Follow The Money!

Something doesn’t make any sense to me. Now some people might think I need to get my tinfoil hat out of the closet but over the years I’ve learned to trust the voices in my head. Well, not about the lottery, but I trust them on other stuff, and the voices are telling me that something ain’t right. Riverdaughter and other bloggers have posted recently about Barack Obama’s money troubles. His fundraising has been dropping dramatically since last March. But I’m more interested in how he raised so much money at the beginning. Not the beginning of this year, the beginning of last year.

Let’s jump in the Wayback machine and return to January 1, 2007. Ahhh, those were such pleasant and optimistic times for Democrats. It seem like our long national nightmare would soon be over. Just two months earlier a tidal wave of new Democratic candidates had swept a bunch of GOP incumbents from office. Not a single Democratic incumbent lost a Congressional race, and along with victories in open seat contests the party had taken back control of both houses of Congress and several governorships. Soon we would have a new Speaker of the House and for the first time in our history we would hear the title “Madame Speaker” used.

Most of us were sure that we would soon be withdrawing our forces from Iraq and many of us were looking forward to impeachment hearings by that Summer. But very few of us were paying close attention to the people who were jockeying to become the Democratic Presidential nominee for the 2008 elections. Who cared? There were so many good choices, and it was obvious that it didn’t matter who we nominated, they would cruise to victory over whatever token candidate the GOP offered.

Other than political junkies, very few people care much about elections that are nearly two years away. But anyone who intends to make a serious run for the White House starts planning and preparing much earlier than that. Just getting in position to be taken seriously as a candidate usually takes a decade or more. Although the Constitutional requirements are pretty low, realistically a person needs to do a lot of things to get ready.

Dwight Eisenhower was the last President who didn’t hold any prior elective office. But the former Army general had been the Supreme Allied Commander in WWII and he had been involved in politics most of his career. Since then we have had Kennedy (HR and Senate) Johnson (Senate Majority Leader, VP, HR) Nixon (HR, Senate, VP) Ford (House Minority Leader, VP) Carter (Gov, state legislator) Reagan (Gov) G.H.W Bush (VP, HR, CIA Director, Ambassador to China & UN) Clinton (Gov, State AG) and George W. Bush (Gov).

Every person elected President in the last 50+ years was either a governor, former Vice President, or had completed at least one 6 year term in the Senate. Kennedy was the only one who was not either a governor nor a Vice President prior to becoming President, but he was a war hero and came from a politically connected family. Ford was never elected President, but he did serve briefly as Vice President.

So, a politically knowledgeable person who reviewed the list of Democratic hopefuls back in January 2007 would see some heavyweight contenders and some lightweights. There was, of course, Hillary Clinton as the supposed frontrunner. She was starting her second term in the Senate, and although she never held elective office before she became a Senator her 8 years as First Lady were the equivalent to a Cabinet position. She also had name recognition (both good and bad), fundraising ability and “family connections.” Definitely a heavyweight contender.

Then there was John Edwards. A former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate, he was well-known and popular within the party, and could self-finance his campaign through the early contests if he couldn’t raise money elsewhere (but he could raise money too) Heavyweight. Next would have to be Chris Dodd and Joe Biden. Two experienced Senators with leadership experience, name recognition, and fundraising ability. Two more Heavyweights. There was one light-heavyweight in the group, Governor Bill Richardson. He was the only Latino candidate, and prior to becoming Governor he was a Cabinet Secretary under Clinton. He did pretty good raising money too.

That completes the heavyweight division, unless you wanted to count Al Gore, who many people expected to run eventually. He had a good year in 2007, but never threw his hat in the ring. After the heavyweights there were several lightweight contenders, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich and Tom Vilsack.. Their problem wasn’t necessarily that they weren’t qualified, but rather that they lacked name recognition and fundraising ability.

Am I forgetting anyone? Oh yeah, Senator Whatshisname. This is where I get confused. Now remember, this is January 2007, and Senator Obama has been in Washington DC for only two years. Prior to that he was an unexceptional state legislator. He wrote a couple books, and gave a couple speeches, but that’s about it. He might have potential, but he hasn’t done anything yet to prove it. He ran unopposed to become a state senator, and ran virtually unopposed to become a US Senator. He didn’t pull off an upset election victory over an incumbent to reach the Senate, and the only time he was seriously challenged in an election was when he ran for Congress and he had his clock cleaned in the primary by Bobby Rush.

I can see some starry-eyed college students getting all excited about hip internet-savvy newcomer, but I simply can’t understand how anyone else could consider Barack Obama to be a serious contender back then. It makes no sense. This is a full year before the first caucuses and primaries. Check this out:


A senator for only two years, the Illinois Democrat has been cast in the early stages of the campaign as an upstart who refused money from Washington lobbyists and parlayed Internet savvy, opposition to the Iraq war and grass-roots enthusiasm into a surprising $25 million first quarter of fundraising — money that has made him a legitimate contender for the party’s nomination.

Behind the closed doors of last week’s strategy session, though, was another side to Obama’s fundraising success. Filling the room were many veterans of the Democratic financial establishment: a Hyatt hotel heiress, a New York hedge fund manager, a Hollywood movie mogul and a Chicago billionaire.


