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Presidential / Congressional elections


Campaign finance / funding / fundraising





A protest on Wednesday

against the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision

five years ago.


Photograph: Nicholas Kamm

Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


The Growing Shadow of Political Money


JAN. 24, 2015



















Jack Ohman

political cartoon


April 8, 2021



















Larry Wright

award-winning editorial cartoonist

syndicated by Cagle Cartoons.

He has also produced the comic Kit 'n' Carlyle

for nearly 30 years.


January 5, 2012


















Dave Granlund

political cartoon

Dave Granlund's cartoons have appeared

in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune,

Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek.


January 6, 2012
































The Cost of Campaigns

NYT    20 October 2014





The Cost of Campaigns

Video        Retro Report        The New York Times        20 October 2014


The Watergate campaign finance scandals

led to a landmark law designed

to limit the influence of money in politics.


Forty years later,

some say the scandal isn’t what’s illegal,

it’s what’s legal.


Produced by: Retro Report

Read the story here: http://nyti.ms/11Y0ZGf

Watch more videos at: http://nytimes.com/video



















The Rise of Anonymous Political Giving

NYT    14 October 2014





The Rise of Anonymous Political Giving

Video        The New York Times        14 October 2014


Inside the growing influence

of completely anonymous campaign contributions

and the impact on the 2014 election.


Produced by: Quynhanh Do and Aaron Byrd

Read the story here: http://nyti.ms/1v4nfZZ

Watch more videos at: http://nytimes.com/video


















political spending








political money        USA










Big Money In politics        USA














private campaign funding vs public campaign funding        USA










The 2012 Money Race:

Compare the Presidential Candidates


The candidates have raised

more than $80 million

for their campaigns to date,

according to reports filed

with the Federal Election Commission.


Mitt Romney easily raised

the most among the Republicans,

bringing in $18 million.


But that falls far short of the $46 million

that President Obama raised.










campaign finance












campaign cash










political action committee    PAC


As the 2012 presidential campaign

opened with the early Republican primaries,

it became clear just how deeply

the campaign finance landscape

has been changed

by a 2010 Supreme Court decision,

Citizens United

v. Federal Election Commission.


In the case,

a bitterly divided court

ruled 5 to 4 that the government

may not ban

independent political spending

by corporations,

as well as labor unions

and other organizations,

in candidate elections.

Updated: Feb. 7, 2012



























super PACS


2016 president elections


One constant is the vast amount of money

sluicing through the political system

in what is certain to be the most expensive election

in the nation’s history.


Experts estimate that campaign spending,

which has risen inexorably in recent years,

will easily surpass the $6.28 billion record

set in the 2012 federal elections

and could conceivably reach $9 billion,

much of it for political advertising.


Both parties are busy

exploiting the power

of barely regulated super PACs

to accept unlimited six- and seven-figure

donations for candidates.


At the same time,

campaigns are concealing

the names of other rich donors

in “dark-money” operations palmed off

as tax exempt “social welfare” agencies

supposedly dedicated to doing good,

not to bare-knuckle politics.











super PACs
















super PAC era






cartoons > Cagle > Super Pac Spending        2012

























































haul in
































fund-raising event










fundraising > Cartoons       2008










public financing










presidential fundraising


























TV advertising







































small donor










corporate donor










big donor





























major donor




























secret donations to big-spending political groups


































campaign finance tracker


















public financing of presidential elections












Corpus of news articles


Politics > USA >


Presidential / Congressional elections


Campaign finance / funding




Big Money

Rearranges Its Election Bets


JUNE 4, 2016

The New York Times

SundayReview | Editorial



Like practiced horseplayers at a racetrack, wealthy campaign donors are adjusting their bets as the primary season ends and the political field narrows. This is particularly true of Republican megadonors who cannot abide Donald Trump and are thus doubling down on keeping G.O.P. control of the Senate as a firewall against a possible Democratic president, while investing heavily in keeping statehouses in Republican hands.

One constant is the vast amount of money sluicing through the political system in what is certain to be the most expensive election in the nation’s history. Experts estimate that campaign spending, which has risen inexorably in recent years, will easily surpass the $6.28 billion record set in the 2012 federal elections and could conceivably reach $9 billion, much of it for political advertising.

Both parties are busy exploiting the power of barely regulated super PACs to accept unlimited six- and seven-figure donations for candidates. At the same time, campaigns are concealing the names of other rich donors in “dark-money” operations palmed off as tax exempt “social welfare” agencies supposedly dedicated to doing good, not to bare-knuckle politics.

Prominent among the Republican super-spenders shying away from Donald Trump are the billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch, whose political machine has invested $42 million-plus to keep control of the Senate. Other Republican contributors have also indicated a preference for spending on lesser races down the line rather than on the presidential campaign.

Some superstar check writers like Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, have no problem with Mr. Trump’s erratic policy proposals, bluster, and past vows to self-fund. Mr. Adelson is talking of a $100 million effort to boost Mr. Trump’s performance in the finale against Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump, having flip-flopped on a primary promise to shun wealthy donors, now seems only too happy to accept a pledge by Mr. Adelson and others to raise as much as $1 billion for his campaign.

For now, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, leads the fund-raising pack with a money machine that has sucked in more than $80 million in super PAC support. Democrats are not shying away from the big-check power of super PACs, creating a new $50 million operation started by major labor unions and the billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. At the same time, Mrs. Clinton is campaigning on proposals to rein in the runaway money race. She says it undermines American politics.

What voters think of all this as the price of a particularly raucous display of democracy remains to be seen. But the power of money in politics has grown so much since the 2010 Citizens United decision that its presence is felt ever deeper down the ballot. Ominously, there has been a flood of special-interest money into state judicial races that raises questions about whether judges’ decisions might be affected, according to a Brennan Center for Justice study. The toughest race in Kansas this year is being waged by furious conservative Republicans aiming to oust four members of the state Supreme Court because of their decisions striking down the G.O.P. Legislature’s shortchanging of the state constitution’s school-aid requirements.

Shrewd big-money campaigns financed by the Koch brothers and others have upended the Democrats’ one-time dominance of state legislatures. There are now Republican majorities in 70 percent of two-party statehouses. That success, in turn, has created a farm system for the G.O.P.’s current control of Congress. There, the twin powers of big money and statehouse gerrymandering have made incumbents of both parties unbeatable 90 percent of the time, compounding the gridlock voters complain about. For all the job security, big donors are expected to drive this year’s congressional election spending well beyond the $3.8 billion record set two years ago. Much of this money will surely be wasted, further enriching the new breed of fat-cat campaign operatives, and further alienating voters with toxic advertising. But some of it may tip key races.

As the money torrent rises, it’s no coincidence that for the first time in history, most members of Congress are millionaires (268 of 534 House members), according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Republican control of the agenda has snuffed out Democratic proposals to control or at least disclose the true extent of the wealth now driving elections. Theoretically, this election should be a forum for dealing with this open invitation to political corruption. Unfortunately, big money’s main effect on the campaign so far has been a frenzied pace to raise and spend more of it.


Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A version of this editorial appears in print
on June 5, 2016,
on page SR8 of the New York edition with the headline:
Big Money Adjusts Its Election Bets.

Big Money Rearranges Its Election Bets,
June 4, 2016,






How Super PACs

Can Run Campaigns


APRIL 27, 2015

The New York Times

The Opinion Pages | Editorial



The 2016 presidential campaign has barely begun, but it is already clear this will be the super contest of the “super PACs” — the fast evolving political money machines that are irresistible to candidates because they can legally raise unlimited money from donors seeking favor and influence.

The idea of a super PAC created to support an individual candidate was little more than an experiment four years ago when strategists for Mitt Romney tested its potential after misguided court decisions shattered federal limits on spending on elections. President Obama, after initially denouncing unlimited contributions, used a super PAC in his re-election.

Money poured in, and this year all the major candidates, Republican and Democratic, will be counting on supposedly “independent” super PACs. They will be able to benefit from funds far greater than the amounts allowed under current regulations, which limit contributions to a candidate’s formal campaign organization to $2,700 per donor in the primary contests and $2,700 in the general election.

Super PACs are supposedly independent of the candidate’s campaign, but that distinction has just about vanished. In fact, strategists for the campaign of Jeb Bush are reportedly considering turning over some of the campaign’s central functions to their “independent” Right to Rise super PAC, making it the super-lucrative tail that wags the dog.

The difference in fund-raising power between the two political entities runs into hundreds of millions of dollars. The Bush campaign’s potential move could mean having the super PAC take over not just television advertising and direct mail, but a host of other campaign duties, according to The Associated Press. This would essentially amount to making the super PAC the true campaign center, without money limits that would apply to traditional campaigns.

Federal law prohibits coordination between the candidates’ organizations and the super PACs. That ban is fast becoming a fiction, with federal election regulators uninterested and unable to enforce the law. The result is that some of the candidates’ closest political advisers and managers are now going off to take charge of super PACs, where they manage the unlimited money pouring in for their candidates.

For example, Mike Murphy, Mr. Bush’s longtime political adviser, is reportedly expected to manage the Bush super PAC. Experienced operatives could skirt the non-coordination rule and do what a candidate needs without explicitly working with the campaign organization. Other super PACs likewise have already installed campaign loyalists at their helms while proclaiming non-coordination.

A legal challenge to this way of doing business, being prepared by two political watchdog groups, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, cites a law that bars a candidate or his proxies from effectively controlling an independent entity like a super PAC.

Unfortunately, no one in politics expects the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission to follow through on the complaint. The Justice Department has said it might look deeper into campaign abuses, but Mr. Bush and the other candidates insist they strictly adhere to the regulatory process, such as it is.

Not so incidentally, Mr. Bush has been freely raising money for his super PAC since he is not yet a formally declared candidate, so coordination isn’t even an issue.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A version of this editorial appears in print
on April 27, 2015,
on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline:
How Super PACs Can Run Campaigns.

How Super PACs Can Run Campaigns,
APRIL 27, 2015,






The Growing Shadow of Political Money


JAN. 24, 2015

the new York Times


SundayReview | Editorial


Like bettors checking Las Vegas odds on the Super Bowl, specialists in the nation’s booming campaign finance industry are tracking the action in the 2016 elections, not so much to assess the candidates as to see how much of a payout is likely this time around in the grand casino of American politics.

The record total of $6.3 billion spent on the presidential and congressional elections of 2012 is only the starting point. Estimates of next year’s likely total are running between $7.5 billion and $8 billion. This moneyed universe is certain to keep expanding as the political industry’s managers and their candidates master the unlimited fund-raising and spending devices they now have at hand.

