The $500 Million Man

Over the course of his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama raised more than $500 million online. The Washington Post breaks it down:

In an exclusive interview with The Post, members of the vaunted Triple O, Obama's online operation, broke down the numbers: 3 million donors made a total of 6.5 million donations online adding up to more than $500 million. Of those 6.5 million donations, 6 million were in increments of $100 or less. The average online donation was $80, and the average Obama donor gave more than once. [...]

Obama also raised millions from traditional campaign bundlers -- rich, well-connected fundraisers -- but the bulk of the more than $600 million that Obama raised throughout the campaign was through the Internet, aides said. (Some of those bundlers, of course, also arranged for donations to be made online, so there is some overlap.)

During the primary, as I went to Obama event after Obama event, I witnessed in awe the way the campaign harnessed their crowds. Obama's rallies were not simply about communicating a message in a speech; through these offline events they were creating their online army. For example, in Oakland, every person admitted (for free) into the rally were asked to fill out a "ticket" that included their e-mail address; in Santa Barbara, the campaign recruited community level volunteers and organizers; and in L.A., as in South Carolina, Team Obama collected cell phone numbers and had thousands of people perform impromptu phone banks. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. And you know that, as revolutionary and unique as these methods were, every presidential campaign moving forward is going to be using these techniques.

Some more statistics:

  • Obama's e-mail list contains upwards of 13 million addresses. (Four years ago, Sen. John F. Kerry had 3 million e-addresses on his list; former Vermont governor Howard Dean had 600,000.)

  • Over the course of the campaign, aides sent more than 7,000 different messages. In total, more than 1 billion e-mails landed in inboxes.

  • A million people signed up for Obama's text-messaging program. Supporters on average received five to 20 text messages per month, depending on where they lived.

  • On MyBarackObama.com, or MyBO, Obama's own socnet, 2 million profiles were created. In addition, 200,000 offline events were planned, about 400,000 blog posts were written and more than 35,000 volunteer groups were created

  • Some 3 million calls were made in the final four days of the campaign using MyBO's virtual phone-banking platform.

  • On their own MyBO fundraising pages, 70,000 people raised $30 million.

There's more...

Clinton: "Virtually All" of Post-PA Donations for the Primaries

There has been a number of questions floating around the web surrounding reports from the Clinton campaign that it had raised $10 million dollars in the 24 hours following the closing of the polls in Pennsylvania. You can read some thoughts on this from Marc Ambinder. One theory, posited by an Ambinder reader (which the reporter puts up on his blog), is that a significant portion of the campaign's take since Tuesday night came from dollars earmarked for the general election -- i.e. contributions from donors who had already given the maximum $2,300 for the primary campaign. However, the Clinton campaign says this is not the case.

This evening, a source at the Clinton campaign informed me that "virtually all" of the donations received by the campaign since the polls closed in Pennsylvania Tuesday night were for the primary. Unlike contributions earmarked for the general election, which cannot be used until after the Democratic National Convention, money earmarked for the primaries can be used immediately.

In recent months, a significant portion of the contributions into the Clinton campaign have come from contributers who had already maxed out for the primary election. As of the end of last month, more than two-thirds of the money the Clinton campaign had in the bank was earmarked for the general election (just about $9.3 million of the roughly $31.7 million the campaign had in cash-on-hand could be used for the primaries). Because the Clinton campaign also held a large amount of debt -- for the third straight month, the campaign entered the month in the red -- an infusion of $10 million, most of which could be used now could help enable the campaign to continue at least through the North Carolina and Indiana primaries on May 6th and perhaps even longer.

There's more...

Obama: Small Dollar Online Fundraising Akin to Public Financing

More and more it appears that, if nominated, Barack Obama will not accept public financing in a general election.

With all the "Will he? Won't he?" ponderings about whether Barack Obama will accept public financing, check out this comment from the senator last night at a Washington fundraiser:

"We have created a parallel public financing system where the American people decide if they want to support a campaign they can get on the Internet and finance it, and they will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally reserved for the wealthy and the powerful," Obama said, reports NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan.

John McCain's team has made an issue of Obama's suggestion that he'd consider public financing, in large measure, of course, because McCain hasn't shown nearly the fundraising prowess. It's a fair plea, however. A person can't change the influence of money on politics without opting out of the broken system. But Obama's comment signals with some finality, finally, his intention to bypass the system.

