Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The truth about Obama and Wall Street contributions (updated)

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
Barclays $155,250
Kirkland & Ellis $129,100
Bank of America $121,500
PricewaterhouseCoopers $118,250
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.

Democratic Party
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

Republican Party
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


  1. It also looks as if Obama will be able to return to a lot of these donors many times before they max out on what they are permitted to donate, but Mitt's donors may be closer to maxed already.

  2. Thanks for this. I started drifting from a leading poutrager blog around the time President Obama took Office, and I had been a regular there for years. This issue was one of the main reasons.

    These stats were very true in the 2008 campaign, and they're shaping up to be even more true this time. President Obama is one of most people-powered campaigns ever, if not the most. Poutragers still continue now, no matter how much data I showed proving otherwise, to perpetuate the "Obama as Corporate-stooge" lie more than ever now. He's absolutely shattering the record for small donors that he set in the last campaign.

    You've made the case very clear with great data to prove it. I'll be referencing this post in the future. -bonkers.

  3. It would also be interesting to look at top donors to DNC and RNC, not just the candidates.

    I'm not surprised the Washington post is publishing clickbait. I wish more liberals would think twice before taking MSM stories at face value. They ought to know better.

  4. And let's not forget the anonymous super-PAC donors. We can't know who they are, but we know who they donate to.

  5. Anonymous @ 2:41 - VERY important point. The Obama campaign doesn't take $ from PAC's. There might be democratic-leaning independent expenditures though that he has no control over.

    Laura - I found the WaPo story on the TPM Livewire. They should know better.

  6. I think some of your facts are wrong. CNN recently reported that Obama attended an invitation only fund raiser in NYC starting at $35,000 per plate. I figured that had to go to the Democratic party since it exceeded individual allotments for individual candidates. And Obama still bundles and debundles (as the need arises) as good as anybody.

  7. ..and how does Obama get to the one billion dollars he expects to raise this election cycle alone? How many have even $200 extra dollars these days?

  8. Anonymous @ 7:59 - So far - Obama has raised $90 million with 46% of contributions at $200 or less. That's over 41 million people donating less than that amount (average is about $60).

    We'll see how he gets to a billion. Those folks who gave $60 so far have a long way to go and over a year before they reach the $5,000 total for the primary and general.

  9. I would like to ask-
    Is this campaign contribution of hundreads of millions to these people- a part and parcel of the DEMOCRACY when they invented it and said the government of the people by the people and for the people?.
    What percentage of this hundreds of millions is useful to 99% of the people?. Did you look at the flow of this money? How are we connected with it?. Do we (99%) need to have an opinion on this-We have only one right that we never use-Punish these culprits who are making the DEMOCRACY so silly and useless!