George Clooney's Political Fundraising Has A Reason Bernie Sanders Would Probably Agree With
Although Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders may be struggling to find nice things to say about each other as their primary race heats up, George Clooney, one of Clinton's most famous supporters, found himself praising the competition over the weekend in a moment that had some wondering if he was feeling the Bern.
It's fair to assume Clooney's support of Clinton would put him and Sanders naturally at odds. And indeed, it appeared the two stood on opposite sides of one of this election's most significant issues: Sanders recently spoke out against the massive amount of money Clinton drew in through fundraisers like the two Clooney hosted for her over the weekend in California. However, Clooney explained that he agreed with the senator, and revealed that his ultimate fundraising goal was to get the "obscene, ridiculous amount of money" (like the reported $15 million he just raised) out of politics. Say what? Could Sanders support Clooney's ultimate fundraising goal?
On NBC's Meet The Press, Clooney spoke candidly about his fundraising efforts, describing them as an unfortunate, but still sadly necessary, part of politics and agreed with Sanders' claim that the fundraiser was for an obscene amount of money. "It's an obscene amount of money," Clooney said. "The Sanders campaign, when they talk about it, is absolutely right. It's ridiculous that we should have this kind of money in politics. I agree completely." But Clooney said he's actually fundraising now in hopes of never needing to fundraise again.
According to Clooney, he's thinking big picture, focusing on the years and votes following the 2016 presidential election. He told Meet The Press:
I think what's important and what I think the Clinton campaign has not been very good at explaining is this, and this is the truth: the overwhelming amount of money that we're raising — and it is a lot — but the overwhelming amount of the money that we're raising is not going to Hillary to run for president, it's going to the [Democratic] ticket. It's going to the congressmen and senators to try to take back Congress.
And the reason that's important to me is because we need — I'm a Democrat, so if you're a Republican, you're going to disagree — but we need to take the Senate back. Because we need to confirm the Supreme Court justice because that fifth vote on the Supreme Court can overturn Citizens United and get this obscene, ridiculous amount of money out so I never have to do a fundraiser again. And that's why I'm doing it.
According to Yahoo! News, money raised at either of the fundraisers hosted by Clooney benefits the "Hillary Victory Fund" and is divided between Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee to help fund various Democratic candidates in state races.
Clooney cited his history with Clinton — the two worked together in 2012 regarding the crisis in Sudan — as his main reason for supporting her in the 2016 presidential primary, and said he's found her to be "knowledgeable and to care about the issues."
"I've been a very big fan of hers," he said.
The actor had a few nice words for Sanders as well and didn't shun the idea of raising money for the Vermont senator should he win the Democratic Party's nomination. For Clooney, it seems, it might be less about who's in the White House, than which party that person belongs to. "I really like Bernie," Clooney said. "I think what he's saying in this election is important if you're a Democrat ... I hope he stays in for the entire election, and if he were to win the nomination, I will do whatever I can including, if asked, a fundraiser like this again."
In an interview on Sunday with Dana Bash on CNN's State of the Union, Sanders said he thought Clooney was supporting the wrong candidate if he wanted to see big money removed from politics.
"I have a lot of respect for George Clooney's honesty and integrity on this issue," Sanders said. "He's honest enough to say there's something wrong when few people, in this case, wealthy individuals, but in other instances for the secretary it is Wall Street and powerful special interests, who are able to contribute unbelievably large sums of money. That's not what Democracy is about, that is a movement toward oligarchy."
Sanders called big money's influence on politics "one of the great tragedies of American life today" and said he was proud to have raised almost $7 million individual contributions averaging $27 a piece.
Sometimes it's hard to see the bigger picture. Details, like the difference between charging $27 and $33,400 to attend a political fundraiser, prove capable of overshadowing things when you're at the center of a heated competition, embroiled in the emotions that come along with any high-stakes race. But it's beginning to look more and more like Sanders and Clooney share the same ultimate end goal: to remove big money from politics.