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Bernie Sanders laments billionaires like Bloomberg 'buying' elections

The 2020 hopeful touts his campaign as grassroots and has attacked his rivals for taking contributions from wealthy donors.

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By Dartunorro Clark

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday took aim at billionaires like Mike Bloomberg who the Vermont senator said are trying to buy elections.

"This is what I think, you know, Mike Bloomberg and anybody else has every right in the world to run for president of the United States. But I got a real problem with multibillionaires literally buying elections," Sanders told NBC News anchor Lester Holt in a "Nightly News" interview.

"And his view is, 'Hey, I'm worth $60 billion, I can spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads; hey, vote for me, make me president,'" Sanders added.

"That is exactly the problem with American politics," he said.

Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City who is worth $60 billion, has skipped the early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire and poured more than $100 million on advertising. He has also built a major ground game across the country with 500 organizers and staff in more than 30 states, including all 14 Super Tuesday states. Billionaire activist Tom Steyer has also used his wealth to fund advertisements and build significant campaign infrastructure.

Sanders said he "doesn't begrudge" Bloomberg's wealth, "but I do begrudge a billionaire thinking he can buy the election."

Sanders has repeatedly said he will build the "strongest grassroots movement in the history of politics" and attacked his rivals for taking contributions from wealthy donors. Sanders gained front-runner status Monday after a new Quinnipiac University poll had him leading former Vice President Joe Biden nationally.

Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist, also told Holt that he didn't believe that title scared GOP voters — even though some Republicans have said they'd look forward to the prospect of a head-to-head contest with either Sanders for that very reason.

'I'm not so sure it scares them. It scares the media, I'll tell you that," Sanders said. "But I think what we say to them is, look, in 2016 Trump ran as a friend of the working families of this country; he lied. He tried to throw 32 million people off of their health care that they have. He had a tax plan which he said would benefit working families, not the very rich, and yet 83 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent."

"Check my record. I have a lifetime of service and fighting for the working class of this country and of taking on powerful special interests," Sanders said.

So if Sanders won, what would his first week in office look like?

According to the candidate, it would be "very crazy," would not include a lot of sleep and would feature several executive orders.

"We can sign executive orders that will do a whole lot. For example, we can sign an executive order that will re-establish the legal rights for the 1.8 million people eligible for the DACA program. We can sign an executive order, which says that any federal contractor who has business with the federal government will pay workers at least $15 an hour," Sanders said.

"We can sign an executive order which takes marijuana out of the federal controlled substance act, which essentially legalizes marijuana in every state in the country, which is something that we have to do," he added.

"It's going to be a very crazy week, I can tell you that. I'm probably not gonna sleep too much in the first week," he said.