Obama's Fundraising Problems: Turning to Rich People

by: Matt Stoller

Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 12:02

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I'll have more on why Obama is having serious fundraising problems, but it's worth noting that the campaign's strategy to counter his woes is to turn to extremely rich people for $28,500 per person events.

There are other tools he could use to drive up small dollar donations again.  He could come back from Iraq and announce, boldly, that he wants no residual troops in the country.  That would be a statement of principle.  

But for now, it's the superrich.

... So perhaps there aren't fundraising problems.  The Obama camp isn't saying.

Matt Stoller :: Obama's Fundraising Problems: Turning to Rich People

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Right... (4.00 / 1)
There has to be a driving event behind people donating. In the primaries, it was clear - building upon his string of victories (hence why February was a blockbuster month). Now, I think people are taking a break...the way I see it, Obama needs the big donors to come on board and throw a lot of money his (and the DNC's) way.

This is an under-discussed (4.00 / 3)
under-lamented development. Somehow this great "up-from-the-bottom" "movement" has become reliant on Hillary Corporate's bundlers.

"It's one of the reasons why the Clinton people are so important," said Kirk Wagar, Obama's Florida finance chairman. "Most of us have beaten our Rolodexes pretty badly."

Even during the primary, Obama got more money from big donors than he did from small. And now he's going to spend precious time raising money from the rich even as he does only one event a day.

My donations won't be entirely performance-based, but I'll give him a Benjamin if he puts a progressive on the ticket.

Wonder if big donors influence the VP pick? (4.00 / 1)
Choosing Dodd as VP would send a message about Obama's intentions on FISA when he's president...

[ Parent ]
Good point (4.00 / 1)
But that's why a "pro-business progressive," if that's not an oxymoron like Chris Dodd or Patty Murray stands a better chance of getting named than an "anti-business" progressive like Edwards or Sherrod Brown.

[ Parent ]
The really high-dollar donations are to the DNC (4.00 / 2)
Only the DNC can take donations over $2300, or $4600 if they didn't donate to the primary.  The Parties have a higher cap (around $23,500, I think) and have always been funded by donations mostly from big donors.  These are the people that Howard Dean couldn't get the money from because they didn't like him, and many of them are Clinton people.  These are the people who had NOT given to him yet.

I think it is true that small donations have probably fallen off because of the exhaustion following the primary, and FISA (which the last Obama fundraiser mentioned to me, unlike the previous one, to whom I had to explain the issue) but this is a phase of the campaign that any nominee would have to go through, especially given the unhappiness in some quarters with the DNC.

Personally, while I did not like the FISA vote and think it was a big mistake, I do appreciate Obama recently speaking out on bankruptcy reform, housing assistance, increasing the minimum wage, protecting reproductive rights, and remedying wage discrimination against women.  Positions like these will really help the most vulnerable among us, who can't survive another Republican Presidency.  So for their sakes I just made a large donation to Obama to help get him elected.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
not quite true (4.00 / 4)
Through the end of May 2008 $134M of Obama's $276M raised for the primaries came from contributions whose contributions aggregated to $200 or less.  That's pretty extremely bottom-heavy, given that each $2300 contributor wipes out 115 $20 donors.

[ Parent ]
That's why I said (0.00 / 0)
during the primary, not for the primary.

You stand corrected.

[ Parent ]
well, of course. (0.00 / 0)
Because "during" includes contributions for the general, which by definition are all large (> $2300) contributors.

[ Parent ]
Wait a second (0.00 / 0)
even your numbers prove my point.

134 mill from small donors
142 mill from big donors

Like I said,

Obama got more money from big donors than he did from small.

[ Parent ]
I imagine ... (0.00 / 0)
... if you went from $200 to $250 as the threshold for small/big, it'd even out.  Is a $250 contributor (aggregated over the course of 17 months) really a "large donor," though?

Obama raised $91,435,211 from $1000+ folks.  To me, that's a clearer number to use.

[ Parent ]
We can debate that (0.00 / 0)
200 is generally used as the cut-off.

It's true: I don't think of myself as big donor, but that's what I am.