The sheer numbers should be enough to raise public alarm. But needed reforms are going nowhere, with too many congressional members busy bolstering their incumbency with the help of the same large-scale donors. In last year’s elections, the 100 biggest campaign check writers gave $323 million, plus many millions more in anonymous donations to politically active “social welfare” groups and other new money troughs. According to a report by Politico, total spending by the 100 ultra-donors exceeded that of the 4.75 million ordinary Americans who made smaller donations of $200 or less.

The risk of special-interest corruption? Five years ago, when the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision dashed decades of sensible controls by equating unlimited corporate and union spending with individual free speech, Justice Anthony Kennedy reassured the nation that full disclosure of donors would be safeguard enough.

He envisioned a world, nonexistent, where disclosure lets citizens “see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.” But Congress then killed healthy disclosure requirements, and the way things are working out, with untraceable donations on the rise, it’s more the reverse: a case of moneyed interests moving snugly into the pockets of grateful officials.

Citizens United is just one of the threats to fair campaigning that is posed by runaway money. No less pernicious has been the rise of the nonprofit groups posing as “social welfare” organizations, while in truth they are political machines. This fiction is garnering large donations from players seeking to hide under protections in the tax code. The I.R.S. has timidly retreated from policing this abuse because of Tea Party complaints. The Federal Election Commission, charged with policing campaigns, is even more inert, paralyzed by an enforcement standoff engineered by Republican commissioners.

Antidotes to the politics of toxic money, in the form of a package of reforms, were offered last week to the new Congress. One would rein in the super-PAC cornucopia of big money for candidates pretending to be uninvolved. Another would strengthen ordinary Americans’ political speech by updating the public financing system for presidential elections and creating a badly needed new one for congressional races. A third, delivering on Justice Kennedy’s dream, would mandate full disclosure of large-scale contributions and of the identities of affluent donors now playing politics from the shadows.

But so far, reform of any sort has been no more than a dream. In this unresponsive Congress, it is likely to remain so.


A version of this editorial appears in print on January 25, 2015, on page SR12 of the New York edition with the headline: The Growing Shadow of Political Money.

The Growing Shadow of Political Money,
JAN 24, 2015,






Little to Show for Cash Flood

by Big Donors


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


At the private air terminal at Logan Airport in Boston early Wednesday, men in unwrinkled suits sank into plush leather chairs as they waited to board Gulfstream jets, trading consolations over Mitt Romney’s loss the day before.

“All I can say is the American people have spoken,” said Kenneth Langone, the founder of Home Depot and one of Mr. Romney’s top fund-raisers, briskly plucking off his hat and settling into a couch.

The biggest single donor in political history, the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, mingled with other Romney backers at a postelection breakfast, fresh off a large gamble gone bad. Of the eight candidates he supported with tens of millions of dollars in contributions to “super PACs,” none were victorious on Tuesday.

And as calls came in on Wednesday from some of the donors who had poured more than $300 million into the pair of big-spending outside groups founded in part by Karl Rove — perhaps the leading political entrepreneur of the super PAC era — he offered them a grim upside: without us, the race would not have been as close as it was.

The most expensive election in American history drew to a close this week with a price tag estimated at more than $6 billion, propelled by legal and regulatory decisions that allowed wealthy donors to pour record amounts of cash into races around the country.

But while outside spending affected the election in innumerable ways — reshaping the Republican presidential nominating contest, clogging the airwaves with unprecedented amounts of negative advertising and shoring up embattled Republican incumbents in the House — the prizes most sought by the emerging class of megadonors remained outside their grasp. President Obama will return to the White House in January, and the Democrats have strengthened their lock on the Senate.

The election’s most lavishly self-financed candidate fared no better. Linda E. McMahon, a Connecticut Republican who is a former professional wrestling executive, spent close to $100 million — nearly all of it her own money — on two races for the Senate, conceding defeat on Tuesday for the second time in three years.

“Money is a necessary condition for electoral success,” said Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending. “But it’s not sufficient, and it’s never been.”

Even by the flush standards of a campaign in which the two presidential candidates raised $1 billion each, the scale of outside spending was staggering: more than $1 billion all told, about triple the amount in 2010.

Mr. Obama faced at least $386 million in negative advertising from super PACs and other outside spenders, more than double what the groups supporting him spent on the airwaves. Outside groups spent more than $37 million in Virginia’s Senate race and $30 million in Ohio’s, a majority to aid the Republican candidates.

The bulk of that outside money came from a relatively small group of wealthy donors, unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited contributions to super PACs. Harold Simmons, a Texas industrialist, gave $26.9 million to super PACs backing Mr. Romney and Republican candidates for the Senate. Joe Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, spent close to $13 million to bankroll a super PAC attacking Mr. Obama over federal spending.

Bob Perry, a Texas homebuilder, poured more than $21 million into super PACs active in the presidential race and the Senate battles in Florida and Virginia, where Democrats narrowly prevailed. A donor network marshaled by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and conservative philanthropists, reportedly sought to raise $400 million for tax-exempt groups that are not required to disclose their spending.

Mr. Adelson’s giving to super PACs and other outside groups came to more than $60 million, though in public Mr. Adelson did not seem overly concerned about the paltry returns on his investment.

“Paying bills,” Mr. Adelson said on Tuesday night when asked by a Norwegian reporter how he thought his donations had been spent. “That’s how you spend money. Either that or become a Jewish husband — you spend a lot of money.”

Flush with cash, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic ones by an even greater margin than in 2010. But rather than produce a major partisan imbalance, the money merely evened the playing field in many races.

In several competitive Senate races, high spending by outside groups was offset to a large extent with stronger fund-raising by Democratic candidates, assisted at the margins by Democratic super PACs. For much of the fall, Mr. Obama and Democratic groups broadcast at least as many ads, and sometimes more, in swing states than Mr. Romney and his allied groups, in part because Mr. Obama was able to secure lower ad rates by paying for most of the advertising himself. Mr. Romney relied far more on outside groups, which must pay higher rates.

Haley Barbour, a former Mississippi governor who helped Mr. Rove raise money for American Crossroads and its sister group, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, said that without a blitz of coordinated anti-Obama advertising in the summer, the campaign would not have been as competitive.

“I believe that some of that money actually kept Romney from getting beat down by the carpet-bombing he underwent from the Obama forces,” Mr. Barbour said. “I did look at it more as us trying to keep our candidates from getting swamped, like what happened to McCain.”

Some advocates for tighter campaign financing regulations argued that who won or lost was beside the point. The danger, they argued, is that in the post-Citizens United world, candidates and officeholders on both sides of the aisle are far more beholden to the wealthy individuals who can finance large-scale independent spending.

“Unlimited contributions and secret money in American politics have resulted in the past in scandal and the corruption of government decisions,” said Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, a watchdog group. “This will happen again in the future.”

But on Wednesday, at least, the nation’s megadonors returned home with lighter wallets and few victories.

As the morning wore on at Logan Airport, more guests from Mr. Romney’s election-night party at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center trickled in, lugging garment bags and forming a small line at the security checkpoint.

“It’s going to be a long flight home, isn’t it?” said one person, who asked not to be identified.

The investor Julian Robertson, who held fund-raisers for Mr. Romney and gave more than $2 million to a pro-Romney super PAC, arrived with several companions. Mr. Robertson spotted an acquaintance: Emil W. Henry Jr., an economic adviser and a fund-raiser for Mr. Romney, to whom Mr. Robertson had offered a ride on his charter.

“Aww, group hug,” Mr. Henry said.


Ashley Parker contributed reporting.

    Little to Show for Cash Flood by Big Donors, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Obama, Romney and Their Parties

on Track to Raise $2 Billion


October 25, 2012
The New York Times


President Obama and Mitt Romney are both on pace to raise more than $1 billion with their parties by Election Day, according to financial disclosures filed by the campaigns on Thursday.

From the beginning of 2011 through Oct. 17, Mr. Obama and the Democrats raised about $1.06 billion, and Mr. Romney and the Republicans collected $954 million, including some money for the party’s Congressional efforts, setting up 2012 to be the most expensive presidential campaign in history.

But the sources of that money, raised over the course of a deeply polarizing campaign, echo the sharp divisions between the two men and their parties over issues like abortion rights, the role of government in regulating industry and the country’s economic future.

Wall Street has invested more heavily in Mr. Romney, a former financier who has pledged to repeal Mr. Obama’s new financial regulations, than in any presidential candidate in memory. Employees of financial firms had given more than $18 million dollars to Mr. Romney’s campaign through the end of September and tens of millions more to the “super PACs” supporting him.

Insurance companies, doctors and law, accounting and real estate firms are giving less to Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee than they did four years ago, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Yet donors in other industries have stepped in. With Mr. Obama making repeated trips to Silicon Valley and holding round tables with executives there, the technology industry has donated about $14 million to the president and the Democrats, substantially more than in 2008.

Retirees, the biggest single source of money for both sides, have given the Democrats much more than they did four years ago, as have employees of women’s groups, retailers and hospitals and nursing homes.

To make up for the loss of business money that flowed to his campaign four years ago, Mr. Obama has also turned to the very smallest donors, building an army of millions of supporters who have given as little as a few dollars each. About 4.2 million people sent donations to Mr. Obama and the D.N.C., his campaign said on Thursday, roughly one million more than in 2008.

Over all, 55 percent of the Obama campaign’s money through the end of September came in donations of less than $200, including from many people who have repeatedly sent in small checks over the course of the campaign. Just 13 percent of his checks were for $2,500, the maximum that donors are allowed to contribute for either the primary or general election.

Mr. Romney, by contrast, has cultivated business leaders and benefited from a Republican donor establishment that is eager to defeat Mr. Obama, raising an unprecedented amount of money from wealthy donors who gave the maximum allowed. Just 22 percent of his cash has come from donations of less than $200. Through the end of September, 45 percent of checks to Mr. Romney’s campaign were for the maximum $2,500 contribution.

Neither candidate is likely to raise as much money directly for his own presidential committee as Mr. Obama did in 2008. A flood of online donations that year, and support from many traditionally Republican donors, helped Mr. Obama raise $748 million for his presidential committee. The D.N.C. raised another $244 million, bringing the combined total to a little under $1 billion.

