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Monday, July 07, 2008

Obama's cash, spin piling up

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

David Plouffe, manager of Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign, keeps sending me e-mails asking me to cough up money because the presumptive Democratic nominee's fundraising is, supposedly, as pure as the driven snow. Somehow, my name got on Obama's list of prospective suckers, and for months I've read this song and dance about how he has freed himself from the tentacles of special interests.

This is baloney.

Consider Plouffe's money pitch that followed Obama's recent decision not to accept publicly funded campaign money, which means Obama can spend way more than the $84.1 million campaign spending cap—which, by the way, is something the senator promised never to do.

Said Plouffe: "Opting out of public matching funds was an extremely difficult decision and frankly we are at a disadvantage when it comes to raising money. Unlike [ Sen.] John McCain [the presumptive Republican presidential nominee], this campaign has never accepted donations from Washington lobbyists or special-interest PACs [political action committees] . . . While McCain has built his fundraising strategy around high-dollar donors giving huge checks to the [Republican National Committee], you are creating a new model for publicly financed campaigns."

First, Plouffe is being—I'll be charitable—disingenuous when he says that "we are at a disadvantage" in the money game. "Strategists for both parties," reports Bloomberg News service, "say Obama probably will outpace McCain by more than $100 million for the presidential campaign." Obama can spend whatever he will raise; he has already raised more than $266 million, most just for the primaries. The non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics said this is the first time since the Nixon-McGovern race that the two major presidential candidates will compete on an uneven playing field.

Second, the Obama campaign is shading the truth when it implies that all the money comes from small contributions of $5, $10 or $20. The Center estimated that 55 percent of the hundreds of millions raised has come from big donors—those giving more than $200.

Third, Plouffe is flat wrong when he says this campaign has never accepted money from lobbyists or special-interest political action committees. The Center reported that Obama had raised $115,163 from "lobbyists" as of March 20. Obama now says they are "former" lobbyists, so they don't fall under his ban on lobbyist donations.

So, whom do lobbyists represent? Special interests—various industries and associations wanting something from government. Here, from the Center's, are some of the industries that have given Obama money: lawyers, $17.8 million; securities and investments, $7.9 million; education, $7 million; real estate, business services, miscellaneous businesses, health professionals and TV/movies/music, more than $4 million each. Computers/Internet, finance, civil servants and public officials, printing and publishing, commercial banks, hospitals and nursing homes, construction services, all ranging from almost $1 million to more than $3 million.

Biggest donors? Goldman, Sachs & Co., UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, National Amusements, Lehman Brothers, Google, Sidley Austin, Skadden Arps, Time Warner, Morgan Stanley, Exelon, Latham & Watkins, Microsoft and GE are among the biggest corporate contributors.

How can this be? Didn't Obama say he doesn't accept money from lobbyists and PACs? Well, that means he still can accept money from "spouses of lobbyists, non-lobbying partners who work for lobbying firms or for law firms that do lobbying, ex-lobbyists and state lobbyists," said the Center. "Because of contribution limits, organizations that bundle together many individual contributions are often among the top donors to presidential candidates. These contributions can come from the organization's members or employees [and their families]."

Obama said he now eschews public financing because the devil (McCain and the GOP) made him do it; Obama supposedly is at a disadvantage because they are "fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special-interest PACs."

To which replied: "We find that to be a large exaggeration and a lame excuse. In fact, donations from PACs and lobbyists make up less than 1.7 percent of McCain's total receipts, and they account for only about 1.1 percent of the [Republican National Committee's] receipts."

Here's a final word from FactCheck: "[T]he Democratic National Committee has historically been far more reliant on PAC and lobbyist money than the RNC. In 2004, PACs provided about 10 percent of the DNC's total fundraising and only about 1 percent of the RNC's total. Obama, after he sewed up enough delegates to win the party's nomination, sent word to the DNC to stop accepting PAC and lobbyist donations."

Tell your donors anything; it's almost like they'll believe it.


Anonymous said...

$200 = big donor, who is spinning here?

Anonymous said...

OMG, you just said that the Emperor has no clothes. Aren't all you Chicago journalists supposed to march to the Obama trumpet?

Houskin said...

I feel really bad for the Chicago Newspapers and their quest to undermine Obama's road to the presidency. We will continue to give money and build our underground movement in the shadows of Long Island while the talks and doubts continue. I must have given up to $200 myself and i am no where near a high end donor so bump that. We Need A CHANGE and i bet most of your families have donated to his campaign as well LOL. I dare you to post family members, contribution and to which candidates?

RisingTide said...

I know one of those donors, the type who gives more than $200. A lawyer's wife. The lawyer runs a blog.

They aren't exactly what you'd know as Upper Class.

