Bernie Sanders praises Hollywood star’s ‘integrity and honesty on this issue’
In response Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s opponent for the Democratic nomination, said he respected Clooney’s “integrity and honesty on this issue” and added: “One of the great tragedies is that big money is buying elections.”
Clinton leads Sanders by double digits in most polls regarding New York, which stages its primary on Tuesday.
The issue of fundraising has been a constant on the campaign trail, as Sanders heralds his reliance on small donors and lack of any fundraising Super Pac. Clooney’s events, however, in San Francisco and Los Angeles, attracted criticism from the Sanders campaign and, on Friday in San Francisco, protests outside the venue.
Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press, the actor was asked by host Chuck Todd whether the sums involved in his events, such as $353,400 a couple to be a “co-chair”, were, as critics and protesters have said, obscene.
“Yes,” he said. “I think it’s an obscene amount of money. I think – you know that we had some protesters last night when we pulled up in San Francisco and they’re right to protest, they’re absolutely right, it is 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 agree, completely.”
Sanders also appeared on Sunday morning shows, telling CNN’s State of the Union he had “a lot of respect for George Clooney’s honesty and integrity on this issue”.
“One of the great tragedies is that big money is buying elections,” he said, adding that party leaders should not be “responsive to the needs of Wall Street and wealthy campaign contributors”.
“There is something wrong when a few people, in this case wealthy individuals are able to contribute unbelievably large sums of money,” Sanders said. “That is not what democracy is about. That is a movement toward oligarchy.”
“This is the issue of American politics today. Do we have a government that represents all of us or represents the 1%?”
Sanders was asked, and declined, to name a piece of legislation or decision which Clinton had made when in office that might have been influenced by large donations to her campaigns.
In San Francisco on Friday, nearly 200 Sanders supporters protested outside a fundraiser staged by the tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar and hosted by Clooney and his wife, Amal. Tickets cost from $33,400 to $353,400.
Bill Sandberg, a 29-year-old protester, told the Guardian he had just been laid off from Zedo, an ad tech startup.
“Bernie’s actually for the people,” he said. “Hillary’s just bought and sold.”
On NBC, Clooney, who said he would fundraise for Sanders if he won the nomination, rejected accusations from some protesters that he was a “corporate shill”.
“That’s one of the funnier things you could say about me,” he said.
He said that most of the money he had helped raise for Clinton would actually go to down-ticket Democrats running for Congress. If a Democratic president could get the right justice appointed to the supreme court, he argued, then the US could again begin to separate money from politics.
“We need to take the Senate back because we need to confirm a 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.”
The actor added that he does not enjoy the fundraisers, and linked the work of his foundation, which traces the wealth of corrupt politicians, to that of the Panama Papers and the supreme court case. “I think Citizens United is one of the worst laws passed since I’ve been around.”
Clooney was also asked if he had ever met Sanders.
“I met him once,” he said. “I was sitting down at a table. He was nice, and we talked a couple of times I think, and then he went on Larry King and told everybody I was very short.” The actor laughed. “I said, ‘Well I met you sitting down.’”
Showing the same appetite for self-deprecation, Clooney said of the pro-Sanders protesters in San Francisco: “Their T-shirts said, you know, ‘You sucked as Batman’.
“And I was like, ‘Well, you kind of got me on that one.’”
This article was written by Martin Pengelly and Alan Yuhas, for theguardian.com on Sunday 17th April 2016 16.29 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010