This time around, Mr. Obama, as an incumbent, has raised more of his total through the D.N.C., which can accept five-figure checks from each of Mr. Obama’s wealthiest supporters. By raising more money from his very biggest and very smallest donors, Mr. Obama has been able to offset his losses from the business world and from previous contributors who gave less or not at all this time, whether because of the recession or fading enthusiasm.

Mr. Romney, after becoming the presumptive Republican nominee in the spring, almost immediately began a fund-raising effort with the Republican National Committee, several state parties and the two Congressional campaign committees. Mr. Romney’s total through September included about $13.6 million that was raised for and transferred to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The overall totals do not include hundreds of millions of dollars being raised and spent by “super PACs” and other outside groups, mostly to benefit Mr. Romney and other Republicans. Groups aligned with Mr. Romney have spent $302 million on campaign advertising that they are required to disclose to the F.E.C., compared with about $120 million for groups aligned with Mr. Obama. Tens of millions of dollars more has been spent on issue advertisements whose precise costs are difficult to measure.

“As the Romney campaign and their ‘super PAC’ allies continue to outspend us on the air, we’re making every effort to expand our donor base heading into the final stretch,” said Adam Fetcher, an Obama spokesman.

Mr. Romney and the Republicans raised about $21.3 million more than Mr. Obama and the Democrats during the first 17 days of October, according to the disclosures filed on Thursday, as Mr. Romney rose in the polls and performed well in debates, emboldening his supporters.

Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee took in $92.4 million during that period, after surpassing Mr. Romney in August and September.

Mr. Romney and the R.N.C. raised $113.7 million over the same period, the final days for which the campaigns are required to report their fund-raising before the election on Nov. 6. Mr. Romney and his party also spent about $146.2 million during the first 17 days in October, slightly less than the $149.7 million spent by Mr. Obama and the Democrats.

While Mr. Obama’s team invested tens of millions of dollars early in the campaign to identify, contact and raise money from grass-roots voters, those expenditures have left the Republicans with more cash in the final weeks of the election that could finance a late surge of advertising. Mr. Romney and the G.O.P. ended the final filing period with $169 million in cash on hand, significantly more than the $123.8 million held by Mr. Obama and the Democrats.


Michael Luo and Derek Willis contributed reporting.

Obama, Romney and Their Parties on Track to Raise $2 Billion, NYT, 25.10.2012,






Buying the Election?


October 8, 2012
The New York Times


Do you remember that moment in the first Austin Powers movie when Dr. Evil, back in action after being cryogenically frozen for 30 years, gets his hands on a nuclear warhead? “If you want it back,” he snarls to a group of world leaders who have gathered in a secret United Nations bunker, “you will have to pay me” — here he pauses for dramatic effect — “one million dollars!” The assembled leaders burst into laughter because it was such a pathetically small sum.

Campaign finance these days reminds me a lot of that scene. I lived for a few years in Washington, right around the time that Congress, aroused by the Watergate scandal, was reforming the country’s campaign finance laws. It instituted a system for presidential elections that combined small contributions from individuals ($1,000 or less), public financing from the taxpayers and a cap on how much the candidates could spend. In the Gerald Ford-Jimmy Carter year of 1976, the two candidates were allowed to spend — can we pause here for dramatic effect? — around $35 million each.

Fast forward 36 years, to last weekend’s news that the Obama campaign had raised $181 million in just one month, September. Not all that long ago, the ability to partake of public financing was a sign that you had arrived as a serious candidate; today no candidate in his right mind would want to be so constrained.

Four years ago, Obama became the first presidential candidate since campaign reform was instituted to opt out of public financing for the general election. He raised $750 million. John McCain, who accepted public financing, was only able to directly spend the $84 million or so he was allotted under the system. (Although the Republican Party raised millions more.) This election season, Mitt Romney and President Obama could end up spending more than $1 billion each. They seem to spend more time fund-raising than pressing the flesh with voters. According to Brendan Doherty, a political science professor at the United States Naval Academy, Obama has held six fund-raisers in a single day. Twice.

And that doesn’t even account for what’s truly different about this election: the rise of the “super PACs” and 501(c)4s, which are essentially a form of campaign money-laundering, allowing wealthy people to contribute millions toward supposedly “independent” spending on campaign advertising, polling and other expensive campaign goodies. Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, whose main political interest appears to be Israel, has pumped $10 million into Restore Our Future, the biggest Republican super PAC. Although individual contributions to a particular candidate remains severely restricted — no more than $5,000 — the amount someone can pour into a super PAC is limitless. The means by which the country finances its campaigns is utterly broken.

In a recent cover story in The Atlantic, James Bennet, the editor, traces how that happened. He focuses on a man named Jim Bopp Jr., a lawyer from Terre Haute, Ind., who has largely devoted his life to freeing the nation of campaign spending limits. To him — and, indeed, to the majority of the current Supreme Court, in the Citizens United case — limits on political spending are a violation of the First Amendment.

What is astonishing is the way Bopp makes unlimited spending seem actually democratic. “Most people don’t even know who their congressman is,” Bopp tells Bennet. If there were more spending on campaigns, voters would be more educated about the candidates. The Supreme Court majority, meanwhile, has essentially said that, by definition, campaign spending that is independent of the candidate cannot be corrupting.

But, of course, what we are learning in the real world is that super PACs and 501(c)4s are hardly independent. Karl Rove, who absolutely knows what the Romney campaign needs at any given moment, runs the most important of the Republican super PACs. Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and Obama’s first chief of staff, is helping to raise money for a Democratic super PAC.

What we also know in the real world is that unlimited spending will not serve to enlighten voters. It will deaden them to political argument — as is happening in just about every swing state, where the ads are running with such frequency that people are tuning them out. Finally, we know from hard experience that the money that comes into politics has the potential to corrupt.

In Congress we see it every day. A congressman gets on an important committee, begins to raise money from the companies that care about the committee’s issues — and, suddenly, the congressman is writing legislation the company wants.

What feels different now is that the sums are so large, and that it has the potential to influence not just Congressional and Senate candidates but the presidential candidates as well. If Romney wins, will he really be willing to take a position on Israel that is different from Adelson’s? One suspects not.

“This can’t be good for Democracy,” Bennet told me in an e-mail. It’s not.

Buying the Election?, NYT, 9.10.2012,






An Idea Worth Saving


May 5, 2012
The New York Times


Public financing of presidential elections, the greatest reform to come out of the post-Watergate era, died this year after a long illness. It was 36 years old, and was drowned by big money and starved by the disdain of politicians who should have known better.

From 1976 until 2008, every major-party presidential candidate took public money for the general election, adhering to spending limits that significantly reduced the influence of money on American elections. Candidates began dropping out of public financing for primaries in 2000, and then in 2008, Barack Obama abandoned the system entirely, preferring to raise more money from small donations, and promising to fix the public program. He has made almost no attempt to fulfill that promise.

This year will be the first since Richard Nixon’s day that neither major candidate will accept public financing. Both Mitt Romney and President Obama plan to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, far more than they could get from the public system.

Public financing could still be resuscitated, but first, someone in power has to care about it. The Republican-led House has voted to kill the system outright. A few House Democrats have proposed a good bill to fix it, but no one in the Senate has picked up the bill. And the two major candidates are too busy grubbing for the unlimited donations that now dominate politics.

The era of “super PACs” and secret donors has made public financing more urgent. A system that greatly magnified small donations with high matches would give ordinary citizens a shot at competing with corporations, unions and wealthy donors. It would allow candidates to campaign more instead of constantly begging among the rich. And it would give a challenger a chance to be competitive without the help of a super PAC.

Ronald Reagan could not have challenged President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976 without accepting public dollars. The system also made campaigns possible for such diverse candidates as Jimmy Carter (1976), George H. W. Bush (1980), Jesse Jackson (1988) and Pat Buchanan (1992), all of whom had essentially run out of cash against opponents with much more money.

There is nothing conservative or liberal about public financing, which allows any kind of political voice to be heard above a roar of cash — if lawmakers are willing to spend more. Here are several ways that Congress could revive the system:

Raise the grant The biggest reason candidates are dropping out of the system is that they can raise much more money outside of it. This year, Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama could get $91.2 million each from the Treasury if they participated in the system for the general election, and that is all they could spend. In 2008, Mr. Obama and his party raised about $750 million. He and Mr. Romney both expect to do better than that this year, and that does not include the $200 million or so to be spent by super PACs and other independent groups.

The grant needs to be doubled or tripled. A House bill proposed by two Democrats, David Price and Chris Van Hollen, would give general-election candidates $50 million, plus up to $150 million more based on a 4-to-1 match of donations of $200 or less. There would be no spending limit, but individual donations would be limited to $500. (Currently, for candidates not participating in the system, donations can go up to $2,500 in the primaries and $2,500 in the general election.)

The $200 million in the bill may not be attractive enough to candidates. While it would never equal private fund-raising, a grant of $300 million for each party could allow very competitive campaigns, and might appeal to candidates eager to spend less time raising money.

Increase the primary match Primary candidates now receive a government match of up to $250 for each donation, not nearly enough. None of the candidates this year applied for matching money except for Buddy Roemer, the former Louisiana governor, because they would have had to adhere to strict spending limits in return. The Democratic bill would eliminate the spending limits and provide a 4-to-1 match for donations of $200 or less, up to $100 million instead of the current $45 million. It would also start matching money six months before the first primary or caucus, instead of making candidates wait for Jan. 1 as they do now.

Mr. Obama’s campaign is justly proud of its many small donations, but so far this year, a third of the $350 million he and the party have raised has been collected by bundlers, usually wealthy friends who collect cash from their friends to raise their influence. Higher matches for small donors mean less influence for bundlers.

Eliminate the checkoff Around 7 percent of taxpayers now check the box on their tax returns allowing money to be used for the presidential system, even though polls show far more people support it. That limits the amount the government can spend to make the system more robust. The checkoff was part of the political compromise that created the system, but taxpayers are not asked if they support wars or farm subsidies, and a program this vital should be no different.

Asking people to support a program like this every April 15, when they are most annoyed at the government, was never a good idea. With the economy still struggling and deficits still high, giving even more money to politicians may be a hard sell to taxpayers. But it is actually a small price to pay to preserve a democracy in which ordinary citizens are not shouted down by those who have bigger bank accounts.

An Idea Worth Saving, NYT, 5.5.2012,






Obama Sees Steep Dropoff in Cash

From Major Donors


April 20, 2012
The New York Times



President Obama’s re-election campaign is straining to raise the huge sums it is counting on to run against Mitt Romney, with sharp dropoffs in donations from nearly every major industry forcing it to rely more than ever on small contributions and a relative handful of major donors.

From Wall Street to Hollywood, from doctors and lawyers, the traditional big sources of campaign cash are not delivering for the Obama campaign as they did four years ago. The falloff has left his fund-raising totals running behind where they were at the same point in 2008 — though well ahead of Mr. Romney’s — and has induced growing concern among aides and supporters as they confront the prospect that Republicans and their “super PAC” allies will hold a substantial advantage this fall.

With big checks no longer flowing as quickly into his campaign, Mr. Obama is leaning harder on his grass-roots supporters, whose small contributions make up well over half of the money he raised through the end of March, according to reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission. And Mr. Obama is asking far more of those large donors still giving, exploiting his joint fund-raising arrangement with the Democratic National Committee to collect five-figure checks from individuals who have already given the maximum $5,000 contribution to his re-election campaign.

“They clearly are feeling the pressure,” said one major Obama fund-raiser, who asked for anonymity to characterize his conversations with campaign officials. “They’re behind where they expected to be. You have to factor in $500 million-plus in Republican super PAC money.”

With no primary to excite his base, the economy struggling to rebound, and four years of political battles with Wall Street and other industries taking their toll, Mr. Obama’s campaign raised about $196 million through March, compared with $235 million at the same point in 2008. It has lagged behind its own internal quotas in some cities, according to people involved with the fund-raising efforts. But that has been offset by a highly successful joint fund-raising program with the national committee, which raised about $150 million, twice as much as in 2008.

Mr. Obama has held more than a hundred joint fund-raisers since last spring, far more than President George W. Bush during his 2004 re-election, and has tucked fund-raising stops into many of his official presidential trips.

The result: The national committee’s fund-raising from the technology industry, entrepreneurs, Wall Street and the entertainment industry have all risen sharply compared with 2008, even as the Obama campaign’s performance in those areas has tailed off, according to data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics. And with no primary to fight, Mr. Obama is spending much less than he was at this stage in 2008: He had about twice as much money in the bank at the end of March than he did four years ago.

All told, Mr. Obama and the Democratic committee ended March with about $130 million in cash on hand, a sizable war chest and far more than Mr. Romney and the Republican National Committee. Candidates typically raise more as the election nears, and Mr. Obama’s fund-raising accelerated sharply in the summer of 2008.

But Mr. Obama faces a major challenge in the months ahead. To raise as much money for his campaign as he did four years ago, the president would have to raise about $70 million a month through the end of the election cycle, more than triple the rate he has been bringing in cash so far.

Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, has publicly set a more modest goal, saying the campaign expects to exceed Mr. Obama’s 2008 fund-raising of about $750 million only by counting money he is raising for the national committee as well. That would require the campaign and the committee to raise about $51 million a month through November. Mr. Messina has also warned the party’s two Congressional campaign committees not to expect their traditional allotments of Democratic National Committee cash this year, money Mr. Obama is husbanding for his own efforts.

Mr. Romney, the likely Republican nominee, ended March with just $10 million in cash on hand, according to campaign reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission, and has raised about $87 million during the Republican primary season. His aides are hoping to raise a total of $800 million for the fall elections in combination with the Republican National Committee, which last week finalized a joint fund-raising agreement with Mr. Romney. The committee ended March with $23.4 million in cash on hand.

But Mr. Romney is also expecting significant support from Republican super PACs and other outside groups. On Friday, officials at American Crossroads, the leading conservative super PAC, reported that they had raised close to $100 million so far this year for the group and an affiliated organization, Crossroads GPS. Crossroads alone is aiming to raise as much as $300 million this year, while other conservative groups, like Americans for Prosperity, have aimed at raising close to $200 million.

The super PAC backing Mr. Romney in the Republican primary, Restore Our Future, has raised $51.9 million, and plans to raise twice that by November.

By contrast, the network of Democratic super PACs has raised far less. Democratic groups with close ties to the party’s Congressional leaders have raised about $18 million so far during the 2012 cycle. Priorities USA Action, founded by former Obama aides as a counterweight to Crossroads, raised about $9 million through the end of March.

To remain competitive, the Obama campaign has spent millions of dollars on high-tech, small-dollar prospecting. They have used sophisticated data mining techniques and low-dollar promotions — like $3-a-head raffles for dinner with the president — to reassemble the network of millions of supporters whose contributions helped propel him into the White House.

All told, about 58 percent of Mr. Obama’s total fund-raising during the election has come in checks of less than $200, compared with about 38 percent in 2008. In March alone, Mr. Obama took in $14.2 million worth of checks under $200 — more than all the money his campaign raised in February.

Obama Sees Steep Dropoff in Cash From Major Donors, NYT, 20.4.2012,






A Judge Turns on the Light


April 2, 2012
The New York Times


A federal judge took an important step toward ending secret donations to big-spending political groups, striking down regulations that permitted some groups to hide their donors. Unfortunately, the ruling probably came too late to flush this corrupting practice from this year’s elections — though there is still time for Congress to do so.

The secret-donor problem began in 2007 when the Supreme Court, in the Wisconsin Right to Life case, ended restrictions on corporate and union political spending by advocacy groups in the weeks prior to an election. A few weeks later, the Federal Election Commission, naïvely suggesting that some corporate donors to those groups might not have intended to give for political purposes, said that only those donations explicitly earmarked for political purposes had to be disclosed. The loophole was obvious: Just don’t declare any donation to be political, and they can all be secret.

The rule does not apply to modern “super PACs,” which exist for political purposes and must disclose their donors. But it allowed groups that accept money for other purposes, like the United States Chamber of Commerce, to collect millions of undisclosed dollars to buy ads that criticize candidates who differ with their pro-business agenda.

During the 2010 Congressional elections, political operatives like Karl Rove helped set up a variety of purported charities or educational groups to provide a shield to anonymous political donors. Along with the chamber, these groups took in more than $138 million in undisclosed money that year, 80 percent of which was spent supporting Republican candidates. Many of the same secretive groups have already begun running ads in this year’s campaign, and the flood will shortly begin in earnest.

A year ago, Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, filed suit against the F.E.C., saying its 2007 regulation violated the intention of Congress when it passed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act in 2002. That law makes it clear that donations greater than $1,000 to advocacy groups have to be disclosed.

On Friday, District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington agreed. She ruled that the F.E.C. overstepped its boundaries in requiring disclosure only of explicit political donations. “Congress spoke plainly” in requiring full disclosure, she wrote, and even the Citizens United decision called for disclosure of the unlimited corporate and union donations it permitted.

Judge Jackson’s clearsighted opinion is a win for clean elections. But it will probably be appealed, which could delay a final decision by months or years. If it were a functioning body, the F.E.C. would change its regulations to comply with the court ruling, but its three Republican commissioners have repeatedly blocked attempts to require disclosure.

Congress could quickly resolve the issue if it were truly interested in cleaning up campaign finance. Mr. Van Hollen has introduced a new version of the Disclose Act that would go even further than the court decision in making donations transparent, requiring the names of top donors to appear in ads, and imposing stronger reporting requirements for super PACs. Republicans filibustered a similar bill last year in the Senate, and no Republicans have stepped up to support this version. In the meantime, the grim tide of secret money keeps rising.

    A Judge Turns on the Light, NYT, 2.4.2012,






With Video,

Obama Looks to Expand

Campaign’s Reach

Through Social Media


March 14, 2012
The New York Times


When presidential candidates have a message they want voters to hear far and wide, they have typically turned to that old campaign standby: the television ad.

But as President Obama and his advisers prepare to begin their general election push, they are turning first not to a 30-second commercial but a 17-minute online documentary that they hope will be shared and spread online through social networks and e-mail.

When the Tom Hanks-narrated, Hollywood-style documentary, called “The Road We’ve Traveled,” is set to go online Thursday night, it will appear on a new YouTube platform that enables the Obama campaign to turn the passive experience of watching a video into an organizing and fund-raising tool. The technology will allow viewers to post campaign content to their Facebook pages, volunteer and donate all without having to leave Mr. Obama’s dedicated YouTube page.

Eventually campaign strategists hope to use the new software to focus on people in highly specific ways. For example, if someone watches a video about a certain geographic location, like Florida, a list of that person’s Facebook friends in Florida would appear alongside the video with a message from the campaign that suggests recommending the video to them.

The Obama campaign’s efforts underscore the importance that political campaigns now attach to Web video and the role the medium will probably play in the coming election. Once best known in politics as the venue for viral parodies and hastily produced response efforts, online video is vital in the way campaigns communicate with and persuade voters.

“The importance of video is so new for campaigns, even relative to ’08,” said Teddy Goff, the Obama campaign’s digital director. “Now it’s in some ways the primary way our digital operation communicates with supporters. And increasingly it will be the primary way we communicate with undecided voters.”

Television is likely to remain the dominant way campaigns reach voters for the foreseeable future. Experts predict that about 10 percent of the campaigns’ advertising budgets this year will be spent on the Web. But online video offers campaigns a way to connect with people they know are engaged and not fast-forwarding through messages on their DVR players or flipping channels during commercials.

And, perhaps more important, it offers them a way to disseminate their messages into online communities where friends and family members share, discuss and debate. Campaigns believe that helps elevate their messages beyond propaganda.

“This year it’s all about getting your message into those trusted networks because everyone is suspicious about politicians,” said Darrell West, of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. “It’s hard to be persuasive through a direct advertisement. But if you can get people to share videos, it adds a degree of credibility because a friend is endorsing it. People will take it more seriously.”

“The Road We’ve Traveled” was conceived and produced by the campaign to stand out from standard political video fare. For starters, it was directed by Davis Guggenheim, the Oscar-winning director whose film credits include “Waiting for Superman” and “An Inconvenient Truth.” It features interviews with Obama administration officials past and present, including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff. Former President Bill Clinton makes an appearance as well, hailing Mr. Obama’s decision to kill Osama bin Laden as one he hoped he would have had the courage to make as president.

The new YouTube platform that the Obama campaign will use to release the documentary gives anyone visiting the president’s YouTube page a number of options to share the content or pledge support, the kind of one-click approach that campaigns now see as an integral part of their digital strategies.

Mitt Romney’s campaign is using similar technology with its Web videos. Visitors can donate, volunteer and share content, all within Mr. Romney’s YouTube page. The campaign has worked to keep its video offerings dynamic, producing roughly two a week over the course of the campaign.

