Democratic contender Bernie Sanders vows to eject money from U.S. elections

FILE PHOTO: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) takes the stage at the New Hampshire Democratic Party state convention in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. September 7, 2019. REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday proposed overturning rules on money in elections, as the Democratic presidential contender pledged to “transform our political system by rejecting the influence of big corporate money.”

Sanders, one of 19 Democrats competing to take on Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election, would replace the Federal Election Commission with “a true law enforcement agency” and rid party conventions and presidential inauguration ceremonies of corporate sponsorship, according to a statement from his campaign.

“When we win the Democratic nomination and defeat Donald Trump, we will transform our political system by rejecting the influence of big corporate money,” the statement said.

Sanders also proposed a constitutional amendment that “makes clear money is not speech and corporations are not people,” intended to undermine U.S. Supreme Court decisions that allow unrestricted spending through political action committees and tax-exempt advocacy groups.

A constitutional amendment requires the support of two-thirds of both houses of the U.S. Congress and ratification by three-quarters of the states. Leading Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have opposed most efforts to restrain political donations.

The proposal comes as Sanders, 78, is recovering from a health scare that forced him to cancel campaign events last week.

On Friday, his campaign said Sanders had suffered a heart attack but that he would be back on the campaign trail soon.

Sanders trails former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren for the Democratic nomination in most national opinion polls.

But his campaign said last week it raised $25.3 million in mostly small donations in the third quarter of this year, outstripping all other Democrats in the 2020 race.

Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Peter Cooney