Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

In election, 'a seat at the table' costs $5,000

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 6:14 PM EDT, Tue May 15, 2012
George Clooney, right, talks with Chris Wallace on April 28. Clooney's fundraiser for Obama raised $15 million in one night.
George Clooney, right, talks with Chris Wallace on April 28. Clooney's fundraiser for Obama raised $15 million in one night.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: As of March, Obama and Romney had raised combined $300 million
  • LZ asks, since when did candidates need this much money to campaign?
  • Limits should be put on the time and money spent to win office, he writes
  • LZ: So many people don't have jobs, and we're fundraising for the rich

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- President Obama appeared at two recent fundraisers with some serious sticker shock.

About 200 people ponied up at least $5,000 per ticket for an event hosted by Ricky Martin. That was followed by a function at a private home where 60 people spent $38,500 each to get through the door.

Just last week, Obama -- with George Clooney -- raised $15 million in one night. This makes me wonder how in the hell our political process became so distorted that Obama needs this much money to run for re-election. I thought we were broke? And yet, at the end of March, Obama and his presumed general election opponent, Mitt Romney, had raised nearly a combined $300 million, almost enough to fund Planned Parenthood's annual budget by themselves.

Forget Wall Street, it's the campaign trail that needs to be occupied.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

The median income in the United States is about $50,000, so I doubt very many 99 percenters are able to meet the $75,000 minimum that was expected at a recent Romney fundraiser. Did you know the goal of the RNC is to raise $800 million by November? Imagine how many families could be helped if just half of that was used to train people for the new job market, as opposed to being spent to help one guy get hired?

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook.com/cnnopinion

Face it, the president and Romney may have different political and economic views, but they are both propped up by highly affluent power brokers who are expecting big returns for the big checks they are writing.

Reiner's insight on Obama's fundraiser

This is why the worst thing to happen to our process was the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which allows corporations (and unions) to spend unlimited funds to promote a candidate. This is akin to handing the keys of a bakery to the Cookie Monster. These big spenders are not just involved in shaping dialogue. They get involved with shaping policy, which inevitably makes the good of the people secondary to the good of the deepest pockets.

We don't just need campaign reform, we need roadblocks to prevent special interest groups from turning the democratic process into more of a sham that it already is.

Let the Supreme Court keep its ridiculous ruling, but set a limit on the amount of money candidates can raise and spend on their campaigns. Require all ads and debates to be aired on public television, and then cap the number of hours each party is allowed to use during the general election.

By putting it on public television, we stop large media conglomerates from profiting from the process. So, ideally Obama and Romney would both get $10 million and 40 hours of advertisement to state their case.

Let's take away the $200 million war chests that Obama has been able to amass in both 2008 and 2012, and force him and future candidates to find a way to persuade the country to vote for them without relying on their ability to outspend their opponent.

I know, I know, Romney wouldn't even be in the position he's in without outspending -- and dare I say, bullying -- his opponents.

By leveling the economic playing field, our politicians have a chance to return to being representatives of the people, not just the ones who know the right people or make the right promises.

Before making the rounds in New York on Monday, President Obama tweeted a sentence from the commencement speech he gave at Barnard College: "Don't just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for your seat at the head of the table." He left out the part about needing $5,000 to get in the door so you can even see the table.

But I guess those messy details are easy to overlook in a country with an 8.1% unemployment rate, whose leaders still find it appropriate to hold fundraisers for rich people.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT