The Cosmic Shift in Political Fundraising

This quote has been haunting me since I read it yesterday morning:
“Through June, [Romney’s] campaign raised the maximum contribution of $2,500 from more than 33,000 Americans, compared with roughly 18,800 who gave that much to Obama.” (Politico Playbook 8/2/12)
I immediately thought: We’re a different demographic. How many Obama supporters can contribute that kind of money?  It’s hopeless!
“But Romney’s real advantage comes from the checks his supporters are writing to outside groups. In June alone, a super PAC supporting Romney raised $20 million in chunks as large as $5 million, nearly matching all the money Romney has raised from donors giving less than $200.
“Obama for America 2.0 is on track to beat its own records …Through the end of June, the campaign raised $112 million from donors who gave less than $200, compared with $93.6 million from the same group at the same point in 2008. The campaign already boasts 2.4 million donors this cycle, a benchmark it did not hit until late August 2008. Yet Obama’s aides are convinced they will lose the money race this time.”
TIME 8/13/12
From “The New Rules of Campaign Finance: Small Dollars Are No Longer King,” by Michael Scherer, in the August 13 issue of TIME Magazine:
“We’re not scared,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told me last week. “We’re realistic.” He was explaining a grim and surprising fact for the Obama campaign: The President and his allies will almost certainly be outspent this cycle by Mitt Romney and his allies.
The reasons are three fold: First, Romney has proven to be a great fundraiser among high-dollar donors, far better than John McCain who always saw money in politics as an unseemly business. Second, Romney’s donors are not just giving to his campaign; they are giving six and seven figure checks to outside groups, which thanks to recent court rulings, can now spend that money on advertising up to election day. Third, Obama is having trouble raising as much money as he did in 2008 from Americans who give the legal maximum.
We all know the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision is having an incredible effect on the 2012 campaign, but the impact in future years will be worse. Scherer continues:
The impact of this shift may reshape presidential politics for years to come, and it is the subject of a piece in this week’s magazine (behind firewall). “After this election’s over, it is much more likely that all the candidates in both parties will be meeting with billionaires than figuring out how to mobilize millions of people,” says Joe Trippi, who managed Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign, which pioneered small dollar online fundraising. “It will be a huge setback.”
Scott Reed, who ran Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign, explained the shift this way: “When you go to set up a campaign in 2016, you are going to peel off a third of your senior staff and say, ‘Go start a super PAC. We’ll see you after the campaign.’”
While super PACs can spend unlimited amounts, individuals are limited.  Here’s the disclosure at the bottom of the “Donate” page:
Obama for America can accept contributions from an individual of up to $2,500 per federal election (the primary and general are separate elections). By submitting your contribution, you agree that the first $2,500 of a contribution will be designated for the 2012 primary election, and any additional amount, up to $2,500 will be designated for the 2012 general election.
Already hit your limit? If you’ve given the maximum of $2,500 for the primary and $2,500 for the general election to Obama for America, you can still give to the Obama Victory Fund, our joint fundraising committee with the Democratic National Committee, by clicking here.
At the bottom of that page is this disclosure:
The first $5,000 of a contribution to OVF 2012 will be allocated to Obama for America (with the first $2,500 designated for the primary election, and the next $2,500 for the general election). The next $30,800 of a contribution will be allocated to the Democratic National Committee. Any additional amounts from a contributor will be divided among the State Democratic Party Committees as follows, up to $10,000 per committee and subject to the biennial aggregate limits: FL (17%); OH (16%); PA (13); CO (11%); NC (11%); VA (11%); NV (6%); WI (6%); IA (5%); and NH (4%). A contributor may designate his or her contribution for a particular participant. The allocation formula above may change if following it would result in an excessive contribution. Contributions will be used in connection with a Federal election. Contributions to OVF 2012 may be spent on any activities of the participant committees as each committee determines in its sole discretion and will not be earmarked for any particular candidate.
I find it disgusting that we individual supporters have to jump through these hoops, while “they” can just write big checks to their heart’s content.

My Personal Fundraising Effort

As many readers know, I am a volunteer Neighborhood Team Leader with the Obama campaign in north-eastern Naples, FL, and write a weekly newsletter for supporters in my community. (Click here to read past issues or subscribe).  In connection with those grassroots activities I’m trying to raise $2,000 for the campaign through a Personal Fundraising Page on

Click here if you can help.

Let’s give as much as we can to the 2012 campaign – both of our time and our money.  But come November 7th, let’s figure out what we can do to move campaign finance reform to the top of Congress’s to-do list. We just can’t let this travesty continue.
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