Political money muddies electoral process
How badly would you like to have dinner with George Clooney and Hillary Clinton?
Badly enough to pay $353,400 for it?
That was the cost of a ticket to an April 15 San Francisco-area fundraiser for the Hillary Victory Fund, a “joint fundraising committee” that can accept contributions greater than the FEC limit of $2,700 for donations directly to the candidates themselves. The next day, Clinton and the Clooney hosted another fundraiser that cost $33,400 a person.
In the face of Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign, which has been funded by millions of contributions from more than two million donors, Clinton has made a few half-hearted attempts to put on the illusion that she has similar support from small donors.
“Join the 950,000 supporters who already have contributed, most less than $100, because our campaign depends on small donations for the majority of our support,” Clinton said after her primary victories on March 15. Her statement, ranked “mostly false” by Politifact, ignored that through the end of February, only 21 percent of her campaign’s money — which pales in comparison to Sanders’ 56 percent — came from donors giving less than $200.
Plus, a majority of the money donated to her campaign by individuals came from those contributing the legal maximum of $2,700.
Between March 2015 and February 2016, the Clinton’s Priorities USA super-PAC relied heavily on donations from super-wealthy elites such as George Soros ($7 million), the Saban family ($5 million) and James Simons ($3.5 million).
Regularly attending fundraisers such as the $353,400-per-ticket event on April 15 can cause candidates like Clinton to become more sympathetic to the problems and needs of the wealthiest fraction of America, consciously or not. This is why Sanders’ core message — that our political and economic system is clearly rigged to benefit the wealthy donors on whom Clinton relies — has been difficult for Clinton to adopt with much real sincerity.
Additionally, the fact that much of Clinton’s money comes from sources whose interests are often at odds with progressive causes, including the financial industry, doesn’t bode well for her chances of enacting the real change we need.
Hillary’s defense of these fundraising habits is often that President Obama took huge amounts of money from Wall Street in 2008 but still managed to enact strong regulations.
But economist Bill Black says Obama didn’t go far enough.
“There are zero prosecutions of any Wall Street official who played even a modest role leading the three fraud epidemics that caused the financial crisis,” Black said in a blog post on April 8. “[The Obama administration] has not forced the systematically dangerous institutions that pose global systemic risks to shrink to the point that they no longer pose a global systemic risk.”
If we want political candidates who are worried about the needs and issues of everyday Americans, we must move toward a system that eliminates the influence of huge donors. We must overturn Citizens United, outlaw super-PACs and move to a system of public funding for elections.
Hillary Clinton is just one member of a political establishment that has become too intertwined with the moneyed interests helping to perpetuate wrongs in our country; worse still, it no longer clearly recognizes what needs to be done to right those wrongs.
Alex Storer is a senior staff writer for the Central Florida Future.