The Obama campaign has taken a similar one-stop-shopping approach to streamline online donations. Borrowing a technique from online merchants like Amazon and Fresh Direct, repeat donors do not need to resubmit their credit card information to make a pledge. The campaign saves it on file, and all the donor has to do is click.

Where online video offers some of the most potential, strategists say, is in modernizing the traditional aspects of campaigning, like get-out-the-vote efforts and responses to attacks from opponents.

“It’s the ability to get your message out quickly that makes all the difference,” said Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign’s digital director. “And that’s really where I think YouTube has found a niche in politics.”

Some strategists said what has changed in this election is the ability to turn Web video into something people act on. “One of the biggest challenges with YouTube is giving people a clear action to take after viewing,” said Stephen Muller, the Obama campaign’s video director. “The goal is to bring our engagement tools to our supporters.”

    With Video, Obama Looks to Expand Campaign’s Reach Through Social Media,
    NYT, 14.3.2012,






In New York,

a Pep Talk to Big Donors


March 14, 2012
The New York Times


A day after losing Mississippi and Alabama to Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney took his campaign to a state where he had no public schedule, no time carved out to mingle with voters, and no rallies or town halls.

While Mr. Santorum and Newt Gingrich hunted for votes in Puerto Rico and Illinois, Mr. Romney traveled to New York City to raise money and reassure top Republican donors — a constituency that favors his candidacy, and one perhaps most rattled by his inability to win the confidence of the party’s conservative base.

Mr. Romney has raised more than $63 million, twice as much as his nearest rival, with about a fifth of his money coming from the New York area, home to many of the financial industry executives whose cause Mr. Romney has championed on the campaign trail. Mr. Romney has used that huge cash advantage to hammer his rivals in everything from television advertisements to on-the-ground mailers.

But many donors remain frustrated with the narrative that has begun to crystallize around Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch, gaffe-prone politician who cannot connect with voters. Some said they did not understand why he was not able to surge ahead after his win in Florida, and others wished he had invested more time and money in Mississippi, where they said a victory Tuesday night was within Mr. Romney’s reach and could have halted Mr. Santorum’s momentum.

Mr. Romney’s pitch to donors Wednesday was similar to the one he made to his finance and political teams in Boston after Super Tuesday. “It’s going to be a long tough road, but we’re going to rough it out, and we’re going to be the nominee,” said John Catsimatidis, a supermarket magnate who organized one of Wednesday’s fund-raisers.

But while the events — breakfast and lunch fund-raisers at the Waldorf-Astoria and an evening gala in Connecticut — raised about $3 million, Mr. Romney faced lingering questions about his candidacy.

“Are you still able to pick up delegates when you don’t win a state?” asked one worried guest at the breakfast event. Of course, Mr. Romney assured him.

“You may not be declared the winner, but in these proportional states, you still pick up delegates,” Mr. Romney said, according to people who attended the event.

Mr. Romney also sought to ease donor concerns by returning to the delegate math, a pitch his campaign also made in a memo that went out Wednesday morning. He pointed to victories Tuesday in Hawaii and American Samoa that increased his delegate lead, as well as the delegates he still picked up in the two states he lost.

But Mr. Romney needs money to collect the 1,144 delegates required to clinch the nomination.

“In order to win against Barack Obama, our nominee needs to have the resources to be competitive,” said Matt Rhoades, Mr. Romney’s campaign manager. “Our fund-raising events provide us with the resources to continue our paid media and voter contact efforts in primaries and caucuses across the country.”

While donors privately worry about Mr. Romney’s ability to relate to average Americans, the finance and corporate executives he mingled with Wednesday are perhaps the group with whom he feels most comfortable — and who are equally enthusiastic about him.

“Don’t forget, New York is a town of businesspeople, investment bankers, bankers, and they respond to him whether they’re Republican or Reagan Democrats or businesspeople who used to be Clinton Democrats,” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “They love this guy because he’s a straight arrow, he’s level-headed, and he’s going to do the right thing for our country.”

Mr. Romney’s experience at Bain Capital creates a natural bond between him and his top-dollar supporters.

“Many donors are small-business owners, and they understand how bad their business has been hurt under the last three or four years of President Obama,” said Austin Barbour, one of Mr. Romney’s national finance chairmen.

While Mr. Romney has had a major cash advantage for most of the nominating campaign, the long duration and growing cost of the contest has depleted much of the money he had banked before the Iowa caucuses and has raised pressure on his donors to refill his coffers.

“It’s going to be a slog,” said Mel Sembler, a Florida real estate developer and a member of Mr. Romney’s national finance committee. “It means we have to continue raising the money. We thought it’d be over much earlier.”

    In New York, a Pep Talk to Big Donors, NYT, 14.3.2012,






Donors With Agendas


February 23, 2012
The New York Times


The presidential primary season is being brought to you by a handful of multimillionaires and companies who have propped up the candidates with enormous donations to their “super PACs.” Just two dozen or so individuals, couples and companies have given more than 80 percent of the money collected by super PACs, or $54 million, according to disclosure forms released on Monday.

Freed of nearly all regulations or good sense by Citizens United and other court decisions, the super PACs are raising money in ludicrously large sums. The $10 million from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson to Winning Our Future, which has sustained Newt Gingrich’s trailing campaign, is the biggest single donation to a candidate. But every candidate now has his own millionaire supporter, and the concentration of wealth in the campaign is growing.

The people writing these outsize checks are committed to defeating President Obama, but their interests don’t stop there. Many are involved in businesses or ideological causes that have clear policy agendas with the federal government. Their huge influence on individual candidates demonstrates the potential for corruption inherent in the super PAC era. Among the biggest givers:

¶Harold Simmons, a billionaire corporate raider, has given $1 million to Mr. Gingrich’s political action committee, $1.1 million to Rick Perry’s PAC, $100,000 to Mitt Romney’s PAC, and $10 million to American Crossroads, the super PAC advised by Karl Rove that is supporting many Republican candidates. Mr. Simmons’s companies make metals, paints and chemicals, among other things, and have gotten into trouble over lead and uranium emissions from previous decades. He also runs a radioactive waste dump in Texas that has clashed with environmental regulators over its proximity to a nearby aquifer. He controls Waste Control Specialists, which has contracts to clean up federal hazardous waste sites, including emissions from other companies he controls.

¶Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an outspoken libertarian, gave $2.6 million to Ron Paul’s PAC. In 2009, he wrote that the 1920s were the last decade when one could be optimistic about American politics, lamenting the subsequent rise of the welfare state that he blamed in part on giving women the right to vote.

¶Foster Friess, who gave $1 million to Rick Santorum’s Red White and Blue PAC, is a mutual fund manager who recently declared that aspirin used to be an effective contraceptive when women put it between their knees. He is a former president of the Council for National Policy, a secretive club of some of the country’s most powerful conservatives, which opposes unions, same-sex marriage and government regulation.

In addition, six-figure checks were given to Mr. Romney by seven executives at hedge funds or investment firms. Leaders of this industry are interested in fewer regulations and a low tax rate for their type of income.

President Obama’s super PAC, Priorities USA Action, received only two seven-figure checks last year, one from the Service Employees International Union for $1 million, and one from the movie executive Jeffrey Katzenberg for $2 million. (Mr. Katzenberg said last month that he was disappointed with Mr. Obama’s opposition to antipiracy legislation but would continue to raise money for him.)

Until a few weeks ago, the president might have credibly campaigned against the undue influence of special interests on his Republican rivals. He can no longer make the case because, after his PAC received only $58,816 last month, Mr. Obama invited donors to give without limits. And all but the most privileged Americans will pay the price if the nation’s wealthiest can buy elections.

    Donors With Agendas, NYT, 23.2.2012,







Billion-dollar Obama

to run moneyed campaign


WASHINGTON | Mon Apr 4, 2011
6:14am EDT
By Patricia Zengerle


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is no longer the outsider candidate who fueled his bid for the White House in 2008 with a flood of small donations from new and young voters inspired by his message of hope and change.

As a sitting president he has far greater authority and media access and his 2012 re-election campaign is expected to raise $1 billion, which is unprecedented in U.S. politics.

"In 2008, he was very much an insurgent candidate, somebody from out of nowhere with a wholly different story. And the Obama campaign was as much a crusade as it was a traditional campaign for president," said Christopher Arterton, a professor of political management at George Washington University who has also been a Democratic consultant.

With early polls showing Obama leading potential Republican rivals, he is expected to announce this week he will run for re-election and file campaign papers with the Federal Election Commission as early as Monday.

That would allow him to start campaign fund-raising and much of his war chest is expected to come from the kind of big-money donations he has criticized in the past.

This time, the former Illinois senator is no longer the fresh political face seeking to become the first black U.S. president. His 2012 campaign will be a bigger, slicker machine likely to dwarf that of his eventual Republican opponent.

Aides note the huge number of individual donors who gave to Obama's campaign -- a record 4 million. But only 25 percent of the money came from small donors who gave $200 or less, according to the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute in Washington.

Obama will inevitably lose many of the individual donors who backed him four years ago, said Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College and expert on campaign fundraising.

"That's something that we're not going to see this time around, that level of excitement about the Obama candidacy that we saw last time, from people who are not traditional donors or traditional Democratic primary voters," he said.



Obama amassed a record $750 million as he surged to victory in 2008. His 2012 campaign total is expected to hit $1 billion or more, even without a major Democratic primary opponent or the emergence of a strong Republican contender.

"It's definitely within reach, as he raised three quarters of a billion last time. As the incumbent president it's quite plausible to imagine him raising $1 billion," said CFI Executive Director Michael Malbin.

Jim Messina, a former White House deputy chief of staff who will run Obama's, has been telling big supporters they will need to collect $350,000 each. His campaign headquarters will be in Chicago will be staffed with White House veterans.

Obama made his message clear on Tuesday at a $30,800-plate fund-raiser at a popular New York restaurant.

"I could not do what I do ... if I didn't know that I had a lot of people out there rooting for me and a lot of friends supporting me," Obama told donors at the dinner, which raised $1.5 million for the Democratic National Committee.

Although he has received boost from the recovering economy, Obama's approval ratings could easily fall if the Libya war drags on and gas prices stay high, or if voters blame him for the huge U.S. budget deficit.

"The reality of governing means that he cannot now be all things to all people. He has a record," said Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington non-profit group focused on campaign finance and ethics issues.

Obama has railed against a Supreme Court decision last year that removed restrictions on corporate and union campaign spending and Democrats say the decision opened the floodgates for special interest money in politics.

