Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during her California primary night rally held in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during her California primary night rally held in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is highly likely to win in blue-state California in next month’s election, so why is she spending precious campaign time in the Golden State?

“Golden” is the right word, as the Democratic candidate returned to Southern California Thursday night for what her campaign billed as her final Los Angeles-area fundraising dinner before the election.

While tickets for the bash that featured a performance by Elton John started at $33,400 per person, $100,000 donations brought well-heeled donors extra goodies.

Before the pricey dinner, Clinton was in Burbank earlier in the day, taping an episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” set to air on Friday.

Both the taping and fundraiser were closed to reporters.

Tickets for the dinner in Beverly Hills Thursday night, which included a performance by singer Elton John, started at $33,400 per person, according to an invitation obtained by City News Service.

Individuals donating $100,000 were designated as a co-chair, which included admission to a co-chair reception with Clinton and what was described as premium dinner seating.

The $33,400 figure is the maximum amount an individual can contribute to a national party committee in a year under federal law.

The dinner was the third Clinton campaign fundraiser in the Los Angeles area in five weeks with a $100,000 price tag.

Former President Bill Clinton spoke at a $100,000 per couple dinner Sept. 13 at the Beverly Hills-area home of Barry Diller, the chairman and senior executive of the media and internet company IAC and the travel company Expedia Inc., and his fashion designer wife, Diane von Furstenberg.

Hillary Clinton had been scheduled to speak at the event, but plans for her to travel to California were canceled after she fell ill at a 9/11 ceremony in New York and it was announced she was suffering from walking pneumonia.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine spoke at a dinner Sept. 19 at the home of actress Eva Longoria.

The visit was Hillary Clinton’s first to Southern California since Aug. 22-23 when she conducted five fundraisers and appeared on the ABC late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

Democrats are not alone in having fundraisers in the Los Angeles area with ticket prices of $100,000 (or more). Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump held a July 14 fundraiser in Bel Air that included tickets for $449,400 per couple, $250,000 per couple and $100,000 per couple.

Political fundraisers with a $100,000 (or more) ticket price are the result of a series of court decisions, “which have made it increasingly easy for candidates of both parties to raise larger and larger amounts of money — not necessarily for their own campaigns, but for their respective political parties and related activities,” said Dan Schnur, the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“When you get practical, it’s a distinction without a difference,” Schnur told City News Service. “Either way, the money gets spent for the same thing.”

Big-money political fundraising “essentially puts democracy for sale to the highest bidder,” Schnur said.

“One of the most important contributing forces to the decline in voting participation among young people is the immense amount of money that is given to campaigns by wealthy donors on both sides,” Schnur said.

“My students know that they get one vote. But they also understand that a CEO or a union head or a wealthy individual in either party gets hundreds of thousands if not millions of votes. It’s no wonder they’d rather clean up a park” than get involved in politics, he said.

Beginning in 1976, the major party presidential nominees received federal funds to finance their general election campaigns if they agreed not to raise money for their official campaign committee and abide by spending limits.

“Back in the ’70s the thought was if you offered a presidential candidate a significant amount of money from public coffers to refrain from doing his own fundraising, then he would,” Schnur said.

“But as the fundraising opportunities got larger and larger, the incentive to rein in fundraising became less and less. Now general election candidates simply ignore the public funding option.”

In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama became the first major party nominee to decline federal funding, reflecting the belief — ultimately proven correct — that his campaign could raise more than it would receive from the federal government.

The major party nominees in both 2012 and 2016 declined federal funding.

In a June 22 speech, Hillary Clinton pledged to “fight hard to end the stranglehold that the wealthy and special interests have on so much of our government,” drawing this retort from Natalie Strom, an assistant press secretary with the Republican National Committee: “No one understands the ‘stranglehold’ that the wealthy have over corrupt politicians quite like the Clintons.”

Clinton has promised to appoint Supreme Court justices that would overturn the Citizens United decision, which held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political spending by corporations, associations or labor unions.

She also vowed to support a constitutional amendment “to allow Americans to establish common sense rules to protect against undue influence of billionaires and special interests and to restore the role of average voters in elections;” support legislation to increase transparency and end unaccountable money in politics; and establish a small donor matching system for presidential and congressional candidates.

Said Schnur: “For any president of either party to implement significant campaign finance reform would require an unprecedented amount of political courage.”

—City News Service

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