“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,” Carter said at the international human rights center that bears his name. He lamented a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited contributions to third-party groups that don’t have to disclose their donors.
The dynamic is fed, Carter said, by an income tax code that exacerbates the gap between the wealthiest Americans and the rest of the electorate.
The former president praised Mexico and several countries where Carter Center staff have monitored publicly financed elections, and he said the United States should return to publicly financed elections for president. The system technically is still in place, but it is voluntary and both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have chosen to bypass the taxpayer money because they can raise far more on their own.
“You know how much I raised to run against Gerald Ford? Zero,” Carter said, referring to his general election opponent. “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? $6 billion. That’s 6,000 millions.”
Carter said he hopes the “Supreme Court will reverse that stupid ruling” in the case known as Citizens United.
The 87-year-old Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, appeared at The Carter Center to deliver a report on their human rights and public health initiatives around the world. They took questions from those in attendance and online viewers watching a webcast.
He also held forth on a range of foreign policy issues, saying that he has “little hope” for peace any time soon in Syria, that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was re-elected “fairly and squarely” and that the United States has “less influence” over Middle East diplomacy as it has had at any time since Israel was established as a nation-state in 1948.