ATLANTA — Former President Jimmy Carter issued a blistering indictment of the U.S. electoral process Tuesday, saying it is shot through with “financial corruption” that threatens American democracy.
Speaking at the international human rights center that bears his name, Carter said “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.”
The 39th president 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, allowing the rich even greater influence over public discourse and electioneering.
He added that he hopes the “Supreme Court will reverse that stupid ruling,” referring to the case known as Citizens United.
Carter 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 amass far more on their own.
“You know how much I raised to run against Gerald Ford? Zero,” Carter said, referring to his 1976 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.”
The United States, Carter said, has “less influence” over Middle East nations and diplomacy in that region than it has had at any time since Israel was established as a nation-state in 1948. “Our country’s government has basically abandoned the effort,” Carter said, adding that he still supports a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel.
He said he hopes Israel resists any urge to strike Iran “on its own,” and he discouraged Obama from drawing a “line in the sand” that Iran would almost certainly cross.
In Syria, Carter said civil war will worsen as other nations in the region flood the participants with weapons. “There is little hope of good things coming out of Syria any time soon,” he said.