Frankly, Obama is not taking money from PACs and Washington lobbyists, and his camp can show that Obama's effort has largely been floated by small-dollar contributions. What would he have to prove by signing up for public financing?

John McCain and his surrogates are going to make a lot of hay about this -- they have to because there's no way that the McCain campaign would be able to compete dollar for dollar with the massive grassroots fundraising organization that is the Obama campaign -- but McCain has little credibility here. Remember, there remains an outstanding FEC complaint against McCain alleging that he is in violation on campaign finance law, specifically by blowing past the mandatory spending cap that comes along with acceptance of public financing. In this case, McCain opted in to the public finance program for the primaries, enjoyed benefits from it (partially conditioning a loan on American taxpayer dollars and gaining expensive ballot access from his certification in the program), only to unilaterally (and not clearly legally) pull out of the program without the acceptance of the Federal Election Commission.

And Jennifer Skalka over at The Hotline, who wrote the quoted post above, makes the fine point that Obama really is adhering to the spirit of campaign finance reform by refusing PAC and federal lobbyist donations. This pledge is made all the more important by the fact that the McCain campaign is chockfull of federal lobbyists, some of whom continued to lobby even from the so-called "Straight Talk Express."

Finally, going beyond the optics and ethics of a move towards grassroots rather than public financing for a general election, it's fairly clear that by opening up his campaign to contributions from the American people, Obama would greatly enhance his ability to win in November. Note that Obama is raising significantly more money that McCain in hard dollars -- roughly $130 million to less than $40 million in the first quarter of 2008, for instance. Note also that while much if not most of Obama's haul is coming from relatively small dollar donors, a relatively small portion of McCain's take (just $4 million of $15 million) comes from small dollar donors. And while the candidate who raises and spends the most money doesn't always win, recent elections have shown it generally to be the case that the bigger spender does tend to win.

There's more...

Online Fundraising, Small Donors Key to DCCC's Success

As you might have noticed, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has about $31 million more in the bank than the National Republican Congressional Committee when debts and other obligations are taken into account. What you might not know, and what I hadn't realized until reading from the 22nd paragraph of a Paul Kane article on page A5 of todays Washington Post, was that a good portion of that advantage came from small dollar donors contributing online.

But House Democrats, under the direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), began to refocus on attracting small donors through the Internet, the cheapest and most efficient fundraising vehicle. The DCCC raised $87,000 online in the 2001-2002 election cycle, an amount that grew to $7 million in the 2006 cycle. Aides said the goal for online fundraising in the 2008 cycle is $12 million.

[...]

Meanwhile, Republicans have paid more than $100 million since 2003 to an Ohio-based direct-mail and telemarketing firm, Infocision, that was supposed to give Republicans a big advantage among small donors. Instead, during the past two years, the DCCC has raised more in contributions of less than $200 than the NRCC, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Obviously, as is the case with the fundraising prowess of the Democratic presidential candidates relative to the Republican candidates, much of the advantage stems from more large donors stepping up for House Democrats. Yet at the same time, even as Republicans waste millions upon millions of dollars trying to activate donors who are no longer interested in supporting their party (anyone ever wonder why the GOP committees tended to outspend their Democratic rivals?), an increasing number of small dollar donors are coming together to help the Democrats extend the size of their majority in the House of Representatives.

There's more...

Franken Pulls in $277k Online in Second Quarter

Back in June, Al Franken took the time to sit down for an interview with MyDD to talk about his campaign for the Democratic senatorial nomination in Minnesota, and one of the interchanges between he and I went something like this.

Singer: What's the message that you'd like to send to the progressive blogosphere, if there's one? Is there something you'd like to hammer home to the netroots today?

Franken: I'm one of you.

Franken has clearly done a very good job raising money around the country, including among his friends in the entertainment industry. During the second quarter, in fact, Franken managed to outraise incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman and is currently sitting on a pot of cash of close to $2 million. (Fellow Democrat Mike Ciresi raised a hefty amount as well, though a bit less, bringing in $750,000.)

But of the $1.9 million Franken raised during the second quarter, a significant portion came from online donations -- $277,000, or 15 percent of his overall haul. While these numbers should not be conflated with netroots support, per se, or be read as a particular endorsement of the online community, they do represent a significant online fundraising success, one along the likes of Tom Allen's better than $300,000 in online contributions this quarter.

There's still a lot of time between now and when Minnesota Democrats choose their senatorial nominee. But if Franken can keep up with numbers like these, both online and off, he's going to be a very formidable contender.

There's more...

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