Maybe a more reasonable approach is to separate the 2300 donors from everyone else.

In any case, I think we can agree that Obama has attracted an unprecedented number of small donors. That's one side of the story, the other side is:

Seventy-nine "bundlers," five of them billionaires, have tapped their personal networks to raise at least $200,000 each. They have helped the campaign recruit more than 27,000 donors to write checks for $2,300, the maximum allowed. Donors who have given more than $200 account for about half of Obama's total haul, which stands at nearly $240 million.


Is Obama less reliant on big donors than previous nominees? I guess, I'm not sure. It seems that the need to absolutely crush McCain in fundraising  makes him pretty damn reliant on all donors, big and small.

[ Parent ]
I think that this is fair (4.00 / 1)
Is Obama less reliant on big donors than previous nominees? I guess, I'm not sure. It seems that the need to absolutely crush McCain in fundraising  makes him pretty damn reliant on all donors, big and small.

And his need to crush McCain is because of the vast sums that the RNC takes in, and the need to build a large mandate, if Obama can.  He is demonstrably more reliant on smaller donors.

It seems to me that the message on this post and thread  is a little mixed.  Obama disappointed me on FISA so I'm not giving and neither should anyone else.  OTOH, if Obama turns to richer donors and bundlers to make his goal, then he is a pawn of the rich and we should definitely not give him any more money!

Is Obama a shoo-in?  Is McCain self-destructing?  Would we rather just sit on the sidelines and criticize, therefore at least having no responsibility for any future disappointments?

I hope it is rather I'm concentrating on electing more progressives to Congress.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
we have data (4.00 / 3)
Through May 31, 2004, Kerry raised only 32% of his money from sub-$200 donors compared with Obama's 49%.  In absolute numbers, $44M compared with $134M.

[ Parent ]
The reason for his fundraising woes? (0.00 / 0)
Obama's small donor base have likely taken note of his post-primary "moves to the center" in general, and his pants-wetting with regards to FISA in particular.  Turned off, maybe? Rich donors may not same the same enthusiasms as their smaller donating brethren, so now our nominee-to-be turns to them. Change we can believe in?

In the case of us who gave to (0.00 / 0)
the pre-nom Obama, you might call our pittances chump change.

[ Parent ]
you're against raising DNC money? (4.00 / 4)
This is kind of bizarre.  I for one think Obama should resign in shame if he failed to do events when you can raise $3 million for the party in two hours.  It's the entire basis of the McCain strategy.

Obama is currently pushing small donations to win a trip to the Denver speech.

Also, I do not believe there is any reliable evidence of fundraising problems.  Wait for the FEC numbers before you explain facts that may not be true.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

Really. It is bizarre. (4.00 / 1)
Understand that anything over $2300 (or $4600 if they didn't give in the primary) is for the DNC not Obama, and this is how the party has always been funded.  Dean's Democracy Bonds and small dollar donations didn't make up for the loss of some of the big money people, and now they are being given a chance to get in and help the Party.  That's why the joint fundraisers.  

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
not just the DNC (4.00 / 1)
State party organizations as well.  There's a formula.

[ Parent ]
And this is really cost effective. (4.00 / 1)
Think about it.  One reason Obama did well is that he had that incredible on-line fundraising machine and had to spend hardly any time at all fundraising.  Now to raise the money not only for his campaign BUT FOR THE DNC he has to do high-dollar fundraisers, where he can take in millions in an evening.  And, as I said above, he has to try to persuade the people who didn't like Howard Dean and wouldn't give to the DNC before, those entitled, largely Clinton, people we kept hearing about.  But that's where the DNC money comes from if ordinary people don't give enough, which is currently the case.

One weakness of the whole Dem apparatus from top to bottom seems to be peole who think that the campaign is about them and should pay attention to them and what they want.  While trying to pressure the candidate is fine, I don't exactly see a huge difference between the self-centered big money donors who want to be courted and fawned over and the small donors who want the candidates to reflect all their positions and pay attention to them.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
That should be (0.00 / 0)
"share the same enthusiasms."

