George Clooney Calls out a Huge Problem in Our Elections

April 17th 2016

George Clooney has been outspoken in his support of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, co-hosting multiple fundraising dinners over the weekend in California. And those fundraisers were not cheap: It cost more than $353,000 per couple for the top ticket at a dinner event in San Francisco, which some donors gladly paid to grab a seat at the same table as Clinton, Clooney, and his wife, Amal.

But to some, that's another potent signal that something is desperately wrong with campaign financing in the United States. Surprisingly, Clooney thinks so, too.

Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, Clooney agreed with moderator Chuck Todd that the amount of money raised at such events was problematic.

"I think it's an obscene amount of money," Clooney said in response to Todd's questions about his recent fundraising efforts for Clinton. "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."

Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, has nettled Clinton frequently about the large sums of money she raises at events such as Clooney's. Over the weekend, Sanders called into question whether these high-priced fundraisers belong in the Democratic Party. Sanders supporters also threw dollar bills at the Clinton motorcade has it approached the Clooney residence over the weekend in apparent protest of her campaign event.

It's not that simple.

It may be easy to point fingers at Clinton's $34,000-ticket dinners as the problem. But Clooney contended that the need for such events is only a symptom of a broken system. And he's right.

An analysis of the 2014 Senate races by the Brennan Center for Justice found that outside spending more than doubled since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010: Such spending ballooned to $486 million (up from around $330 million in 2012). The center also reported that outside money accounted for almost half of the total spending in the 10 most competitive races in the last midterm elections.

This election cycle looks to be even worse. Ten times more dark money — campaign contributions that don't have to be disclosed — had been spent by late 2015 as was spent during the 2012 elections, according to U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

It's no wonder that the 2016 elections are on track to become the most expensive elections since Watergate. Big money has become the name of the game, thanks to a deluge of cash from super-PACs, and candidates have no choice but to raise this kind of money to stay competitive — whether through smaller contributions, like those fueling the Sanders campaign, or larger lumps of cash, like those flowing into Clinton's campaign.

The real question is why it takes so much money to run a campaign and which candidate is most likely to introduce common-sense campaign finance reforms to curb what Clinton and Sanders supporters both agree are insane amounts of spending.

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