say the convention could cost in the ballpark of $70 million.
DNC officials planning the convention chose not to respond directly to the Sanders pledge.
“Our focus is getting the Convention appropriately funded and paid for well in advance so that we can deliver a safe and successful Convention that puts our nominee in the best position to beat Donald Trump in 2020,” said Joe Solmonese, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee.
The full campaign finance reform plan, which is being rolled out less than a week after Sanders announced his massive third quarter fundraising haul of $25.3 million dollars that surpassed the rest of the field, centers around the idea that corporate money and influence only adds corruption to the political system. In the news of their fundraising haul, the campaign also released that their average donation during the third quarter was $18.07, and the individuals who donated the most to the campaign listed their occupation as “teachers.” Sanders enters the 4th quarter of 2019 with $33.7 million cash on hand a figure that will likely be the most of any Democratic candidate.
Looking to replicate his success with small dollar donations through this five-pronged plan, Sanders is calling to aggressively reform national party conventions, presidential inaugurations, public elections, presidential primary debates, and Congress, specifically targeting how the Democratic party raises money and how corporations and lobbyists influence individual campaigns.
In addition to ending corporate contributions to the Democratic Party Convention, Sanders is also calling for the end of corporate donations to the Democratic National Committee, and inaugural events and capping all individual donations to inaugurations to $500.
Sanders also wants to make federal elections publicly funded, abolish the Federal Election Commission and replace it with a Federal Election Administration with its own governing body. He also is calling for a Constitutional amendment designed to overturn Supreme Court cases like the Citizens United decision, and pass legislation to end super PACs. Sanders would also install a Universal Small Dollar Voucher system which would “give any voting-age American the ability to “donate” to federal candidates.”
Finally, the plan calls for a ban on advertising during presidential primary debates, and institute a lifelong lobbying ban for former members of Congress.
“When we win the Democratic nomination and defeat Donald Trump, we will transform our political system by rejecting the influence of big corporate money” Sanders said of the plan.