Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) appeared on MSNBC's The Reid Report Thursday to join Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer in attacking the Koch brothers. Sanders opined, "I fear very much that this country is losing its democratic foundations and moving toward an oligarchic formal society where a handful of billionaires will control not only the economy but the political life of this nation." But a look at donations to Sanders' last Senate race reveals at least $694 thousand dollars from PACs and unions based outside of Vermont.
Host Joy Reid began with asking Sanders if he saw a conflict between the Koch brothers' support of reforming the criminal justice system by removing mandatory sentencing and their support of Republican and conservative causes:
Sanders: But this is what I do know. The Koch brothers, as you've just mentioned, are the second wealthiest family in this country. As a result of Citizens United, they have and will spend hundreds of millions of dollars, if not over a period of time, billions of dollars to elect candidates to office who believe in more tax breaks for the wealthiest people, and major cuts or the privatization of social security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education. They are the Koch brothers, helping to lead the war, in my view, against working families in this country, and are part of the reason that we have so much wealth and income and inequality, such that the rich are getting much richer, while everybody else is seeing a decline in their standard of living.
Reid: I want to pull a little bit of a quote of from what you have put on your website. You said the libertarian platform in 1980 called for abolishing the minimum wage, and income taxes. David Koch was a candidate for Vice President that year on a ticket headed by Edward Clark. They thought Ronald Reagan was too liberal. Today David Koch and his brother Charles have turned that 1980 extremism into mainstream Republican Party orthodoxy, by putting their fortune behind right-wing politicians and think tanks. Why are you now and others who oppose the agenda of the Koch brothers, are really taking to highlighting them specifically, highlighting the Kochs personally. Why are you doing that?
Sanders: Joy, I will tell you why. I fear very much, and I think people may think I’m overstating this, I fear very much that this country is losing its democratic foundations and moving toward an oligarchic formal society where a handful of billionaires will control not only the economy but the political life of this nation. What you're looking at right now is an extreme right-wing family who believe all the things that you've just indicated. They don't believe that we should simply not raise the minimum wage; these guys believe we should do away with the minimum wage. And if you had to work for $3 an hour, or $2 an hour, that's freedom. That's your freedom. And these guys believe we should privatize social security, massive cuts in Medicaid. No support for women's rights, et cetera. They believe the federal government is terrible. And they want to move toward a society where the big money interests control the economy and the political life.
While Sanders objects to the Koch brothers donating money to support their political agenda, he does not object to other outside groups pushing their political agendas. One look at his top 100 donors from his most recent campaign cycle (per OpenSecrets) reveals the Vermont Senator took almost $700,000 from outside donors, most of them labor unions.