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Archived: George Clooney: Bulk of the money collected at Clinton fundraiser will go to down-ballot Democrats

"The overwhelming amount of the money that we're raising is not going to Hillary (Clinton) to run for president. ... It's going to the congressmen and senators to try to take back Congress."

— George Clooney on Saturday, April 16th, 2016 in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press"

George Clooney: Bulk of the money collected at Clinton fundraiser will go to down-ballot Democrats

By C. Eugene Emery Jr. on Sunday, April 17th, 2016 at 6:13 p.m.

You had to pay — or collect — as much as $353,000 per couple to attend last week's fundraisers for Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, including one hosted at the home of actor George Clooney. After the affair drew protesters who support Bernie Sanders, Chuck Todd, host of NBC's Meet the Press, asked Clooney what happened when he encountered them.

Clooney said he was accused of being a corporate shill, which is "one of the funnier things you could say about me." Then he told Todd, "The overwhelming amount of money that we're raising, and it is a lot, but the overwhelming amount of the money that we're raising is not going to Hillary to run for president, it's going to the down-ticket.

"It's going to the congressmen and senators to try to take back Congress. And the reason that's important (is) ... we need to take the Senate back because we need to confirm the 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. And that's why I'm doing it."

We wondered whether an overwhelming amount of the income raised for Clinton really goes to other Democrats.

You would think it has to because federal law says individuals can't give more than $2,700 to a presidential candidate's primary campaign. Another $2,700 can be collected for the general election. It doesn't matter whether you give it directly or a friend collects it from you on the candidate's behalf, the limit is there.

In this case, the Clinton California fundraisers were held on behalf of the Hillary Victory Fund, which distributes the money to Clinton's campaign committee, Hillary for America, the Democratic National Committee, and the state parties.

A donor can also give up to $33,400 a year to the DNC and $10,000 a year to each of the state parties for use in getting its candidates elected to federal office. If you do the math, with 32 state parties included in the Victory Fund, that's $356,100.

The method of allocation is explained at the bottom of the Hillary Victory Fund Web page on the Clinton website. The first $2,700 goes to Clinton, the next $33,400 goes to the DNC and the rest goes to state parties.

How does this translate into total donations for each group?

If you look at the money going out, which is available through campaign finance reports, it looks like Clinton is getting most of the money.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics by the end of 2015, the Hillary Victory Fund had given $4.4 million to Clinton, $2.3 million to the DNC, and $2.2 to state political parties.That makes Clinton's share through 2015 almost exactly 50 percent.

In the first quarter of this year, Clinton's share was 63 percent of the money that was officially spent on campaigns. Politico reported that the fund also spent $6.7 million for "online ads that mostly looked like Clinton campaign ads, as well as $5.5 million on direct marketing."

The Clinton campaign gets the lion's share of the money collected by the Victory Fund, said Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin, because most of the donors give much smaller amounts, and everything up to $2,700 per person is earmarked to go to Hillary for America first.

It's only when a donor exceeds that limit does the excess spill over to benefit the national and state Democratic committees.

In the case of the California fundraisers, Schwerin said, "Because the vast majority of guests at these events had already contributed $2,700 to Hillary for America, only about 1 percent of the proceeds for these events ended up being allocated to HFA. The rest go to the DNC and 32 state parties across the country to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot, including local and statewide candidates."

The campaign also told us that the individual committees that make up the fund each pay a share of the expenses prior to money being transferred out. The costs are allocated at the same ratio as the money that comes in for each entity.

To put this in perspective, the Clinton campaign isn't required to set things up this way. Bernie Sanders, who has been out-collecting Clinton in fundraising using small donations, has come under fire from some Democrats for not doing enough to help raise money for the party. Sanders became a Democrat to run for president.  

Our ruling

Clooney said, "The overwhelming amount of the money that we're raising, is not going to Hillary to run for president. ... It's going to the congressmen and senators to try to take back Congress."

In cases like this, where large amounts are collected from individual donors and tickets cost over $30,000, Clinton's direct share is going to be small, as Clooney said.

But it should be noted that this isn't typical, and for most people donating to her Victory Fund, the Clinton campaign is going to get the lion's share of the money.

Because Clooney's statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information, we rate it Mostly True.


Variety, "Hillary Clinton Raises Huge Sums at Homes of George Clooney, Jeffrey Katzenberg," April 16, 2016, accessed April 17, 2016

NBC News, "Meet the Press - April 17, 2016"

Politico, "Clinton asks for $353K to sit with the Clooneys," March 24, 2016, "Bernie begins raising cash for down-ballot progressives," April 13, 2016 and "Hillary Clinton committee raised $33 million in first quarter," April 16, 2016

Center for Responsive Politics, "Hillary Victory Fund," accessed April 17, 2016

Email, Luis Miranda, spokesman, Democratic National Committee, April 17, 2016

Emails and telephone interview, Josh Schwerin, spokesman, Hillary for America, April 17, 2016

Email, Mike Casca, Bernie Sanders campaign, April 17, 2016, "Support Hillary Clinton and Democrats up and down the ticket," accessed April 17, 2016

Federal Election Commission, "Report of Receipts and Disbursements; Hillary Victory Fund," "Itemized Disbursements; Hillary Victory Fund," and "Contribution Limits for 2015-2016 Federal Elections," all accessed April 17, 2016, "Itemized Expenditures for Filing 1064088 by HIllary Victory Fund," accessed April 17, 2016

ABC News, "Bernie Sanders Supporters Demonstrate Outside George-Clooney-Hosted Hillary Clinton Fundraiser," April 16, 2016

Vox, "Bernie Sanders's campaign is still raising far more money than Hillary Clinton's," March 23, 2016