While experts expect the ruling to benefit Republicans more than Democrats, given corporate displeasure with Obama's laws to overhaul the U.S. healthcare industry and put tighter regulations on big banks, Democrats will also cash in.

"It's unrealistic to ask candidates to forego this money, when by definition, if you do what you think should be done, you are going to lose," McGehee said.

An effective Obama fund-raising effort could help the Democratic Party, which lost control of the House of Representatives to Republicans and has a smaller majority in the Senate after last November's congressional elections.

Obama gave millions from his campaign war chest to Congressional candidates in 2008.

Every seat in the House will be up for grabs again in 2012, as well as one-third of the seats in the Senate, and many experts say the battle for Congress -- particularly for the Senate -- could be the real fight.

Republican donors will be even more focused on Congress if their party cannot find a presidential candidate with a real chance of defeating Obama and some have admitted it will be difficult to deny Obama a second term.

Karl Rove, a strategist whose Crossroad GPS plans to help raise $120 million for Republican candidates, was quoted as saying Obama should be considered the favorite.

More recently, a Republican operative reflected on his party's lack of any strong White House contender, and quipped: "Obama could win if he raises only $1."


(Editing by Alistair Bell and Christopher Wilson)

    Analysis: Billion-dollar Obama to run moneyed campaign, NYT, 4.4.2011,






Obama Hauls in Record $750 Million

for Campaign


December 5, 2008
The New York Times


President-elect Barack Obama brought in nearly $750 million for his presidential campaign, a record amount that exceeds what all of the candidates combined collected in private donations in the previous race for the White House, according to a report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

Underscoring the success of his fund-raising, Mr. Obama reported that he had nearly $30 million in the bank as of Nov. 24, despite spending furiously at the end of his campaign.

Mr. Obama, who became the first major-party nominee to bypass public financing since the system began in the 1970s, spent more than $136 million from Oct. 16 to Nov. 24, the period covered in the report. By comparison, his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, who was limited to the $84 million allotted to him from the Treasury under public financing, spent $26.5 million during that time, according to his latest campaign finance report. Although Mr. McCain had $4 million left over, he had $4.9 million in debt, the report said.

Mr. Obama reported taking in $104 million in contributions. Assuming most of that money came in before Election Day, Nov. 4, it appears his fund-raising stepped up significantly as the campaign drew to a close. In the first half of October, he raised just $36 million.

An exact figure is difficult to calculate because of vagaries in the way fund-raising numbers are reported. But it appears that Mr. Obama raised over $300 million for the general election alone — more than triple what Mr. McCain had at his disposal from public financing.

When Mr. Obama decided after he clinched the Democratic nomination to forgo public financing, campaign officials said they needed to raise at least twice as much as they would receive in public money, with a goal of raising three times as much, to make it worth the added time away from campaigning that he needed to devote to fund-raising.

Mr. Obama’s fund-raising total — fueled by both small donors giving incremental amounts online and large donors who were wined and dined and given the chance to mingle with him — appeared to more than validate his campaign’s gamble.

Indeed, it could very well mark the epitaph to the public financing system, which critics have long declared is badly in need of updating to stay relevant in presidential elections.

At a minimum, it sets an imposing bar for any potential Republican challenger to Mr. Obama in 2012.

“Assuming Obama runs again and his fund-raising prowess is sustained, then it will be a daunting undertaking for any opponent,” said Kenneth Gross, a campaign finance lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

In one illustration of the scope of Mr. Obama’s fund-raising haul, all the candidates running for president in 2004, including President Bush and Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, together collected less than $650 million, not counting the money received under public financing during the primary and the general elections, according to Federal Election Commission figures.

Mr. McCain collected less than $220 million for the campaign’s primary phase, compared with the more than $410 million that Mr. Obama did in that period.

In the final two months of the race, the Obama campaign spent nearly $170 million on television advertising, compared with $61 million by the McCain campaign, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advertising spending.

Mr. McCain had hoped that money raised by the Republican National Committee, which was able to spend on his behalf under certain restrictions, could help compensate for his financial disparity with Mr. Obama. But the R.N.C. only spent another $31 million on advertising, which left Mr. McCain still facing a large deficit on television.

Obama officials said their final tally of individual contributors surpassed 3.95 million, including 547,000 new contributors in the period covered by their latest finance report.

It is unclear what Mr. Obama plans to do with the leftover money. In 2004, when Mr. Kerry reported that he had more than $14 million remaining in his account for the primaries, some Democratic officials reacted in anger and disbelief that he had not spent all of his resources. Kerry officials said they had reserved some money to pay for a recount or legal challenges.

That type of second-guessing is less likely this time because Mr. Obama won. He has several options for his remaining cash, Mr. Gross said, like transferring it to the Democratic National Committee or another party committee, or rolling it over to his 2012 re-election campaign.

What is not an option for Mr. Obama is to help Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton with paying off the debt from her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

According to reports filed last month, Mrs. Clinton is still struggling to retire about $7.5 million, and she faces fund-raising constraints should Congress approve her as secretary of state in the Obama administration. Mr. Gross said the most the Obama campaign could transfer to her was $2,000.

    Obama Hauls in Record $750 Million for Campaign, NYT, 5.12.2008,






Money Makes the Political World

Go Around


November 2, 2008
Filed at 11:49 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- What's your vote worth? Because Barack Obama and John McCain can spend about $8 to get it.

Together, the two presidential candidates have amassed nearly $1 billion -- a stratospheric number in a campaign of record-shattering money numbers. Depending on turnout, $1 billion means nearly $8 for every presidential vote, compared with $5.50 in 2004.

And that's just McCain and Obama. All the presidential candidates in the 2007-2008 contest took in $1.55 billion, nearly twice the amount collected by candidates in 2004 and three times the amount from 2000. The total includes fundraising for the primaries as well as the general election.

Using all that cash, the candidates have traveled more miles, employed more workers and advertised more than ever.

But it has been Obama, with his $641 million and 3.2 million donors, who has rewritten the rules for financing campaigns.

He abandoned the public financing system -- after pledging to participate if McCain did -- and became the first major party candidate to raise private funds to pay for a general election since the campaign money reforms of the Watergate era. McCain did take public funds, but Obama's success left little doubt that taxpayer-supported presidential campaigns, as currently configured, are 20th century relics.

Neither Obama nor McCain participated in public financing during the primaries. McCain's acceptance of $84 million in general election public financing also came with limitations on spending. He continued to raise money for the Republican Party, though, which so far has spent about $100 million on his behalf to supplement his public funds.

Obama mastered new technology, turning the Internet into an incredible political networking tool and attracting record numbers of donors giving less than $200. While that flood of money raised new questions about the safeguards of Internet fundraising, it also helped dilute the role of big money donors and fundraisers.

''When you have that many contributors, I think it does, in a weird way, cleanse the system even though it seems like that much more money,'' the Federal Election Commission chairman, Republican Donald F. McGahn II, said recently. ''That many more contributors disperse the influence of any one contributor.''

Some of the financial highlights from the presidential campaign:

The total is almost the same as what the Federal Trade Commission says food and beverage companies spend in a year marketing their products to children.

--Selling politics like burgers: With all that money, Obama has blanketed the country with his message. As of mid-October, he had spent $240 million on broadcast ads to penetrate old battlegrounds and to help create new ones. He spent $77 million in the first two weeks of October, more than McDonald's spends on ads in a month. He pinpointed audiences with ads on such video games as ''Guitar Hero'' and ''Madden NFL 09.''

He also went global, with national network advertising that culminated with a $4 million-plus half hour buy on prime time six days before the election. His spending stretched McCain's resources; the Republican had spent about $116 million as of mid-October.

--Bad apple, bad money: Some fundraisers put campaigns in awkward situations. Barack Obama donated to charity tens of thousands of dollars in donations to his past campaigns that were linked to convicted Chicago developer Antoin ''Tony'' Rezko. Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton returned more than $800,000 to donors whose contributions were linked to Norman Hsu, a fundraiser who was wanted in California on charges of bilking investors. Hsu was subsequently indicted in New York on federal charges of fraud and violating campaign finance laws.

--Bundle up some cold hard cash: Perfecting a fundraising practice initially mastered by George W. Bush, presidential candidates enlisted fundraisers to raise thousands upon thousands of dollars for them. These are the well-connected money people to whom a campaign is ultimately indebted. Both McCain and Obama list their fundraisers -- or bundlers, as they are known -- on their Web sites. McCain's are easier to find than Obama's. But unlike McCain, Obama lists the fundraisers' home towns.

--Who are those small donors, anyway: Obama has raised about half of his money in increments of $200 or less. The average contribution is $86, the campaign says. But the success of the Internet fundraising effort has also led to some puzzling donors. Individuals have been credited with giving tens of thousands of dollars to the Obama campaign, far more than the $2,300 limit. Obama has reported more than $17,000 in contributions from a donor identified as ''Doodad Pro'' and more than $11,000 from one identified as ''Good Will.''

''I wouldn't be surprised if the FEC doesn't address this in the next couple of years -- what you have to put on your Web site for soliciting contributions,'' said Bradley A. Smith, a former FEC chairman and a law professor at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio.

--I show mine, you don't show yours: Federal law requires candidates to identify only those donors who contribute, in the aggregate, more than $200. But McCain has made his entire donor database available through his Web site. Obama has not, drawing criticism.


On the Net:

Federal campaign finance law: http://www.fec.gov/law/feca/feca.shtml

    Money Makes the Political World Go Around, NYT, 2.11.2008,






In Fine Print,

a Proliferation of Large Donors


October 21, 2008
The New York Times


Much of the attention on the record amounts of money coursing through the presidential race this year, including in Senator Barack Obama’s announcement on Sunday of his $150 million fund-raising haul in September, has focused on the explosion of small donors.

But there has been another proliferation on the national fund-raising landscape that was not fully apparent until the latest campaign finance reports were filed last week: people who have given tens of thousands of dollars at a time to help the candidates.

Enabled by the fine print in campaign finance laws, they have written checks that far exceed normal individual contribution limits to candidates, to joint fund-raising committees that benefit the candidates as well as their respective parties.

Many of these large donors come from industries with interests in Washington. A New York Times analysis of donors who wrote checks of $25,000 or more to the candidates’ main joint fund-raising committees found, for example, the biggest portion of money for both candidates came from the securities and investments industry, including executives at various firms embroiled in the recent financial crisis like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG.

