Bernie Sanders: I "absolutely" didn't ask Wall Street for money

Bernie Sanders said Sunday that he never asked for contributions from financial institutions, even when he helped raise money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during his years in the Senate.

Though he is officially an independent, Sanders caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate and has helped the party raise money to benefit everyone in the party. CNN has reported that some of those fundraising activities have put Sanders at events with the most elite Democratic donors, people who give tens of thousands of dollars each year - including many from the financial sector.

"I went to events, but did I go and ask financial people for money? Absolutely not," Sanders said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" when moderator John Dickerson asked him about the report. "I absolutely did not want to see the Republicans gain control of the United States. I wrote letters to a whole lot of people. Letters that went out to I'm guessing millions of people through the Democratic Senate committee that went out that raised millions of dollars for the Democratic Senate committee."

Dickerson noted that Sanders has criticized Clinton for soliciting large donations by suggesting that she might be unduly influenced by Wall Street.

"When you write letters to raise money for the senatorial campaigns, why do you think they're giving money?" Dickerson asked. "If not for the expectation that by your thinking, by your reasoning, that they might have some influence over you."

"John, the people that I am writing to are contributing $25, $30 or $40. If anybody doesn't know the difference between a contribution of $30 or $40 or a Super PAC which raises millions of dollars from Wall Street then frankly we don't know what's going on in politics today," Sanders responded. He said his letter was "designed to bring in low-dollar donations."

In a separate interview on "Face the Nation," Clinton said she resents Sanders' repeated suggestions she has changed her views or votes because of her donors.

"I've never, ever done that," Clinton said. That would be like saying President Obama who took more money from Wall Street than certainly any Democrat ever had in 2008, with his successful campaign, was therefore automatically disqualified. Well in fact we know that's not true. He's signed the toughest financial regulation since the 1930s with the Dodd-Frank bill."

Sanders ducked a question about whether the president, who has also received donations from financial institutions, was in the same position as Clinton.

"It is a corrupt campaign finance system," Sanders said. "At the very top of my list of goals that I want to accomplish as President of the United States is overturning this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision."

He also said it would be "a positive thing for the American people" if Clinton would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street firms, something the former secretary of state said she would "look into" during Thursday's Democratic debate but that her campaign now appears to be resisting.

Bernie Sanders: No more “perpetual war” for Middle East

Dickerson also asked Sanders about the fact that he seems far more at ease discussing economic issues than he does foreign policy.

"I think that's a media narrative that goes around and around and around. I don't accept that media narrative," Sanders said. He noted that Clinton made the same argument about then-candidate Obama in 2008, and "it turned out not to be true."

"I am impressed by the quality of his foreign policy," Sanders said.

Then, he added the argument that he has made time and time again during the campaign: He voted against the war in Iraq and led the opposition to the war, while Clinton voted in favor of it.

"I think it is not just experience. Obviously, she has been a secretary of state for four years, but it is judgment as well. And I am confident that I can put together a strong team to provide great foreign policy for the people of the United States," he said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.