As the first-quarter finance report his campaign will file today is expected to document, Obama has managed to successfully bridge two very different political worlds. Along with thousands of first-time donors who sent $50 or $100 from their home computers, the report is to list scores of longtime political insiders who funneled stacks of $2,300 checks to Obama’s accounts.

The campaign announced earlier this month that Obama has received money from more than 100,000 people, including 50,000 Internet donors — more online donors than his chief Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), had total donors. Less well-known is the story of how he built a more traditional fundraising machine fueled, in part, by some of the biggest names in Democratic politics.

In contrast to Clinton and former North Carolina senator John Edwards, his other main Democratic rival, Obama was a late entrant in the presidential race, first raising the idea publicly last October and not deciding firmly until January.


Fundraisers in the field also worried that Obama’s initial pledge to reject money from lobbyists would slow the early hunt for donations.

“One of the quickest sources of cash was off the table, and there was some early grumbling,” said one campaign adviser, who was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The original goal for the first quarter, back in December, was cautiously set at $8 million to $10 million.


The initial enthusiasm about Obama pushed his first-quarter goal up to $15 million early in the year, and by March it had shifted again to more than $20 million.



From the outset, Obama tried to establish a “Washington outsider” image — moving his campaign operations to Chicago and making a bold promise to refuse checks written or gathered by registered federal lobbyists.

The campaign received $50,566 from 49 lobbyists, but aides flagged the checks during initial screening and said they will return the money. Still, for hosting events and otherwise raising money, the Obama fundraising team is relying on partners in lobbying firms who are not registered for specific clients, former lobbyists who recently dropped clients and spouses of lobbyists. The strategy allows Obama’s team to reach the wealthy clients of lobbying firms while technically complying with his pledge.


Obama also has no prohibition against using state lobbyists to raise money, even when they represent companies with business before the federal government.


Speaking to voters in New Hampshire earlier this month, as the news broke of his formidable first-quarter haul, he tried to remind them that he has “always tried to curb the influence of money in politics.”

“Listen,” he told them, “I would love not to have to raise money so I could spend all my time in town hall meetings.”

There are soooooo many things wrong about that article. If the last sentence was true, Obama wouldn’t have opted out of public financing. But the part that’s relevant here is that Senator Obama raised $25 million in the first three months of 2007, second only to Hillary Clinton. A nobody, with no resume. Two books, Two speeches, and a few appearances on Oprah. $25 million!

Lets compare that to the fundraising of the other Democrats:

John Edwards          $52 million

Bill Richardson       $23 million

Chris Dodd            $18 million

Joe Biden               $12 million

Dennis Kucinich    $4.5 million

Now if you’re thinking that Obama’s fundraising doesn’t seem that exceptional compared to Edwards, Richardson and Dodd, that’s because you’re only looking at the first quarter of 2007 for Obama. The amounts for the other five ARE FOR THE WHOLE CAMPAIGN.!

Obama raised more in the first quarter than everyone but Edwards and Hillary would raise during the whole year. According to Open Secrets, these are Senator Obama’s fundraising numbers through May 2008:


Q1 $25 million

Q2 $31 million

Q3 $19 million

Q4 $24 million


Jan $37 million

Feb $57 million

Mar $43 million

Apr $32 million

May $23 million

How does a candidate with Senator Obama’s resume raise $99 million dollars before a single vote is ever cast? Hillary Clinton raised a phenomenal $230 million through May 31, 2008, but Obama did far better, raising $287 million during the same period. What’s wrong with this picture?

How could a rookie Senator raise money like a popular incumbent President running for reelection? I watched him, I’ve listened to him, and I wouldn’t give him a nickel. I can understand the donations this year after he started winning primaries and caucuses, but he raised 1/3 of his money before he ever got a single vote. (Actually, I can’t understand the other 2/3 either, not the amount of it anyway.)

Lastly, check this out:


Obama also has the support of industry, although some more than others. He ranks at or near the top of contributions received from the pharmaceutical industry, retirement associations, securities and investments outfits, the entertainment, banking, computer and Internet industries, education organizations, health care, law firms and investment industry.

If you’re looking for answers, I don’t have them. Riverdaughter suggested that the GOP may have been behind Obama’s fundraising. That would certainly explain the sudden drop in receipts. Joseph Cannon thinks the Chicago Machine was the source of money, and that the Rezko prosecution put an end to the funds. Both of them may be partially correct.

2 Responses to Follow The Money!

  1. sister of ye says:

    Just a fact to throw into the mix – about a month ago I received out of nowhere an email from ActBlue about a fundraising page I’d supposedly set up for Obama. As far as I recall, I contributed thru Act Blue only once, to Kerry for his “fighting vote fraud” fund. (Yeah, waste of money, I know.) I sent them back an email stating that I never set up such a page and never would, that they’d better delete it, and if they didn’t, I’d check into a prosecution for identity fraud.

    The same day I saw a mention at Riverdaughter’s from another person who’d had the same thing happen. (Sorry, don’t recall who.) Made me wonder how many other spontaneous Obama fundraising pages appeared. And about the legitimacy of other “small donors” who may not have gotten the notice from other donor sites that ActBlue sent me.

  2. […] While I was writing a couple recent posts about Obama’s money troubles and his undersized career package, I was struck by an interesting thought. Obamanation seems to […]

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