Just curious -- not asking? (4.00 / 2)
I have been a tiny donor to Obama -- and since he clinched, they haven't been asking me for money. You get cash when you ask for it. So are they holding the small fry in reserve for the fall?

It might be smart -- we all know how much we came to hate Kerry campaign begging emails.

And they have good, well analyzed, data about us. I expect their asks to be smart and well-timed. (He wouldn't get anything from me at the moment anyway, thanks to FISA.)

Can it happen here?

I was a larger donor (0.00 / 0)
And I've been called this week and last, and at least one other time right after he clinched.  I told both recent fundraisers I was upset about FISA and wouldn't give at this point, plus I'd given to Congressional races.  Then after his speeches this week I did give on-line for the reasons expressed above--bankruptcy and mortgage fincancing reform, minimum wage hike, pay equity, reproductive rights, universal health care, all the things that the people who depend on the Dems really need.  That is very important, and more important than my personal disappointment at the FISA vote.  And I remember when these were also really important issues here.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
They're still very important issues. (0.00 / 0)
The problem now is credibility. He was very forthright on civil liberties, too, you may recall.

[ Parent ]
I agree, but is it cutting off your nose to spite your face? (0.00 / 0)
McCain is so befuddled and all over the map that he doesn't even have positions any more, much less any progressive ones, on any issue you can name.  

In looking over the long struggle to bring this country back from the brink and avoid possible impending disaster, I just decided that withholding money from Obama to punish him for FISA might not make a difference to him, but if anyone was going to be hurt it would be the people who need Democratic polciies.  Moreover, there is certainly a much better chance that Obama and a new Congress would begin to dismantle the national security apparatus than a McCain presidency. I worked on campaigns in my teens, '20s and '30s, and gave a bit to campaigns in the 1980s, but largely quit it all in the '90s.  I regret that, particularly not being involved in 2000.  Bush really made me decide to get back in the game in a major way.  This is my way, rather than working on the campaigns for a variety of personal reasons.  But everyone has to do what they are comfortable with.

But I'm also giving a donation to the ACLU to help fund the FISA litigation.  

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, (0.00 / 0)
credibility is not the result of an act of will. I'd like to believe as you believe but find it impossible given Obama's record since the nomination. And I just can't sustain yet another burst of energy to work toward the lesser evil.

Contributing to the ACLU plus Dems is a good partial solution. In my case, it will be the ACLU plus my good senator, Durbin, and maybe a few out-of-staters. Not Obama -- never again.

[ Parent ]
Not credibility so much as probability (0.00 / 0)
I think there is close-to-zero probability that a McCain presidency will move the country in a direction I like.  I think there is also a zero probability that Obama will do what  like all the time.  But I think there is a much higher probability that an Obama presidency will move the country in a direction I generally like, and that I'll like more than dislike what he does.  I'd put that at 50-70%.  That's good enough for me, considering that I've liked almost nothing Bush has done (I'm hard pressed to think of even one thing) and was only about 40-50% happy with Clinton.  

Maybe I'm just a cheap date, but that's how I think.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
They have really slowed down the requests for money. (0.00 / 0)
Which is a good thing, I think. They were really pushing hard before Hillary dropped out and it was becoming somewhat annoying. I also sense that they are focusing on building up the DNC's coffers with big money fundraisers during this summer lull in the campaign.

Obamatron (0.00 / 0)
It's too late for many donors.  FISA was a kick in the bollocks we can't overcome.  He's a fucking liar, meet the new boss same as the old boss, creature of the corporate elite.

Good luck with the fund raising!

The problem is that there is no Hillary-the-ultimate-devil to defeat anymore (0.00 / 0)
I think a lot of the excitement and energy had to do with we-have-defeat-that-evil-woman.

Jane Hamsher thinks pro-choice women are keeping their purses shut.

I think there is truth to that, but I also think people are now refocusing and wanting to congressional candidates. And Obama's faith-based initiatives, among other things, don't really help his cause. He isn't the awesome anti-Hillary anymore.  

