Obama, First Lady, Biden Are Fundraising Goliaths

Wednesday, 06 Jul 2011 05:15 PM

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President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden have morphed into a triple-headed fundraising machine, racking up 45 events with well-heeled donors since April. At the same time, the president’s re-election campaign is putting the squeeze on small donors to pony up $5 and $10 contributions, the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News reports.

To meet the Obama camp’s goal of raising $60 million for the second quarter of 2011, the first couple and Biden have been doing two and even three fundraisers in a day. Incumbency is a big benefit to any political campaign, but it is especially valuable in a presidential one, bringing with it a cast of top surrogates such as the first lady and the vice president, iWatch reported.

“Tapping trusted confidantes as surrogate fundraisers is not just useful, it's essential for a president,” the website quotes analyst Sheila Krumholz as saying.

“He can’t be everywhere at once,” said Krumholz, executive director for the Center for Responsive Politics. “He has a country to run.”

Democrats are not alone in tapping into the advantage of incumbency.

“The candidate can only make so many events,” said Mel Sembler, a veteran GOP fundraiser and former U.S. ambassador to Italy and Australia. “It’s a grueling thing to run for president. Laura Bush was out there for George W. and did an excellent job.”

Obama comes into the election cycle with some built-in advantages. As president, he is guaranteed to draw not only a crowd but also coverage from the White House press corps that follows his every move. He also has access to Air Force One and no doubt will avoid a primary battle, thereby being able to spend the next year banking cash for the general election.

The campaign has passed its goal of 450,000 donors, announcing that it’s nearly half a million individual donors. At this point in 2007, the campaign had received money from 180,000 individuals, according to iWatch.

Obama has attended 31 fundraising events so far, including three in New York City June 23. One of those was a $100-a-head performance of Whoopi Goldberg’s Broadway musical “Sister Act.” He also was at a $10,000-a-plate dinner at the Philadelphia home of Comcast executive David Cohen.

Meanwhile, the first lady worked Hollywood, attracting Vanessa Williams, Drew Barrymore, and Ellen DeGeneres to events that cost between $1,500 and $35,800 a ticket, iWatch reported.

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