Former Vice President Al Gore said U.S. democracy “has been hacked” by anonymous big donors using money to expand their influence in politics.
Gore, the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee and vice president during the 1995 and 1996 government shutdowns, linked the political stalemate that partially closed the government for 16 days this month to the power of special interests.
“Big anonymous contributors should not call the shots,” Gore said in an interview today on Bloomberg Television’s “Market Makers” program. “Money plays the dominant role in politics today.”
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court in a ruling known as Citizens United allowed unlimited corporate and union political spending. Nonprofit advocacy groups such as Priorities USA, founded by former Obama aides, and Crossroads GPS, created with the help of Republican strategist Karl Rove, proliferated since the ruling.
Such organizations spent more than $300 million on the 2012 campaign, up 280 percent over the $79 million spent four years earlier, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Gore said efforts to reduce the influence have been stymied “because the special interests control the system.”
That has played into the political stalemate between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans that led to the partial government shutdown and bringing the government to the brink of default, he said.
“These shutdowns are very damaging,” and the political gridlock is worse than when Gore was in office, he said. The agreement that restored government funding and lifted the debt limit until early next year meant the stalemate was “only resolved for a short term and we’ll be back facing it again,” he said.
The resolution, even if only temporary, “certainly validates” Obama’s refusal to “negotiate with the proverbial gun pointed at our heads.”
Gore, 65, a Democrat who won a Nobel Prize in 2007 for his efforts to raise awareness of climate change, said special interests also have contributed to the “pathetic performance” of the U.S. in addressing global warming.
“We are paying the cost of carbon and global pollution now,” he said in advocating putting a price on carbon emissions.
Climate change is a long-term risk for markets because of the impact on infrastructure, farm assets and major coastal cities, he said.
Gore has stayed out of politics since the 2000 election, in which he won the popular vote over Republican George W. Bush while losing in the decisive Electoral College after the U.S. Supreme Court stopped a recount of votes in Florida.
Since then, Gore has transformed himself from a politician to a successful businessman with a net worth that may exceed $200 million. A partner at venture capital company Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Gore is also on Apple Inc.’s board and a senior adviser at Google Inc., according to his website biography. He’s spent recent years advocating “sustainable capitalism.”
His holdings also include investments in Amazon.com Inc., EBay Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. through his Generation Investment Management US LLP.
Gore this year sold 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.
His books on the climate “Earth in the Balance,” “An Inconvenient Truth” and “The Assault on Reason,” have been best sellers, though he has pledged any earnings to his nonprofit group, the Climate Reality Project.