John McCain? (0.00 / 0)
He's certainly more evil than Hillary.  She wasn't even evil, just a tad overambitions and overcalculating, if generally liberal except for that awful calculation on the war vote..

And pro-choice women aren't backing Obama?  Really?  They want John Roe-must-go McCain?  They want funding for Viagra but not contraception?  No posdsibility of removal of the Mexico City policy?  No even possibility of public funding for abortions though health care reform?  What planet are these women living on?  Planet Fiorina?

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
I'm not saying that any of this is rational (0.00 / 0)
But many things in life aren't rational. In my opinion the election and re-election of Bush was crazy. But shit happens.

Of course Obama is better than McCain, but McCain, unlike Hillary, isn't treated like he is Satan.

And Obama hasn't helped his cause by going out his way to kill the enthusiasm he created for himself. That's what it is. He is not Hillary, who is the staunchest ally of the pro-choice movement and who is the symbol for progress of women all over the world. Most feminists had pinned their hopes on having an unyielding ally in the White House and Hillary's defeat has been hard on many of us. So anything less than full commitment to women's issues is pissing off.

[ Parent ]
Obama's "Problems" to Date (4.00 / 3)
Obama is too black
Obama is too white
Obama's lack of Washington experience problem
Obama's Hispanic problem
Obama's Asian problem
Obama's Jewish problem
Obama's Catholic problem
Obama's Muslim problem
Obama's Black voter problem
Obama's White voter problem
Obama's reliance on young people problem
Obama's elderly problem
Obama's women problem
Obama's White elderly women voter problem
Obama's white collar problem
Obama's blue collar problem
Obama's Reverend Wright problem
Obama's problem with not being vetted
Obama's Muslim perception problem
Obama's elitist perception problem
Obama's Big State problem
Obama's problem with the Right
Obama's problem with the Left
Obama's Hillary Clinton problem
Obama's Bill Clinton problem
Obama's Ronald Reagan problem
Obama's Jesse Jackson problem
Obama's Michelle Obama problem
Obama's bowling problem
Obama's lapel pin problem
Obama's problem with Hillary voters
Obama's Pledge of Allegiance problem
Obama's NAFTA problem
Obama's FISA problem
Obama's public financing problem
Obama's Populist message problem
Obama's moving to the center problem
Obama's problem with speaking against Iraq invasion
Obama's problem with the paranormal
Obama's 50 State problem
Obama's gun problem
Obama's abortion problem
Obama's Social Security problem
Obama's Foreign policy problem
Obama's Healthcare problem
Obama's flip-flop problem
Obama's surrogate problem
Obama's Appalachian problem
Obama's Isreal problem
Obama's Pakistan problem
Obama's Iran problem
Obama's Cuba problem
Obama's Florida problem
Obama's popularity problem
Obama's problem with living abroad
Obama's problem with not traveling abroad
Obama's aloofness problem
Obama's patriotism problem
Obama's endorsement problem
Obama's Union problem
Obama's Business problem
Obama's working class problem
Obama's problem with FOX News
Obama's problem with Rush Limbaugh
Obama's problem with internet whispers
Obama's small donor problem
Obama's big donor problem
Obama's Liberal voting record problem
Obama's stadium convention problem
Obama's problem with leading McCain in the polls
Obama's Bubba Gap problem
Obama's arugula problem
Obama's orange juice problem
Obama's fundraising problem
Obama's problem with problems

I've been following elections for a long time, and never have I seen a candidate saddled with so many perceived problems.  While every candidate is sure to run into their share of problems during a long campaign, much of these so called problems have to do with the 24hour news culture, where they have raised every issue as a potential problem for Obama.  At some point one must ask the question of why?  I appologize for the long list, but we all know that it's only a partial list.  

I recognized all but the paranormal problem (0.00 / 0)
What/when was that?  Maybe it was while my electricity was off.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Reply (0.00 / 0)
I found it on the web while searching Obama's problems.  I had not heard about it either.  Apparently it's a lesser known problem that Obama has.

[ Parent ]
What problem? (0.00 / 0)
How much did Obama raise in June?


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