When it comes to getting money out of politics, Vice President Joe Biden thinks he and his fellow Democrats need to start leading by example.
Speaking Thursday at a Washington, D.C., conference of the liberal group Generation Progress, Biden told the crowd, “You ought to be demanding of all of us — all of us — that at least in our own party fights, among ourselves in primaries, we adhere to a policy that doesn’t rest on millionaires and billionaires.”
The vice president said Democrats should take contributions from wealthy donors only in limited amounts, stressing what he sees as the pernicious effect of money on politicians, including himself.
“[W]here the money is there’s almost always, implicitly, some string attached,” he said. “No one buys anybody directly. That doesn’t happen. If it does, it’s rare. But it’s awful hard to take a whole lot of money from a group that you know has a particular position and then, if you conclude they’re wrong, vote no.”
Biden’s comments come on the heels of Hillary Clinton’s campaign announcing she has raised $47.5 million since announcing her candidacy. More than 80% of that money came from donors giving the maximum amount allowed by law.
Sensing that he might be making news, Biden stressed that he wasn’t referring to any specific individuals. He then cautioned Democrats against rationalizing this phenomenon by telling themselves that their money, unlike Republican donations, funds virtuous causes.
“We can argue our interest groups are better than their interest groups,” the vice president said. “We can argue they’re less self-serving than the other team’s. That may be all true. But guys, why do you think the middle class thinks things aren’t on the level?”
Biden repeatedly emphasized that many wealthy donors are good people, even as he called the current campaign finance system “a hell of a way to run a democracy.” Ultimately, he told the young activists not to lose sight of their ability to influence elected officials.
“I know a lot of what I just said probably sounds Pollyannaish to you,” he said in conclusion. “But I’ve been around longer than all these other guys. I’m telling you it can be done.”
The vice president’s comments came as part of a broader speech that touched on gun control, immigration reform and other progressive priorities.
Generation Progress spokesperson Jamal Little told InsideSources that Biden has been a champion for young people, most recently on the issue of campus sexual assault. The spokesperson declined to discuss how Biden’s record on youth issues compares to those of Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.