A few days ago the NYT printed an article titled Romney Beating Obama in a Fight for Wall Street Cash. Then today, the Washington Post printed a story with this title: Obama has more cash from financial sector than GOP hopefuls combined, data show.
Confused? They can't both be true, can they? If not, which one is accurate?
In order to answer those questions, you need to know a few things about campaign finance.
1. Individuals are limited to contributing $2,500 to a candidate in the primary and another $2,500 in the general campaign.
2. Individuals can give up to $30,800 to a party per calendar year (Jan-Dec). President Obama is doing joint fundraising for his campaign and for the Democratic Party. Until the Republicans have an endorsed candidate, they will be doing their fundraising separately.
The Washington Post article compares the total President Obama has raised for both his own campaign and the Democratic Party to what the Republican candidates have raised only for their own campaign...the proverbial apples and oranges comparison. The title of their piece is therefore misleading at best and manufactured spin at worst. The NYT wins the prize for accuracy on this one.
If we want to compare apples to apples, there are a couple of other things to note about campaign finance:
3. Whenever an individual contributes to a campaign, they have to list their employer. This is the information that is used to summarize contributions from various companies and sectors. So if a bank teller contributes $50.00 to a campaign, its listed as part of the total for her bank as well as the financial sector as a whole.
4. Some individuals ask their friends/co-workers to make a contribution and "bundle" all of those checks together. Obama is the only candidate who reports the names of bundlers, where they work, and the total amount of their contribution.
Open Secrets tells us what company's employees are the top donors to each campaign. So you can compare President Obama's top ten to Romney's this year as an example.
Microsoft Corp $170,323
Comcast Corp $116,155
Harvard University $94,225
Google Inc $90,166
University of California $83,679
DLA Piper $79,375
Chopper Trading $64,815
Skadden, Arps et al $64,162
Stanford University $62,928
Ballard, Spahr et al $61,300
Goldman Sachs $354,700
Credit Suisse Group $195,250
Morgan Stanley $185,800
HIG Capital $176,500
Kirkland & Ellis $129,100
Bank of America $121,500
EMC Corp $117,300
JPMorgan Chase & Co $109,750
One reason Obama's totals per company are much smaller than Romney's is that 46% of his contributions from these employees have been from what are considered "small donors,' (less than $200) whereas only 10% of Romney's fall in that category.
So the next time a poutrager tells you President Obama is beholden to Wall Street because they're funding his campaign - let them know that is complete bs.
UPDATE: I see that the Washington Post changed the title to the article cited above sometime since last night. It went from "Obama has more cash from financial sector than GOP hopefuls combined, data show" to "Obama still flush with cash from financial sector despite frosty relations." I guess that's an improvement.
Their graphic, however, is interesting.
Once again, they're comparing $ raised from the financial sector only by the Republican candidates themselves to that raised by President Obama for himself AND the DNC. If you look closely, you see that an apples to apples comparison shows that Romney raised $7.5 million from Wall Street employees and Obama $3.9 million. That last figure can look like a lot - until you think about the fact that President Obama has raised $90 million total so far. Wall Street employees represents 4% of his campaign contributions (whereas Romney's $7.5 million is 23% of his total $32 million raised).
If you'd like to compare contributions to parties, Open Secrets has that information as well. The Democratic Party has raised roughly $197 million and the Republican Party $170 million. Here are the top 10 contributors, but click through and you can learn more.
Hoyer for Congress $309,500
Comcast Corp $304,150
Allyson Schwartz for Congress $300,000
Nancy Pelosi for Congress $291,500
Williams Kherkher $259,000
Weitz & Luxenberg $251,800
Dutch Ruppersberger for Congress $250,000
Durbin for Congress Cmte $235,000
Akin, Gump et al $199,819
Bain Capital $192,400
Friends of John Boehner $1,017,000
Goldman Sachs $447,150
Paulson & Co $426,000
Rooney Holdings $223,507
Federated Investors Inc $213,250
Centra Inc $185,000
Altria Group $177,000
American Financial Group $172,700
KKR & Co $166,600
Ameriqual Group $157,362