Warren bashing Citizens United echoes Sanders more than Clinton
By Evan Lips | January 22, 2016, 17:56 EDT
WASHINGTON – She has yet to deliver her coveted endorsement, but Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s floor speech Thursday made it clear which Democratic presidential contender best aligns with her progressive views – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Warren railed against the “handful of billionaires” who try to shape America’s politics with their wealth, in reflecting on the sixth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United campaign finance decision. In the 11-minute speech, the Cambridge Democrat faulted the ruling, which unleashed corporate and union spending from any caps, citing the First Amendment. Warren also touched on several proposals she claimed would limit the decision’s effects.
“A new presidential election is upon us,” Warren said near the end of her remarks. “The first votes will be cast in Iowa in just 11 days. Anyone who shrugs and claims it is too hard has crawled into bed with the billionaires who want to run this country like some private club.”
Of Warren’s six ideas, five focus on forcing political action committees, or PACs, to disclose funding sources. The sixth involves creating public funding for congressional elections.
The Sanders campaign has frequently boasted about raising money through small donations, 2.3 million contributions averaging less than $30 each, an indication the money is mostly coming from individuals who aren’t wealthy. More than a year before he launched his presidential campaign, Sanders told attendees at a packed New Hampshire Institute of Politics event that America is “moving toward an oligarchic society,” according to the Nation magazine in April 2014.
“In the United States of America, billionaires should not be able to buy elections,” Sanders said, to what the Nation described as “thunderous” applause.
Hillary Clinton, the former New York senator and secretary of state, also ripped Citizens United Thursday. In an op-ed article published on CNN.com, Clinton wrote that the decision “transformed our politics”and attributed the Republicans’ 2010 midterm trouncing of Democratic congressional candidates to the new policy.
Like Warren, Clinton called for laws to make corporate — and presumably union — donations transparent. She also promised to “appoint Supreme Court justices who recognize that Citizens United is bad for America” and “if necessary, I’ll fight for a constitutional amendment that overturns it.”
But critics point out that the Citizens United decision stemmed from Clinton’s efforts to prevent the release of a critical film ahead of the 2008 presidential primary campaign. She was the target of the production:
— Cato Institute (@CatoInstitute) Jan. 21, 2016
Sanders supporters also questioned the legitimacy of Clinton’s denouncement of Citizens United, pointing out that her campaign has benefited from corporate cash:
— #BERNIEFACTS (@Bernie_Facts) Jan. 21, 2016
In the meantime, Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has made populist-friendly remarks that have prompted pundits to connect the ideological dots, which inevitably connect Sanders to Warren.
“Sanders would appear to be the most ideologically compatible choice for Warren, because his populist, anti-Wall Street rhetoric mirrors her own,” Joshua Green opined in a Jan. 13 Bloomberg Politics column.
But Warren has steadfastly remained neutral. She remains the only woman in the Senate’s Democratic caucus, out of 14, who has not endorsed Clinton. Earlier this month, Warren dropped a significant “hint” via Twitter about her preference when she praised the Vermonter’s attacks on Wall Street and the banking industry. But she quickly followed up with another tweet expressing her support for “ALL of the Dem candidates for president fighting for Wall St. reform.”
Warren has also resisted calls from supporters to launch her own presidential campaign.
A Jan. 13 report from Politico cited unnamed Warren insiders claiming the senator is “far more likely” to endorse Clinton. The report also noted a 2013 letter Warren signed along with other progressive senators urging Clinton to enter the presidential race. ABC News described the memo as a “secret letter” organized by California Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat.
Sanders supporters however point frequently to a 2004 interview the then-Harvard Law School professor had with Bill Moyers of the PBS television network, eight years before she was elected to public office. In it, Warren recalled meeting Clinton in the late 1990s, when she was the nation’s first lady. Warren claimed she helped convince Clinton to oppose a bankruptcy bill sponsored by the major credit card companies.
Warren later told Moyers how Clinton, after being elected to the Senate, caved to Wall Street interests and supported an identical version of the bill.
“As Senator Clinton, the pressures are very different,” Warren said. “It’s a well-financed industry. You know a lot of people don’t realize that the industry that gave the most money to Washington over the past few years was not the oil industry, not the pharmaceuticals — it was consumer credit products.”
Speaking of Clinton, Warren added, “she has taken money from the groups, and more to the point, she worries about them as a constituency.”
Warren also touched on Clinton’s policy reversal in her 2003 book, “The Two Income Trap: Why Middle Class Parents Are Going Broke.”
“As first lady, Mrs. Clinton had been persuaded that the bill was bad for families, and she was willing to fight for her beliefs,” Warren wrote. “As New York’s newest senator, however, it seems that Hillary Clinton could not afford such a principled position. The bill was essentially the same, but Hillary Rodham Clinton was not.”
The importance of a Warren endorsement equates to being a potential “kingmaker or queenmaker,” Anthony Cignoli, a political consultant and Springfield native, told MassLive.com earlier this month.
Cignoli added that a Warren endorsement would “massively impact” the race and noted that Sanders and the Bay State senator share many political views and draw support from similar voters.
“In the short time that she’s been in the United States Senate, she has made so many friends with so many other senators in so many other states, she can have an impact elsewhere,” Cignoli said. “She’s raised a lot of money for other members of the U.S. Senate and it’s reelection time again.”