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Vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine waves with his presidential running mate Hillary Clinton after she introduced him during a campaign rally in Miami on July 23. (Photo: Scott Audette/ Reuters)

Vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine waves with his presidential running mate Hillary Clinton after she introduced him during a campaign rally in Miami on July 23. (Photo: Scott Audette/ Reuters)

With Clinton at Helm, Democratic Party Again a 'Plaything of the Super-Rich'

Back-to-back fundraisers with Hollywood elite and fossil fuel industry hope to boost an already sizable war chest

Lauren McCauley

It appears that nothing is holding her back now that Hillary Clinton has officially become the Democratic nominee for president. With "cash machine" Tim Kaine by her side, the Democratic ticket's fundraising operation is in full swing, and the money—Big Money—is pouring in.

On Tuesday, the campaign announced a record take of $90 million last month for the candidate and the Democratic Party, not including that brought in by the Super PACs supporting her bid. Republican nominee Donald Trump raised a reported $80 million last month.

According to CNN, "Clinton will look to match her July haul with a series of August fundraisers, including star studded late-August events hosted by Oscar-winning actors and tech billionaires like Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple."

No longer bird-dogged by climate activists for accepting fossil fuel industry dollars, on Tuesday Clinton attended a private fundraiser in Aspen reportedly hosted by Charif Souki, son of the founder of liquefied natural gas company Cheniere Energy. CNN Politics producer Dan Merica estimated that the nominee raked in $650,000, "but likely more," based on attendance at the event, where dinner plates reportedly cost $10,000 to $50,000.

And on Monday, the former secretary of state headlined an intimate reception hosted by Warren Buffett's daughter Susie in Omaha, Nebraska—attended by 15 people at $100,000 a pop.

Kaine, described by Politico as "one of the Democratic Party’s most powerful fundraisers," is doing his part, too. On Tuesday, the vice presidential nominee attended his first fundraising event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Hosted by "Democratic mega-donor Sharon and Mitchell Berger," CNN reported a haul of "at least $300,000, according to attendee figures and ticket prices."

According to Politico, the Virginia senator is "expected to play a major behind-the-scenes role on the money circuit," and has 10 more events scheduled for the next 10 days.

"Kaine won't just serve as a shiny new attraction," writes Gabriel Debenedetti. "His talent at the art of big donor maintenance dates back to his time running the national party, and fundraisers close to the campaign are hoping his position as a full-fledged member of President Barack Obama’s finance circles will help pull any remaining skeptical Obama-era tycoons off the bench for Clinton."

Howard Wallach, chair of the Democratic Party in Pitkin County, where the Aspen fundraiser was held, told the Aspen Daily News that such high-priced events "are a necessary part of politics now in the Citizens United world."

Clinton herself has promised to introduce a constitutional amendment to "overturn Citizens United" during her first 30 days as president, saying she will "fight for other progressive reforms, including small-dollar matching and disclosure requirements."

But as the Center for Public Integrity's Carrie Levine and Michael Beckel recently pointed out, that is not stopping the nominee, nor the Democratic establishment, from aggressively courting corporations and the mega-rich.

Cataloging the endless displays of corporate sponsorship, high falutin luncheons, and other examples of how last week's Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia was ultimately a "playground," for lobbyists, Super PACs, and outside political groups, they write: "Democrats have a light year to go before ever reaching that goal."

Further, they note that the "Democrats' week in Philadelphia also highlighted other, more traditional avenues of big-money influence that have made a comeback of sorts during 2016. Democrats this election cycle reversed an Obama-era ban on accepting lobbyist and corporate political action committee contributions for use by the Democratic National Committee and Democratic National Convention. Freed from restriction, professional political influencers may fully participate in a parade of perks, parties and access opportunities."

Underscoring how murky the world of politics and big-money influence is now, an investigation by the Sunlight Foundation published last week found that at least 63 of the Democratic superdelegates are also registered lobbyists.

"For all of the Democrats' denunciation of Citizens United and the role of big money, that is what saved Clinton in this campaign, and the fat cats toasting over at the Ritz-Carlton were delighted with the outcome," Robert Scheer wrote this week.

"It is the Democrats, first Barack Obama and now Clinton, who turned their backs on public financing because, thanks to their sellout to Wall Street, they can look to big money to smash populist sentiment, as expressed so dramatically this time by the incredible outpouring of small contributions that financed the Bernie Sanders campaign," Scheer continued, referring to the notorious $27 donation average boasted by the Sanders campaign.

"Follow the money," he added, "and it is obvious that the Democratic Party as much as the GOP is now the plaything of the super-rich."

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