—March 29, 2016
If you’re an avowed Hillary Clinton supporter and want to boost her campaign finance coffers then you should consider a visit to California next month where you can scoop up a seat at one of two fundraisers starring Hollywood icon George Clooney, and his wife, Amal. For the low price of $353,400 you can reserve a seat at the head table with Hillary, George and Amal during an April 15 fundraiser in San Francisco, or, should you be accepting of a bit less influence in her future presidency, for $100,000 you can crash the pre-dinner reception.
For those unable to afford that level of influence, $33,400 gets you a photo with the candidate (no word on whether the price includes any reception time, an autograph, or if additional charges accrue should the candidate deign speak to you during the photo op). On April 16, you can also pony up that more modest $33,400 figure to attend a fundraiser at the Clooney’s Los Angeles mansion. Other than dinner, details on what you get for the $33,400 cost are unavailable, and it is unclear whether additional charges might be applied for photo ops and the like.
According to Hillary’s prime opponent for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, the use of such fundraising is “obscene.” Pointing to the high-dollar fundraising as “the problem with American politics,” the Bernster said it was not only the Clooney events, but the fact that Hillary has raised more than $15 million from Wall Street, and “millions more from the fossil fuel industry and from the drug companies.” The Bern reiterated that he was not criticizing the actor, but “a corrupt campaign finance system where big money interests—and it’s not Clooney, it’s the people coming to this event—have undue influence on the political process.”
In a letter to supporters, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver wrote that an employee making the federal minimum wage would have to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for more than five years to come up with the money to attend the April 15 Hillary fundraiser.
Bernie’s campaign, for the record, has been primarily funded by small donations, with the cost of attending a “Feel the Bern” event ranging from $15 to $50. Bernie further contrasted his fundraising by noting that his campaign had received about 6 million individual contributions averaging $27 per donation. “I think what we’re trying to do is run a campaign, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, of the people, by the people and for the people, not just reaching out to billionaires and the wealthiest people in this country,” he said.
While George Clooney is a diehard Hillary supporter, the actor has also expressed admiration for Bernie. “I really love Bernie Sanders, and am really glad he is in the debate,” he told the Guardian magazine earlier this month. “He is forcing the conversation to things that never get talked about in U.S. politics: disparity between the rich and the poor, which is getting worse and worse every day.”
We wonder whether George can spell “irony.”
Little doubt that such extravagant, expensive and “obscene” campaign fundraising is driving a large part of the appeal of both Bernie and the top Republican contender, Donald Trump, both of whom remain untainted by any perceptions of big money influence. While the other candidates—especially Hillary—are going to be ostensibly beholden to the big money donors who so generously helped fund their campaigns, Bernie and Donald ain’t gonna owe anybody anything.
And that’s certainly a rarity these days in American politics. But why can’t we see more of this…say from candidates who aren’t on the extreme edges of the political spectrum?
Or more importantly, why can’t Congress get its shit together and put forth “meaningful” campaign finance reform? Polls consistently show that almost 80 percent of Americans support meaningful reform, and the influence of money becomes ever more apparent with each successive election cycle.
Short of electing one of the current two untainted presidential candidates, what is it going to take to start getting money out of U.S. politics? Hash It Out!