|Actor Wendell Pierce, best known for his role in The Wire, is one of President Obama's top fundraisers|
President Obama visited Oregon Tuesday, on a fundraising trip to build his campaign war chest. A $500 donation won't buy you face time with the president, but it will open the door to Oregon Convention Center. Premium seating at the event cost donors $1,000. About 25 people forked out $30,000, to have lunch with the leader of the free world.
With the November election fast approaching, the battle to raise funds is intensifying. And the three states on the West Coast are some of the president's most reliable sources of support. So far, Obama has raised close to $1.9 million from Oregon donors during the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsible Politics. Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee, has raised just $837,000 in Oregon, although Republican Party presidential candidates together racked up $1.5 million in donations.
Nationally, presidential campaign contributions are fairly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Both parties received around $300 million in candidate contributions. The split favored Obama until recently, however, because as the sole Democrat in the race, his campaign pocketed the entire sum. Romney, still battling for the nomination, received $153 million. One difference between the candidates is the average size of the donations. Obama receives many more small donations. Romney's donations tend to come in larger amounts from fewer donors.
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Look at House and Senate races across the country, and the picture looks very different. Republicans have far outraised Democrats in Congressional campaigns. Republican Senate candidates raised $232 million in campaign contributions compared to $200 million for Democrats. In House races, Republicans have raised $445 million, compared to $325 million for Democrats.
The Wild Card
What's different in the 2012 election cycle is the influence of SuperPACs. Independent political action committees, they are allowed to raise and spend as much as they like, on whatever they choose. So far, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, SuperPACs have raised more than $157 million, with the vast majority ($131 million) going to the presidential race.
The Supreme Court affirmed the rights of corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts in its Citizens United decision of January 2010. Those millions can't all come from the Koch brothers and the Teamsters. But PACs do not have to disclose the source of their donations, making it harder to identify the contributors. Conservative SuperPACs have raised $124 million: Liberal PACs just $27 million.
Where Does All the Money Go?
So what's happening to all that cash? Campaign expenses and administration use up about two thirds of the cash raised. Travel, polling, food, rent and consultant fees are among the biggest ticket items. The bulk of the rest is spent on advertising, principally in swing states, where political strategists believe that getting their message out to voters could sway the results. Which states are in play this November? Polling suggests that Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia may be up for grabs.
Bundling for Victory
Bundlers are a campaign's best friends. These top supporters solicit funds from their well heeled friends, and deliver it to the candidate in one large bundle. In 2008, both Obama and his opponent John McCain agreed to disclose the names of their supporters who bundled more than $50,000. The Obama campaign has continued to disclose its bundlers. The Romney campaign has resisted calls to release the names of its bundlers.
Top Five States: All Campaign Contributions
California $58 million
Texas $38 million
New York $36 million
Illinois $35 million
Florida $27 million
Obama's Top Supporters
So who is Obama's top Oregon bundler? That's Terry Bean, of the Portland-based development firm, Bean Investments. Bean has raised more than $209,000 for the president's campaign.
A graduate of Lake Oswego High School, in one of Portland's wealthiest – and Whitest – suburbs, Bean won a golf scholarship to the University of Oregon, where he majored in politics. The Ducks fan, and longtime gay rights advocate, also helped the Human Rights Campaign purchase its Washington DC building. Attending the wedding of Massachusetts Sen. Barney Frank and his partner Jim Ready, Bean danced with Nancy Pelosi. He has the YouTube video to prove it, but without a personal invitation you can't see it. The video is listed as private.
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Obama's more well known bundlers include: Wendell Pierce, Harvey Weinstein, Deepak Chopra, Anna Wintour and Eva Longoria. Most bundlers, however are not household names, but rather corporate leaders such as: Comcast VP David Cohen; Jay Snyder, owner of HBJ Investments LLC; and Wayne Jordan of the Oakland-based company Jordan Real Estate. Former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine raked in $897,000 for Obama's reelection campaign, until the company he led, MF Global, collapsed last year in a $40 billion freefall.
Nationally, as well as in California, Obama's biggest bundler is movie mogul, Jeffrey Katzenberg. Flexing the financial muscle of Hollywood, Katzenberg has bundled more than 2.3 million for the president's 2012 re-election campaign… so far. Worth more than $800 million personally, according to Forbes Magazine, Katzenberg sits on numerous boards and philanthropic organizations. His causes include: the AIDS Project in Los Angeles, Parkinson's disease research and Boston University. Katzenberg's career includes 10 years as a producer at Paramount Pictures and 10 years with Walt Disney Studios. He co-founded Dreamworks and continues to head Dreamworks Animation. Among the many hits he has steered to success are: Sister Act, The Lion King, Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and Star Trek the Motion Picture
The Microsoft Connection
After speaking to an audience of around 1,000 Tuesday evening, the president's schedule took him to Seattle for more fundraisers, this time at the homes of two supporters.
If you had to take a wild guess on the identity of those hosts, you might want to look at his top Washington bundlers. Heading that list is Suzi LeVine, a former Microsoft Corp. employee who has raised $574,000 for Obama. LeVine reveals in her blog, that she recently quit her job to concentrate on being a mom and to work on the Obama campaign. Last November, after hosting Sacramento Mayor –and former NBA star—Kevin Johnson at her home, LeVine said Johnson's brand of leadership was exactly what Seattle needs.
"What I was especially excited about is that he shares the belief that, at the core of that community's success, is quality and high-expectation-filled education," she wrote. "He shared how, what they're doing in education in Sacramento, is on track to wipe out the achievement gap and set the whole community on a path for economic and quality-of-life growth."
A Brown University graduate, LeVine worked at the travel firm Expedia before going to Microsoft to lead its communications:education team. She has said that her passion is technology education, and she co-founded the advisory board for the University of Washington's I-Labs program that studies early education. LeVine is active in the Jewish community and has used her connections to stump for Obama in Florida. What's more, she's not the only big-time bundler at the Microsoft Corp. John Frank, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, also raised $83,000 for Obama.
Attorney Michael Parham who works for RealNetworks, a digital media firm, is another key Seattle-based bundler. So are Lou and Carol Frillman, who identify themselves on their blog as "We stand for Hope and Change."
"…we are getting up tomorrow and going to work in each and every way possible," reads an open letter from the Frillmans to a Tea Party supporter. "We are going to work, and work, and work, until, on election eve of November 2012, we stand exhausted knowing we could not have done one more thing. That each thing we could have done, we did."
|Top states contributing to the Obama and Romney campaigns|
|Top contributors to the Obama and Romney campaigns|