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 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT