After the Citizens United ruling in 2009, Barack Obama decided that two can play at that game. For his 2012 re-election effort, Obama sent spokesman Bill Burton out of the White House to start two 501(c)4 groups, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, to raise funds for outside-group support of his re-election bid, which aimed at raising $100 million for the effort. So how’s that going?
Apparently, two can’t play at that game:
Many of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors aren’t planning to support his organization, either because they’re unhappy with Mr. Obama or disillusioned with politics in general. There’s also this fund-raising fact of life: Wealthy donors are more likely to open up their wallets to defeat a sitting president than to protect one.
Mr. Burton’s group has spent less than $1 million on advertisements this year, while the leading pro-Republican organization has spent more than $20 million. …
Arthur Lipson, owner of hedge-fund management firm Western Investment, has donated more than $500,000 to Democratic causes in the past decade, according to public records. He hasn’t heard from Mr. Burton, but an outreach probably wouldn’t be worth the effort. “I will definitely not donate to Obama in any way, shape or form,” said Mr. Lipson, who objects to deals the president has made with Republicans.
The Burton group’s struggles have caught the attention of Obama re-election campaign officials, who privately say they aren’t counting on its support.
The Wall Street Journal reports that part of the struggle for Burton is his low profile, and that big-ticket donors don’t know him when he comes knocking. That seems a little hard to buy; Burton had some national exposure as a White House spokesman, and his partner in the project, Sean Sweeney, was chief of staff to the ultra-connected White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Getting introductions wouldn’t exactly be difficult for either, considering their references.
The problem for Obama among big-ticket donors is that many of them will feel like Lipson — resentful that Obama hasn’t done more to go to war with Republicans. Notably, his rhetoric over the last two months doesn’t appear to have impressed Lipson at all. The rest of the big-ticket donors might very well resent the class-warfare rhetoric Obama has spouted to pander to the Lipsons of the base, only to have that rhetoric fire up anti-capital demonstrators in the streets. Obama will find himself caught in a vise of his own making, thanks to his vacillations between pandering to populists and to Wall Street.
Burton’s goal of $100 million looks nearly impossible now, at least according to this report. I’d say that Obama’s goal of $1 billion for his own campaign looks just as unreachable.
Speaking of Citizens United, they have a new effort not directly connected to electoral politics. Their new feature-length film The Gift of Life will debut shortly, with Governor Mike Huckabee as its narrator and storyteller. The trailer was released yesterday, and it’s well worth watching: