Saturday, April 21, 2012

Obama continues to reform campaign finance

It is my contention that, absent meaningful campaign finance laws, President Obama has been reforming our system simply by the way he's raising money for his own campaign. To demonstrate that, I'm likely to write about this topic regularly as the 2012 race rolls out.

The web site Open Secrets has now updated their information as a result of incorporating FEC filings from the candidates through the end of March. So lets look at the Obama/Romney race from several perspectives.

Amount Raised

The total amounts raised so far for each campaign are as follows:

Obama: $191, 671,860
Romney: $86,631,381

Obviously President Obama has the advantage here with having raised over twice the amount Romney has. But in the post-Citizens United world, that can be deceiving because it leaves out the fact that Romney-supporting Super PACs have dwarfed Obama's in the amount of cash they're bringing in. We can be sure that they'll more than make up for the difference.

What that sets up though is even more of a contrast in campaign styles given that Super PAC spending will almost exclusively be focused on a media campaign. Romney won't have the funds to complete with Obama's huge investment in the ground game.

Source of Donations

As I've discussed before, whenever we hear about particular industry's donations to a campaign, the truth is that we're looking at donations from individuals who work in those industries and not the companies themselves. Still, its interesting to note the differences between the campaigns in terms of who they are attracting.

Here is a listing of the top five companies whose employees are donating to each campaign.


Microsoft Corp$289,088
DLA Piper$217,582
Google Inc$167,565
University of California$157,092
Harvard University$155,808

Goldman Sachs$535,680
JPMorgan Chase & Co$375,650
Morgan Stanley$323,800
Credit Suisse Group$299,160
Citigroup Inc$282,765

Do you see the pattern there? Wall Street has definitely chosen its candidate.

Size and Number of Donations

While 45% of Obama's total has come from small individual contributions (under $250), they account for only 10% of Romney's total. That results in a HUGE difference in terms of the number of people who have donated to each campaign. Here's a powerful chart on that from The Obama Diary via BuzzFeed showing the number of donors in March for Romney 12, Bush 04, and Obama 12.

Its the grassroots in action for and me. And that's how we reform a government bought and paid for by the wealthy.


Here's how Open Secrets defines bundlers:

Bundlers are people with friends in high places who, after bumping against personal contribution limits, turn to those friends, associates, and, well, anyone who's willing to give, and deliver the checks to the candidate in one big "bundle."
Even though the law doesn't require candidates to identify bundlers (other than paid lobbyists), the Obama campaign has always made the decision to release this information. But the Romney campaign does not. Its important to keep that in mind when the wingnuts start with their pearl clutching about who shows up on Obama's list.

So there you have it folks. An Obama campaign that's able to keep up with Karl Rove's big boys via thousands of small donations with an emphasis on transparency vs a Romney campaign dependent on a few large contributions from Wall Street and secret donations to Super PACs.

Of course these kinds of differences are both driven by and lead to huge differences in the policies of these two candidates. Based on this information alone, I think the choice is clear.


  1. One of the other things that makes the number of small donors important is that it's a pool that can continue to donate. Most of the "big donors" that Romney has had are quickly bumping up against the limit, which means they're limited to giving to SuperPACs. While Romney can (and is) raising money, his donor pool is shallow and he's getting near draining it, whereas Obama has a significant reserve capability.

  2. this was a great piece. I love how you see the broader issues.


    Money quote (pun intended): "The president has raised more money from Wall Street through the Democratic National Committee and his campaign account than any politician in American history. This year alone, he has raked in more cash from bank employees, hedge fund managers and financial services companies than all Republican candidates combined."

    1. So your big comeback is an article quoting information from almost 6 months ago?

      I'd suggest you update your information. I provided the info and links to help you with that in the article above. All you have to do is click on them to review data through March 2012.

    2. One other reaction to your so-called "poisoned seed" - I tried providing you with some facts over at your place. But the moderators don't seem to be letting my comment through. You have to wonder who's more comfortable with the "truth," don't you?

  4. Has Obama turned the CVV requirement for credit cards back on or is he still accepting donations from unidentifiable donors?


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