Michigan Democrats criticized Republican John McCain for attending a $2,300 per person fundraiser in West Michigan yesterday, while trumpeting the fact that they held a fundraiser for only $2.30 per person in response. However, the reality is that the Obama campaign is also relying on wealthy donors.
Yesterday John McCain was in West Michigan at the lakeshore home of Peter Secchia for a fundraiser. According to the Grand Rapids Press, donors gave $1.2 million dollars to the Republican presidential candidate.
To counter his visit, the Kent County Democratic Party held a picnic at Millennium Park and invited State Party Chairman Mark Brewer to speak. Both WOOD TV 8 and the partisan website West Michigan Rising mentioned the Democratic Party picnic in their coverage of McCain’s visit. The two outlets largely repeated Democratic Party’s intended message–that ordinary folks are supporting Democratic candidate Barack Obama whereas wealthy donors are funding the McCain campaign. For example, West Michigan Rising wrote
“Folks donated $2.30 for a hot dog and lemonade — 1/1000 what folks are paying to hear the same old failed Republican policies out by the lake. It was a clear message to John McCain that West Michigan voters want the kind of change that will get Michigan back on the right track.”
It seems that the Democrats are attempting to claim that the Obama campaign receives its money from working people and not wealthy sectors of society like the McCain campaign. This simply isn’t true. If you go to the Center for Responsible Politics website, you will find that the top donors to the Obama campaign are some of the same money interests that are donating to McCain, such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Even on a local level, one can find similar donating patterns to both Obama and McCain. Each of them is receiving small donations and both of them are receiving some sizable donations from a few individuals. For example, the largest donors from the 49506 zip code so far are Paul Potter who donated $4,600 to the Guiliani campaign and the $13,800 that has been donated to the Obama campaign by Bill and Susan Lewis, the owners of Yesterdog. Even a few months before his Van Andel Arena appearance, Obama was in town at a private fundraiser in Grand Rapids that required $1,000 to attend. If you could donate $2,500 or more, you were an official sponsor of the fundraiser.
To date, Obama has broken fundraising records for a presidential candidate and even opted out of the federal campaign funding, despite his earlier promise to accept federal funding. Democrats and Obama supporters have attempted to minimize this shift by pointing out that it is irrelevant as Obama’s campaign receives most of its financial support from individuals giving less than $200. However, while this may be statistically true, it is somewhat dishonest to say that wealthy donors are not playing a significant role in Obama’s campaign. In the recent article “Who Owns Obama?,” Pham Binh writes:
“To deflect criticism of Obama’s flip-flop on the issue, apologists for Obama and the candidate himself have made much of the fact that 45 percent of his money comes from small donors (defined as those who donate $200 or less). He claims that these small donors “will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally been reserved for the wealthy and the powerful.”
In reality, big contributors have far more influence in and access to the campaign than the voter who shells out $200 because he or she really believes in Obama’s message of change. These small donors did not get advance copies of Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech addressing the Reverend Wright controversy. They do not participate in weekly and quarterly conference calls with the head honchos of the campaign and with Obama himself.
To sit on the “national finance committee” that gets advance copies of speeches and access to the campaign’s decision-makers, donors must bundle contributions of $200,000 or more from friends, associates, co-workers, and employees. The top 79 bundlers for Obama’s campaign, 5 of whom are billionaires, are responsible for 27,000 checks from individuals for the legal maximum of $2,300. Of those bundlers, 18 work at top law firms and 21 are Wall Street executives and power brokers from Fortune 500 companies. Others include hedge fund executives, Silicon Valley capitalists, Chicago-based developers, and black millionaires.
Of course, that’s not counting the money Obama has raised by exploiting the very same loophole in campaign finance laws that he blasted McCain for. He got $28,500 donations recently by dining with rich couples in Hollywood for a grand total of $5 million in one event. (That money goes to the party, circumventing the $2,300 legal limit on individual donations to candidates, which is a joke since Obama now controls the Democratic Party).”