It is perhaps disingenuous to say that someone who gives more than $200 is somehow a bigger player than someone who gives $10.

The amount of money that you give doesn't buy influence -- it's the continuous money stream that you can afford (Scaife is losing how much per year running that rag of his??).

Yeah, sure, maybe some CS geek can go without cable for a year, to afford to max out donations. Next year, her savings may be wiped out by health care.

The bottom of the middle class is $150,000. Are you middle class, sir? I'm sure as hell not, and I can bloody afford to spend $2k to change America!

(for any interested, such money can also be sent to a nice little office in West Virginia... The office of public debt.)

Obama rides on a tidal wave of professionals, not nuevo riche or the upper crust.

Hamster said...

Interesting article...although I might take issue with your comment that "the hundreds of millions raised has come from big donors—those giving more than $200."
I always thought "big donors where those in the $10000 and up bracket.
You think Barack is going to give me a personal thank you call for a miserly $200 donation?
Probably not.

ssss said...

Third, Plouffe is flat wrong when he says this campaign has never accepted money from lobbyists or special-interest political action committees. The Center reported that Obama had raised $115,163 from "lobbyists" as of March 20. Obama now says they are "former" lobbyists, so they don't fall under his ban on lobbyist donations.


I believe that should be $115,163,000, correct?

Anonymous said...

Dennis, Dennis, Dennis. All this time, you've loved special interest money. Corporations have an absolute right to "free speech," don't they? They can corrupt the political process by bribing our candidates to their hearts' content. Those silly tree huggers and workers can't be heard because they can't compete with the $$$ the corporations can shell out--and that is a good thing. They can Swift Boat the Democratic candidate. More power to 'em.

Now, you have some difficulty with special interests because the corporations, like so many rats, are jumping off the sinking USS GOP.

Speaking of disingenuous...this will be the first time there isn't a level playing field in an election? Come on. The Republicans almost always WAAAY outspend the Dems.

BTW, speaking of being more disingenuous. When are you going to come clean and reveal who you work for? You say you are a political consultant. Could it be that you are on Karl Rove's payroll? No matter how stupid or corrupt the Republican position, there is Dennis, chearing them on.

Anonymous said...

You are spinning things just as much with selective information.

Mike said...

Senator Obama must be in the pocket of Big Toy-Focused Retail because I do customer service work for Toys R Us and have given him $400 over the past 8 months.

According to this article, I am one of the "Big Donors" to the Obama Campaign.

AJ Nappi said...

Mr. Byrne, It may come as a surprise to you, but some readers actually carefully examine what is presented to them. For your education, I submit the following:

Senator John McCain’s big backer in the lobbyist world is Blank Rome LLP, also known as "ATM of the GOP. After Katrina, Blank Rome lobbied FEMA to award a no bid contract for rebuilding classrooms to a client who charged taxpayers double the wholesale price. Additionally, telecommunications firms AT&T and IDT are on the top-donor list for McCain, who chaired the Senate committee overseeing telecommunications for much of the last decade.

Recently McCain’s campaign manager proclaimed new ethics rules to bar conflicts of interest on McCain's presidential team. Unfortunately, the person announcing the new rules was Rick Davis, a Washington lobbyist and former representative for Verizon and other major telecommunications corporations seeking favors from the Senate committee chaired by McCain. It should also be noted that Rick Davis served as part-time president of the Reform Institute, which McCain created to cast himself as having reduced "the influence of special interests" in Washington. The new rules are a disguise, they bar "active" lobbyists from working "full time" but say nothing about working part-time, and they do not prevent lobbyists from giving and raising money for McCain’s election.

TOP 15 MCCAIN DONORS According to the FCC (May 2008)

These amounts are the sum of $200+contributions from employees of these corporations or institutions given either directly or through PACs administered by these entities.

Merrill Lynch $226,551
Blank Rome LLP $222,051
Citigreup Inc $206,10
Greenberg Traurig LIP $173,83
AT&T Inc $149,30
Goldman Sachs $128,111
Morgan Stanley $124,95
IPMorgan Chase & Co $123,451
Credit Suisse Group $115,621
Lehman Brothers $98,401
Unirisien Communications $87,000
Bank of New York Mellon $86,501
Blackstone Group $86,351
IOT Corp $84,851
Wachovia Corp $84,051

PAC Money
McCAin $960, 990; Obama, $0

Which PAcs?
McCain; Corporate 73%, Labor, 0%, Ideological/single Issue 27%
Obama; Corporate 0%, Labor, $0, Ideological/single Issue 0%

McCain $88,221,824
Obama $262, 493, 051

McCain $7,471.96
Obama $946,977
Public Officials

Anonymous said...

