Why Bernie Sanders is disappointed with George Clooney's fund-raising

George Clooney raised about $15 million for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton this weekend, leading her rival, Bernie Sanders, to say that the Hollywood star is 'backing the wrong horse.'

Axel Schmidt/AP
In this Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016 file photo, actor George Clooney attends a press conference for the film 'Hail Caesar' at the 2016 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin, Germany.

Bernie Sanders says actor George Clooney, an outspoken Hillary Clinton supporter, is backing the wrong presidential candidate.

George Clooney admits that he has raised for an “obscene” amount of money for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton through fundraising efforts directed at the financial elite, something that Sen. Sanders has decried throughout his campaign. Tickets to attend one of the Clooney-Clinton events in San Francisco and Studio City this weekend cost between $33,400 and $353,400, allowing Clooney to raise at least $15 million for the former Secretary of State.

Sanders supporters lined the streets to protest Friday night’s fundraising event at venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar’s home, throwing dollar bills in front of Secretary Clinton’s motorcade as it drove past. And Saturday evening, Clooney’s neighbor Howard Gold threw a competing fundraising event for Sanders in Studio City. Tickets cost just $27 for the event, called the “99% Party,” and all were welcome to attend.

But despite the protests, competing events and price tag differences, both Sen. Sanders and Mr. Clooney agree: fundraising has an inappropriate yet powerful influence in US presidential politics. 

“They’re right to protest,” Clooney said Sunday in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, referring the Sanders’ supporters who were banging together pots and pans outside of his fundraiser Friday. “They’re absolutely right. It’s an obscene amount of money. 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 completely agree.” 

And Sanders appreciates Clooney’s candidness.

“He is honest enough to say that there is 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,” Sanders said Sunday in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash. “This is the issue of American politics today. Do we have a government that represents all of us, or only the 1%?”

And Friday’s protest is noteworthy for more just than its celebrity commentary: it was organized by Democrats, directed at Democrats.

Protests outside Democratic fundraisers are rare in liberal San Francisco, notes the Guardian, where most political energy is directed at rare conservative events in the South Bay. For example, Mr. Pishevar also hosted a similar event for President Barack Obama during his reelection campaign in 2012, but no such protests rocked the streets.

“But today there’s a growing rift in the city, which may influence the 7 June Democratic primary,” explains the Guardian. “Among the tech community, as wealth consolidates, many young workers lured to town with images of striking it rich have been confronted by an increasingly depressing startup environment.

Bill Sandberg, a 29-year-old protester, said he had just been laid off from Zedo, an ad tech startup: ‘Bernie’s actually for the people, Hillary’s just bought and sold.’”

But Clooney’s event and his subsequent support of Sanders protestors are not completely contradictory. While a portion of the event’s proceeds were directly allocated to Clinton’s campaign funds and potential general election campaign, the rest of the “Victory Fund” was donated to the Democratic National Convention and other Democratic parties at the state level. Instead of raising money with the sole intention of getting a specific candidate in office, Clooney says the majority of money raised will benefit Democratic candidates at all levels of office. 

“We need to take the Senate back because we need to confirm a supreme court justice," Clooney tells NBC, "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.” 

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