The joint fund-raising committees have been utilized far more heavily this presidential election than in the past. Mr. Obama’s campaign has leaned on wealthy benefactors to contribute up to $33,100 at a time to complement his army of small donors over the Internet as he bypassed public financing for the general election. More than 600 donors contributed $25,000 or more to him in September alone, roughly three times the number who did the same for Senator John McCain.

And Mr. McCain’s campaign, which had not disclosed most of these donors until last week, has taken the concept to new levels, encouraging deep-pocketed supporters to write checks of more than $70,000, by adding state parties as beneficiaries of his fund-raising.

All told, each candidate has had about 2,000 people give $25,000 or more to his various joint fund-raising committees through September.

“What we’re seeing is an emphasis on the high-end check that we have not seen since the days of soft money,” said Anthony J. Corrado Jr., a campaign finance expert at Colby College in Maine.

The Times examination of donors who wrote checks of $25,000 or more through September found some notable differences in the industries from which Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain drew their largest contributions.

Compared with Mr. Obama, Mr. McCain drew a slightly larger percentage of his big-donor money from the financial industry, about a fifth of his total. The next biggest amount in large checks for Mr. McCain came from real estate and then donors who identified themselves as retired. With his emphasis on offshore drilling, Mr. McCain has also enjoyed heavy support from generous benefactors in the oil and gas industry, a group Mr. Obama drew relatively little from.

After the financial arena, Mr. Obama drew the most in checks of $25,000 or more from retirees and lawyers — Mr. McCain collected significantly less in large donations from lawyers — followed by those in real estate.

Mr. Obama also drew a significant amount from big givers in the entertainment industry, who contributed relatively little to Mr. McCain. In contrast, donations from the private equity and hedge fund industries accounted for a significantly greater amount of the giving from Mr. McCain’s largest donors, compared with Mr. Obama’s.

Certain companies were especially generous to a particular candidate. Three top executives of Merrill Lynch, for example, wrote checks of $28,500 each to Mr. McCain; among them was the chief executive, John A. Thain. A dozen employees at Goldman Sachs wrote checks of $25,000 or more to Mr. Obama.

Donations to these joint fund-raising committees have surged this election cycle, taking in nearly $300 million this year through September — with Mr. McCain collecting slightly more than Mr. Obama — compared with $69 million in 2004. Campaign finance watchdogs call it a worrisome trend, saying the heavy emphasis on such arrangements brings candidates one step further into the embrace of major donors.

“This is subverting the whole notion of candidate contribution limits,” said Steve Weissman, associate director for policy at the Campaign Finance Institute.

Individuals are normally limited to contributing $2,300 to presidential candidates for the primary and another $2,300 for the general election. But the joint fund-raising committees allow donors to enjoy the clout that comes with writing a single large check that can cover the maximum contributions to the candidates, as well as $28,500 to the national party. In Mr. McCain’s case, that check could also include $10,000 apiece for several state parties and $2,300 to a legal compliance fund for the general election. The money directed to the national and state parties can then be used to help the candidates under certain restrictions.

More than 1,800 people had donated $25,000 or more as of the end of September to Mr. McCain through his various “victory” committees, according to Federal Election Commission filings and data compiled by Public Citizen, a nonpartisan watchdog group. More than 300 people had contributed $50,000 or more.

As for Mr. Obama, about 2,000 people had donated $25,000 or more to his joint fund-raising committees through September, including more than 500 who have given $30,000 or more.

McCain finance officials introduced their main joint fund-raising committee, McCain Victory 2008, in the spring. Mr. McCain was still able to accept primary money, so money was divided between his primary campaign coffers, the Republican National Committee, several state parties and his compliance fund, for a maximum check of $70,100.

Mr. McCain is now taking public financing for the general election, but he has continued to raise money through his joint fund-raising committees, something that frustrates campaign finance watchdogs, because they argue that a goal of public financing is to get candidates out of the private money-raising business.

“It undermines the whole spirit of the system,” said David Arkush, director of Congress Watch at Public Citizen.

Indeed, Mr. McCain collected $10.6 million just last week for the Republican Party at an event in New York he headlined with his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

The largest donors typically get V.I.P. treatment at fund-raisers, including dinner and a photo with the candidate.

Gordon V. Smith, a Maryland home builder, and his wife, Helen, gave $67,800 each to Mr. McCain this year and attended a fund-raiser at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner, Va. Mr. Smith was later invited to an intimate dinner for major donors with Rick Davis, the McCain campaign manager. Mr. Smith, who said he was a staunch believer in free enterprise, called the meeting a “stroke” for big donors but said he had had a chance to offer some policy ideas. “Will the campaign talk to any donor? Even if you give 10 bucks, they’ll talk to you, but you might talk to a volunteer,” he said.

Arguably the biggest whales of all are the several dozen who contributed $70,000 or more to Mr. McCain. They included Marvin Gilliam, an executive at Cumberland Resources, a Virginia coal-mining company where several top officials made sizable contributions to Mr. McCain, as well as Mr. Gilliam’s wife, Marcia; Joe Ricketts, founder of the securities firm TD Ameritrade; and Meg Whitman, former chief executive of eBay and a prominent McCain surrogate, who contributed a total of $92,400, according to F.E.C. records, although some will apparently need to be refunded because of federal contribution limits.

The Obama Victory Fund funnels money to his campaign coffers and the Democratic National Committee. The largest check a donor could write for the primary and the general elections was $33,100. Mr. Obama also has a separate committee that distributes money to 18 battleground states.

More than 500 donors contributed more than $30,000 each to Mr. Obama. They included James E. Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy, a power company based in Charlotte, N.C.; Melanie Griffith, the actress; and John M. Noel, chief executive of Travel Guard, an affiliate of the insurance giant AIG.

Kitty Bennett contributed reporting.

    In Fine Print, a Proliferation of Large Donors, NYT, 21.10.2008,






Obama Recasts

the Fund-Raising Landscape


October 20, 2008
The New York Times


Senator Barack Obama’s announcement on Sunday of his record-shattering $150 million fund-raising total for September underscored just how much his campaign has upended standards for raising money in presidential campaigns.

His campaign has now raised more than $600 million, almost equaling what all the candidates from both major parties collected in private donations in 2004.

It is a remarkable ascent to previously unimagined financial heights — Mr. Obama’s September total more than doubled the record $66 million he collected in August — that has been cheered by some and decried by others concerned about the influence of money in politics. The impact on the way presidential campaigns are financed is likely to be profound, potentially providing an epitaph on the tombstone of the existing public finance system.

Campaign finance watchdog groups said Sunday that Mr. Obama’s September haul bolstered their arguments for the need to revamp the presidential public financing system to restore its relevancy. It is an effort that has recently faltered in Congress.

Democrats, though, may be reluctant to surrender the significant money-raising advantage they have developed over Republicans, saying that Mr. Obama, by cultivating millions of small donors over the Internet, has built what amounts to a parallel public financing system that is arguably more democratic.

“I think there’s going to be a fight inside the Democratic Party on this,” said David Donnelly, a director of Campaign Money Watch, a watchdog group.

In this election cycle, all of the major presidential candidates, except for former Senator John Edwards, opted out of the public financing system for the primary. Mr. Obama became the first major party candidate to bypass the public money for the general election since the system began in the 1970s, backing away from an earlier pledge to accept it if his opponent did as well. It was a move the campaign of Senator John McCain and campaign finance watchdog groups harshly criticized.

But any effort to fix the system would be complicated by loopholes that permit wealthy individuals and moneyed interests to exert outsize influence, including through 527 groups, which can accept unlimited contributions.

“If you locked me up in a room and said, ‘You fix it,’ I’m not sure there is a way,” said Joe Trippi, the former campaign manager for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004 and a senior adviser for Mr. Edwards in the Democratic primary last year.

Tad Devine, a former senior strategist for Senator John F. Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004, said there were plenty of arguments that what Mr. Obama had done was healthy for the democratic process.

“What we’re going to have to figure out,” Mr. Devine said, “is why this is not only good for the Democratic Party but it’s good for the country.”

An examination of Mr. Obama’s intake in September lends credence to arguments by both sides. David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager, said in a video message sent to supporters that Mr. Obama had 632,000 new donors in September, bringing the campaign’s total to 3.1 million. The average contribution, Mr. Plouffe said, was less than $100.

The full details of how the Obama campaign raised its money in September will not be available until Monday, when it files its official report with the Federal Election Commission. But a separate filing by the Obama Victory Fund, which is the campaign’s joint fund-raising operation with the Democratic National Committee, underscores that Mr. Obama has also been powered by major donors, many of them with interests in Washington, as well.

Mr. Obama’s joint money-raising committee, which can take in checks of more than $30,000 that are divided between the campaign and the D.N.C., collected $69 million in September. The fund funneled $32 million in September to the Obama campaign’s coffers and $26.5 million to the national committee.

The D.N.C., which can spend money on Mr. Obama’s behalf with certain restrictions, announced Sunday it collected nearly $50 million in September and had $27.4 million in cash on hand at the end of the month.

Coupled with his appeals to small donors over the Internet, Mr. Obama has maintained an aggressive, high-dollar fund-raising schedule. More than 600 people wrote checks of $25,000 or more to the Obama Victory Fund in September. They included Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic basketball star; Andrea Jung, the chief executive of Avon; Gregory Brown, president of Motorola; and Charles E. Phillips Jr., president of Oracle.

McCain finance officials and other campaign finance experts initially anticipated that the Republican National Committee’s stockpile of cash and strong fund-raising, along with the $84 million Mr. McCain received in public financing, might be enough to stay within range of the Obama financial juggernaut.

The R.N.C. announced this month that it raised $66 million in September, which exceeded fund-raisers’ expectations, and officials said it had finished the month with about $77 million in the bank. But the Obama campaign has been outspending the McCain campaign on television by three-and-a-half-to-one, even with spending by the R.N.C. factored in, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which analyzes advertising spending.

    Obama Recasts the Fund-Raising Landscape, NYT, 20.10.2008,






Obama Raises

More Than $150 Million

in September


October 20, 2008

The New York Times



Senator Barack Obama’s campaign announced on Sunday that it had raised more than $150 million in September, a record-shattering amount underscoring again the unprecedented amounts of money he has attracted.

Mr. Obama’s contributions in September more than doubled the $66 million he had collected in August, which had already far exceeded what previous presidential campaigns had raised in a single month.

