The price of a money machine: Obama would owe more favors than any president in history

posted at 11:45 am on October 31, 2008 by Patterico

Obama’s success as the biggest fundraiser in history means that he would owe his donors more than anyone in history if he were to take office. (That is, if you believe that big donors to political campaigns expect something in return. How cynical of you to think that!)

But wait! I thought Barack Obama’s amazing fundraising success stems primarily from donations under $200. Right?

Wrong. That’s another myth you’ve been sold, sucker.

In fact, George W. Bush in 2004 had a higher percentage of contributions of $200 or less than Barack Obama has had in this campaign. Last week, the Washington Post published an article titled Big Donors Drive Obama’s Money Edge:

Lost in the attention given to Obama’s Internet surge is that only a quarter of the $600 million he has raised has come from donors who made contributions of $200 or less, according to a review of his FEC reports. That is actually slightly less, as a percentage, than President Bush raised in small donations during his 2004 race

In fact, in 2004, 31 percent of Bush’s donations came from people giving $200 or less. For John Kerry, the percentage was even higher: 37 percent.

All of this is necessary background for an excellent article by Patrick Range MacDonald in the latest L.A. Weekly, about Obama’s big donors, and the influence those donors are likely to wield in an Obama administration.

While Obama says he does not accept contributions from Washington lobbyists, that’s not much of a distinction these days. He has been accepting huge amounts from corporations, unions and endless special-interest groups. The influence of big-money donors in a possible Obama administration could create a political backlash if he doesn’t find a way to resist the enormous pressure that will be brought to bear.

MacDonald explains how Obama has raked in the bucks from big-money donors, many in the enterainment industry:

In July, a few weeks before the Democratic National Convention, Obama and his handlers formed joint fund-raising committees through a loophole (ironically created by the McCain-Feingold Act) that allows individual donors to write checks far surpassing federal limits of $2,300 — if the money was shared between a candidate and his party’s national and state committees. As a result of the loophole, “[The party committees] are avenues for individuals and others to legally donate tens of thousands of dollars,” says Boyle of Common Cause. John McCain created a similar committee, using the very loophole he had authored.

Individual donors promptly began writing checks of $25,000 or more to Obama’s and McCain’s committees. Even as the world of high finance began its stunning Wall Street meltdown, the biggest check-writers to both men were executives from securities and investment companies, according to The New York Times. The entertainment industry was also a top contributor, vastly preferring Obama.

So-called bundlers also contributed heavily to both. These ultimate political insiders, who collect donations from wealthy friends, business associates and other contacts, locally included Hollywood moguls David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, both of whom have raised at least $500,000 for Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Basically, when you went to the movies over the last couple of years, you were making a donation to Barack Obama.

MacDonald’s article explores the question whether Obama is going to be the first guy in history to take scads of money from people and not let it affect the way he governs.

Now there is a proposition that I’m willing to put big money on.


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