1. You distort the truth in your writing: The facts tell us that McCain typically receives donations of larger amounts, as do many republicans. You don't qualify what constitutes large donors for McCain, but for Obama you define it as any amount greater than $200. $200 hardly seems like it should be the breaking point between small and larger donors. Why not measure the candidates side by side on this issue, so you bias won't be so apparent?
2. is obviously not a reputable source, as the manner in which they reply is highly unprofessional.
3. Your article is biased, face it. It's hard to believe it was published in the tribune.

Sean said...

I believe Obama's supporters know when the campaign is putting a positive spin on things and when it's an our right lie.

You try and insinuate that some how $115,000 from former lobbyists is a large enough sum of money to garner influence from Obama. But he has pulled in $295+ million from regular folks...the $115,000 is nothing in percentage terms.

Additionally you make it seem like giving $200 is a large sum of money. Why not compare the maximum ($2,300) amount a person can give and see which campaign has more people who give the maximum vs the little guys under $200.

I think your readers would find it interesting that Obama raised $139 million from people who gave under $200...which is more than MCain raised in total ($121 Million). Or how about that Mcain has gotten 32% of his money in the form of contributions over $2,000 as compared to only 22% for Obama.

In short, the fact is that more individuals large and small are voting early with their money and they are, by a vast majority 5 to 1, voting for Barak Obama.

victor said...

Dennis, what's with all the hostility?

Anonymous said...

He needs those donors to pay for his speech at Invesco Field at Mile High.
This is also not the first time the Obama campaign has pressured people to suppoort their candidate. There is a hearing in Austin, TX today concerning caucuses over some of the issues.

Must see video's:

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your work.

tsalagi said...

The hostility from Dennis is that he is an AIPAC neocon and that is as unAmerican as one can get. Obama positions on:
-child rape= death penalty
-FISA court review prior to immunity
-guns are ok for protection as long as local government has solid control over who can get them -no nutcases.
-Tax those in very upper brackets who can afford it and lower taxes on those earning 75K or less, so as to reward active not rich people's passive income.
-Iraq and the middle east anyone?
-Fix the health care boondoggle
-Eliminate taxes on seniors earning less than 50K.

You find me a position Dennis that does not comport with the American demcoracy we used to have. GO ahead, make my day.

And I am an old white guy Dennis who will not give McSame an even break. no way no how!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your thoughtful piece. It is good to know that there are at least a few
journalists out there who are either honest or competent enough to present the actual facts, as opposed to quotes from campaign operatives.

Mandelay said...

Great post, Mr. Byrne. Why doesn't the rest of Chicago, and the nation, wake up before this country is handed over to this spin doctor and his bankers? We need the Chicago papers to put the heat on before the coronation takes place in Denver.

Anonymous said...

I'll have given over $200 when this campaign is all said and done. And I'll have given it to Barack Obama. I am not a big donor. What I also am not, thank God, is a rightwing hack.

Everybody knows that the GOP is in the pocket of big business. We can parse the numbers and come up with sexy stats like the PAC one you threw out. But you don't want to go too far down that road sir. It'll be embarassing for your guys.

In any case, it seems that the country is primed to see fit to replace Republican rule with a little competence and sanity. It's time for a change. Fortunately those intellectually honest columnists who love this country more than the sound of their own voices won't try to stand in the way.

But America is a big place and we all have to make a living the way we see fit.

Good luck Mr. Byrne. See you in January.

Anonymous said...

Everybody loves the idea of Obama and they seem to persist no matter how many facts are presented to them.

He mislead people about the nature of his funding.

He is a grafter from Chicago. He even lives in a fine home that was partially paid for by graft from low-income housing not renovated by his buddy Tony Rezco (see "Obama's Strange Bedfellows") and financed at a discount by special interest mortgage lenders who are now foreclosing on homes across America.

Anonymous said...

It seems that nothing in this article came from original research, and most of it seems to borrow exclusively from a story on that was written over three weeks ago. In the same article that he gets his "March 20" figure (the link to the current figure was only a click away) it says that none of Obama's money has come from PACs and active federal lobbyists. Even if the "former" lobbyist total is added along with PAC money (which is $0 for Obama), Obama's $174,529 is far less than McCain's $1,891,820.

Stephen Schade said...

Mr. Byrne:

Once again, you have failed to see the forest for the trees.

Most of Obama's contributions are from small-time donors. As a result, he will not be beholden to special interests.

Republicans DO have an advantage in raising money for their national committee and shadow organizations. Obama is merely trying to level the playing field.

Thin Man said...

Well, Mr. Byrne, I hope you are encouraging the Chicago Tribune to stop accepting any and all money from corporate sponsors. Otherwise, it is obviously at the beck and call of special-interest groups and can't be trusted.