In a videotaped message included in an e-mail to supporters, David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager, said that Mr. Obama had added 632,000 new donors in September, bringing the campaign’s total to 3.1 million. The average contribution, Mr. Plouffe said, was $86.

Mr. Plouffe said the money has enabled the campaign to expand to traditional Republican strongholds, noting it had begun to pour resources into West Virginia. He also sought to portray the campaign’s fund-raising success as evidence of Mr. Obama’s grassroots support.

“The two groups that have given us the most contributions are retirees and students, which shows how Barack’s call for change has spanned the generations,” Mr. Plouffe said. “Nurses, teachers, small business owners. It really is the fabric of America that has built this campaign.”

The full details of how the Obama campaign raised its money in September will not be available until Monday, when it files its official report with the Federal Election Commission. But a separate filing by the campaign’s joint fund-raising committee with the Democratic National Committee, the Obama Victory Fund, underscores that Mr. Obama has also been powered by major donors as well.

Mr. Obama’s joint fund-raising committee, which can take in checks of more than $30,000 that is divvied up between the campaign and the D.N.C., collected $69 million in September. The fund funneled $32 million in September to the Obama campaign’s coffers and $26.5 million to the D.N.C.

The D.N.C., which can spend money on Mr. Obama’s behalf under certain restrictions, announced this morning it collected nearly $50 million in September and had $27.4 million in cash on hand at the end of the month.

The Republican National Committee announced earlier this month it had raised $66 million in September, which had exceeded fundraisers’ expectations, and finished the month with about $77 million in the bank.

Mr. Obama’s fund-raising success comes in the wake of his decision to back away from an earlier pledge to accept public financing for the general election if his opponent did as well, a move the McCain campaign has sought to use against him.

McCain finance officials and other campaign-finance experts had anticipated that the R.N.C.’s stockpile of cash and strong fund-raising, along with the $84 million Mr. McCain received in public financing, would be enough to at least stay within range of the Obama fund-raising juggernaut. The R.N.C. finished August with $76 million in the bank, along with another $18 million transferred to it by the McCain campaign. But the Obama campaign has been outspending the McCain campaign by 4 to 1 on television, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, which analyzes ad spending. The R.N.C. is limited to spending about $19 million in coordination with the McCain campaign but can spend unlimited amounts independently. Even with the R.N.C.’s independent expenditures factored in, the Obama campaign is still outspending Mr. McCain by 3 ½ to 1, according to CMAG.

Coupled with his appeals over the Internet, Mr. Obama has maintained an aggressive high-dollar fund-raising schedule. Just last week, 10 hours after he left the stage of the final presidential debate, he arrived at a morning fund-raiser at the Metropolitan Club in New York in which more than 120 people paid $30,800 each to hear him speak.

More than 600 people wrote checks of $25,000 or more to the Obama Victory Fund in September, including the actresses Melanie Griffith and Rita Wilson; Orlando Magic basketball star Dwight Howard; Andrea Jung, the chief executive of Avon; Gregory Brown, the president of the telecommunications giant Motorola; and Charles E. Phillips Jr., the president of the software company Oracle.

Mr. Obama has now raised more than $600 million since his campaign began, easily another record. Putting that figure in perspective, in 2004, Democratic and Republican presidential candidates together raised a record $684 million by the time of their conventions. (Both Senator John F. Kerry and President Bush later opted for public financing for the general election). That was nearly double the $350 million the candidates raised in 2000.

Before the Obama campaign, the record for the single biggest monthly fund-raising month was held by Senator John F. Kerry, when he collected $44 million in March 2004 after clinching the Democratic nomination. Mr. Obama exceeded that total last February, when he raised $55 million while competing against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama Raises More Than $150 Million in September,
NYT, 20.10.2008,






Obama’s Ad Effort

Swamps McCain and Nears Record


October 18, 2008

The New York Times



PHILADELPHIA — Senator Barack Obama is days away from breaking the advertising spending record set by President Bush in the general election four years ago, having unleashed an advertising campaign of a scale and complexity unrivaled in the television era.

With advertisements running repeatedly day and night, on local stations and on the major broadcast networks, on niche cable networks and even on video games and his own dedicated satellite channels, Mr. Obama is now outadvertising Senator John McCain nationwide by a ratio of at least four to one, according to CMAG, a service that monitors political advertising. That difference is even larger in several closely contested states.

The huge gap has been made possible by Mr. Obama’s decision to opt out of the federal campaign finance system, which gives presidential nominees $84 million in public money and prohibits them from spending any amount above that from their party convention to Election Day. Mr. McCain is participating in the system. Mr. Obama, who at one point promised to participate in it as well, is expected to announce in the next few days that he raised more than $100 million in September, a figure that would shatter fund-raising records.

“This is uncharted territory,” said Kenneth M. Goldstein, the director of the Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin. “We’ve certainly seen heavy advertising battles before. But we’ve never seen in a presidential race one side having such a lopsided advantage.”

While Mr. Obama has held a spending advantage throughout the general election campaign, his television dominance has become most apparent in the last few weeks. He has gone on a buying binge of television time that has allowed him to swamp Mr. McCain’s campaign with concurrent lines of positive and negative messages. Mr. Obama’s advertisements come as Republicans have begun a blitz of automated telephone calls attacking him.

The Obama campaign’s advertising approach — which has included advertisements up to two minutes long in which Mr. Obama lays out his agenda and even advertisements in video games like “Guitar Hero” — has helped mask some of Mr. Obama’s rougher attacks on his rival.

“What Obama is doing is being his own good cop and bad cop,” said Evan Tracey, the chief operating officer of CMAG, who called the advertising war “a blowout” in Mr. Obama’s favor.

Based on his current spending, CMAG predicts Mr. Obama’s general election advertising campaign will surpass the $188 million Mr. Bush spent in his 2004 campaign by early next week. Mr. McCain has spent $91 million on advertising since he clinched his party’s nomination, several months before Mr. Obama clinched his.

The size of the disparity has even surprised aides to Mr. McCain, who traded accusations with Mr. Obama over the advertising battle in this week’s debate, with Mr. Obama telling Mr. McCain that “your ads, 100 percent of them have been negative” and Mr. McCain saying that “Senator Obama has spent more money on negative ads than any political campaign in history.”

The most recent analysis of the presidential advertisements by the University of Wisconsin, based on the period from Sept. 28 through Oct. 4, found that nearly 100 percent of Mr. McCain’s commercials included an attack on Mr. Obama and that 34 percent of Mr. Obama’s advertisements, which were more focused that week on promoting his agenda, included an attack on Mr. McCain.

That finding reflected the McCain campaign’s strategy of trying to make Mr. Obama an unacceptable choice in the eyes of undecided voters and Mr. Obama’s goal of making undecided voters comfortable with him.

But the Wisconsin Advertising Project says that since Mr. Obama wrapped up the Democratic nomination in June, 54 percent of Mr. McCain’s advertisements have been completely focused on attacking him, roughly a quarter have mixed criticism of Mr. Obama with a positive message about Mr. McCain, and 20 percent have been devoted solely to promoting Mr. McCain.

In the same period, the study found that 41 percent of Mr. Obama’s advertisements had been devoted solely to attacking Mr. McCain, one-fifth mixed criticism of Mr. McCain with a positive message about Mr. Obama, and 38 percent were solely devoted to promoting Mr. Obama.

The group reported that Mr. Obama has also had several weeks in which his advertising was nearly 100 percent negative or contrast advertisements, though considerably fewer such weeks than Mr. McCain has had.

The percentages do not reflect the vastly greater number of spots run by Mr. Obama. But Mr. Goldstein said Mr. McCain had shown more purely negative advertisements than Mr. Obama had, in spite of Mr. Obama’s spending advantage.

Here in Philadelphia, the biggest media market in a critical state, both candidates showed a mix of positive and negative advertisements on Friday. The spots seemed to show up across the dial as regularly as the affable Geico gecko or the ambling ne’er-do-wells of FreeCreditReport.com.

During “Dr. Phil” on the CBS affiliate here, Mr. Obama showed a minute-long positive commercial recounting “one of my earliest memories: going with Grandfather to see some of the astronauts, being brought back after a splashdown, sitting on his shoulders and waving a little American flag.”

But minutes earlier during the late afternoon news on the NBC station, Mr. Obama had criticized Mr. McCain over a health care plan that an announcer alleges “could leave you hanging by a thread.”

Toward the end of the 4 p.m. newscast on the CBS station, Mr. McCain ran one of his rare purely positive spots, speaking directly into the camera and telling viewers, “The last eight years haven’t worked very well, have they?” He promises, “I have a plan for a new direction for the economy.”

But on the NBC affiliate an advertisement approved by Mr. McCain was tying Mr. Obama to Antoin Rezko, a Chicago real estate developer convicted of fraud who is listed as among the friends Mr. Obama is said to reward “with your tax dollars.”

That spot was co-sponsored by the Republican National Committee, which is allowed to split the costs with Mr. McCain on an unlimited number of advertisements, helping him to double the number of advertisements he can buy.

Mr. McCain has used such advertisements to keep up with Mr. Obama’s advertising in vital cities like this one, where the campaigns have combined to spend the most in the general election but where Mr. Obama has recently outpaced Mr. McCain by nearly two to one. But such advertisements come with a caveat: they must include a reference to Congressional issues and leaders, making the message generally less direct.

The spot with Mr. Rezko also shows the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, and Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

But for every city like Philadelphia, in a state Mr. McCain views as important to his chances for victory, there are those like Miami, Washington and Chicago, where Mr. Obama has often been able to run advertisements nearly unopposed. Washington and Chicago are particularly expensive, and Mr. Obama will easily win both. But their stations reach parts of the contested states of Indiana and Virginia.

Mr. McCain is also getting help from the Republican Party’s independent advertising unit, but it cannot coordinate with the party leadership or Mr. McCain’s campaign, meaning it is not always in line with Mr. McCain’s campaign message. And a smattering of outside groups are running hard-charging advertisements against Mr. Obama, but he has the money to immediately meet those attacks with spots directly addressing their charges.

Now spending almost as much as he can in local television markets, Mr. Obama has increased his advertising on the broadcast television networks, including on National Football League games and soap operas.

“They’re doing the networks” said Mr. Tracey, of CMAG, “because they’ve saturated these markets and they’re looking for more time.”

Last Sunday, Mr. Obama bought so heavily on football games and other nationally televised programs that, according to CMAG, he spent $6.5 million on a day when Mr. McCain spent less than $1 million.

Obama’s Ad Effort Swamps McCain and Nears Record,










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