Bernie Sanders Blasts Hillary Clinton's Fundraiser With George Clooney For This Big Reason
Echoing a controversial comment made by his campaign manager on Friday, Bernie Sanders called the upcoming George Clooney-Hillary Clinton fundraiser "obscene," noting that for one of the events, seating at the head table is only possible with a donation of $353,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund. Strong language, for sure, but is it a legitimate critique? Your opinion will probably depend on whether or not you think money in politics is a necessary evil or not.
George and Amal Clooney have previously pledged to do their part for the Democratic Party — George was a big backer of President Obama in 2012 — and are hosting two upcoming fundraisers to benefit Clinton and parts of the larger Democratic Party as a whole. The event with the $353,400 minimum donation for the head table is actually a joint-fundraising effort for the Hillary Victory Fund, which also pools funds with the Democratic National Committee and 32 state-level Democratic Party organizations along with Hillary for America, the main campaign organization. What joint-fundraising events do, in practice, is allow private donors to max out their yearly legal contribution to the Democratic Party with just one check. All in all, this means that one person can conceivably pour $700,000 dollars into an election cycle.
Also of note is the fact that attendees aren't necessarily just writing checks from their own personal funds. A practice called bundling allows for private individuals to fundraise on behalf of a candidate or cause. It basically means asking friends and business associates for money and then writing one check under the name of the bundler to the candidate.
Whether you agree with Sanders or not will probably hinge on how you feel about the influence that money has on our political system. Clinton's campaign, and the team behind the Clooney fundraisers themselves, are following the letter of the law as it is written. However, Sanders' critique is coming from a more meta place that isn't directly attacking the Clooneys or Clinton on a personal level; the fact that so much money is required to finance a modern campaign has been a foundational issue of his candidacy. Sanders has broken campaign funding records with the help of small donors, which is indicative of the resonance that his message has had with the American public so far.
If you think that politics should purely be a marketplace of ideas, well, then you'd likely agree with the Sanders' campaign and its criticism of the Clooney-Clinton fundraisers coming up. For those who accept money as an inevitable part of political life in America, then it is unlikely that Sanders' criticism will hold water.