Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter speaking at TEDWomen2015. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED/via flickr/cc)

Jimmy Carter: Citizens United 'Gives Legal Bribery a Chance to Prevail'

Former president slams 'the erroneous ruling of the Supreme Court'

Andrea Germanos

Former U.S. President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter has taken aim at the "erroneous" Supreme Court ruling that "gives legal bribery a chance to prevail."

Carter made the comments, an apparent reference to the 2010 Citizens United ruling, in an interview Wednesday with the BBC's "Today" program.

Carter told interviewer John Humphrys that the ruling would have prevented a "relatively unknown farmer" like himself from emerging as a serious candidate. "Now," he said, "there's a massive infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns for all the candidates."

"Some candidates like [Donald] Trump can put in his own money but others have to be able to raise, I'd say, a hundred to two hundred million dollars just to get the Democratic or Republican nomination. "That's the biggest change in America," he said, and one for the worse, adding that "the erroneous ruling of the Supreme Court where millionaires, billionaires can put in unlimited amounts of money directly into the campaign."

"In a way," Carter said, "it gives legal bribery a chance to prevail because almost all the candidates, whether they are honest or not, and whether they are Democratic or Republican, depend on these massive infusions of money from very rich people in order to have money to campaign."

Carter contrasted today's elections from when he was running for office, saying, "In those days when I ran against Gerald Ford, who was incumbent president, or later Ronald Reagan, who challenged me, we didn't raise a single penny to finance our campaign to run against each other. We just used the $1 per person checkoff that every taxpayer indicates at the end of his or her income tax return. But nowadays, you have to have many hundreds of millions of dollars to prevail."

Humphrys said that another change that seems to have occurred over the decades is that "many members of the middle class and working class, white people, have been disaffected form the political process"—something that Carter attributed to the fact that "they have, in effect, been cheated out of a proper opportunity to improve their lot in life" because "rich people finance the campaigns," and "then when candidates get in office they do what the rich people want."

Carter's comments to BBC are similar to ones he made in September 2015, when he talked to Oprah Winfrey about the influence of money on elections, saying, "We've become, now, an oligarchy instead of a democracy."

They also echo ones he made in 2012 when he denounced the "financial corruption"of elections and referred to "that stupid ruling" by the Supreme Court. "We have one of the worst election processes in the world right in the United States of America, and it's almost entirely because of the excessive influx of money," he said at the time.

Carter's interview on BBC also covered the eradication campaign his foundation, the Carter Center, has been waging against guinea worm, a parasitic infection.

Carter, who's 91 and has been undergoing treatment for cancer, said his hope is that he "can outlive the last guinea worm."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Top 10 US Billionaires Got $1 Billion Richer Every Day of Pandemic

"Each made about the same in a single minute as the average American household earns in an entire year. This can't continue," said Americans for Tax Fairness.

Jake Johnson ·


14-Year-Old Indigenous Land Defender Killed in Colombia

"We condemn the killing of Breiner David Cucuñame!" says Fridays for Future MAPA. "We join the calls for justice and stand in solidarity with the environmental defenders in Colombia and across the world!"

Jessica Corbett ·


Lyft Donates $14 Million to Keep Massachusetts Drivers Down

The largest one-time political donation in state history goes to a coalition fighting to stop ride-hailing and delivery companies from having to classify their drivers as employees.

Brett Wilkins ·


Catching Up With Progressives, Biden to Provide N95s Nationwide

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who introduced the Masks for All Act in July 2020, called the move "a good first step."

Julia Conley ·


Bank Blocks Donations Supporting Cuban Effort to Vaccinate World

"A European bank, established in the Netherlands, has decided to put the interests of the U.S. government above the lives of millions of people."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo