Former Vice President Al Gore says American democracy has been “hacked” by the influence of money in politics and that he hopes activist investors will continue to exert influence on corporations globally to act in civically responsible ways.
“The Congress is incapable of doing what the American people want,” Gore said in an interview late yesterday with Willow Bay on Bloomberg Television from the Milken Institute 2013 Global Conference in Los Angeles. “The influence of big money is at extremely unhealthy levels.”
The former Democratic vice president said the result has been that special interests have “way more influence over the decisions of the Congress than the American people do.”
Gore, 65, pointed to legislation to expand background checks for gun purchasers that failed in the Senate last month, even though a CBS/New York Times poll in January showed 90 percent of the U.S. public supports expanding such a system.
“They haven’t been able to regulate these phony-baloney financial derivatives that caused the financial crisis,” he said. “They can’t pass a budget. They can’t keep the country from facing financial danger.”
As the Internet expands its role in the democratic process, Gore said he’s optimistic that the role of money in politics will wane.
“Individuals will once again have an opportunity to influence the course of policy,” he said.
Gore, who has transformed himself from a career politician to a successful businessman, may gross about $70 million from the sale of his Current TV network to Al Jazeera, the cable channel funded in part by oil-rich Qatar. The sale was announced in January with a price tag of about $500 million.
Gore said he supports the idea that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission should require corporations to disclose their political contributions in annual corporate filings. He also called on activist shareholders to continue to press businesses to act in “responsible and sustainable” ways, something that he said is part of the capitalist tradition.
“At its best, it has always been married to appropriate regulation that lifts up the human values that are important to us, protecting the environment, for example, prohibiting child labor,” he said.
Gore, who served as vice president during President Bill Clinton’s administration, said there’s too much attention given to “horse-race” politics, including talk about Hillary Clinton running in 2016 for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“She’s extremely talented, capable of doing whatever she sets her mind to,” he said of the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state.
Gore, who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against global warming, said his trademark issue is re-emerging as one important to voters following climate-related “disasters,” including Hurricane Sandy that tore through the U.S. northeast coast in 2012. The costs for solar and wind energy will also continue to decline, Gore said.
“It’s going to happen, but we need to accelerate it,” he said.
Asked about suggestions made this past week by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that the high court should have stayed out of the 2000 election, Gore declined to criticize a court that essentially awarded a presidency he almost won to George W. Bush based on confusing vote tallying in Florida.
“I strongly disagreed with their opinion, said so, but the rule of law is really the bedrock of American democracy,” Gore said.