What Obama's Richest Donors Tell Us About His Campaign
How much have things changed for the president since 2008?
President Obama's 2012 campaign manager announced an epic fundraising effort of $86 million for the first quarter, setting up an eviably high bar and leaving his contenders wondering: where is all this money coming from? As it turns out, much of the money comes from "bundlers," defined by Talking Points Memo as "super-donors who are very rich, max out their personal fundraising amounts, and then call on their wealthy friends to do the same." 27 bundlers alone raised more than half a million dollars.
If you peruse the full list of rich bundlers, some of the names will strike you as very familiar: Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue. Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dreamworks CEO. Ari Emanuel, talent agent, Entourage inspiration, and brother of Rahm Emanuel. Jon Corzine, former New Jersey Governor and Goldman Sachs CEO. But apart from the star power, what does this illustrious list tell us about the president's campaign so far?
He's lost many of his major 2008 donors. National Journal notes that both Anna Wintour and Jeffrey Katzenberg raised more than $500,000 for Obama in 2008. But according to ABC News' Devin Dwyer, the list of donors "is also notable for who’s not there." He reports that more than 80 percent of Obama's biggest donors from 2008 received positions inside the administration, according to a recent report, and are now limited in how they can participate in the campaign. However, other major donors are holding back out of disapproval for Obama's leadership.
“I have made it clear I don’t want to get involved,” said Jon Merksamer, 58, a California small business owner who helped raise close to $500,000 for Obama in 2008. “I don’t think he’s been too liberal, or too conservative. I think he’s been too gutless,” he said. "It is a common reaction to become even angrier with people who you’d had hope for that turned out to be such a major disappointment.”
He has made significant outreach to the gay community. Ben Smith at Politico takes a glass-is-half-full approach to the turnover in major donors since 2008, noting that "the new bundlers include usual Democratic suspects who supported Clinton in 2008 and newly energized gay donors." Some of the top gay donors now putting their lot in with Obama are include Chicago's Fred Eychaner, New York's Jeff Soref and Charles Myers, Austin's Eugene Sepulveda, and DNC treasurer Andy Tobias. Smith also lists the former Clinton bundlers that Obama has swept up include Cohen and Corzine, as well as hedge funder Marc Lasry, L.A. fundraiser Noah Mamet, and DNC member Robert Zimmerman.
He hasn't lost his touch with small donors. Dwyer and other noted that although it was 244 wealthy and well-connected bundlers that brought at least $35 million for the Obama Victory Fund, the staggering total of $86 millions shows that he hasn't lost his touch with small-dollar donors either. Dwyer releases figures from the Obama campaign that "more than 552,000 people contributed 680,000 donations during the second quarter. Ninety-eight percent of those donations were $250 or less, according to the campaign."
This is likely to be another record year for Obama. Obama may have lost and gained donors since his 2007-8 campaign, but this year shows that in terms of money, he is coming out about even. The Washington Post notes that "for Obama, the sheer number of bundlers — and the volume of donations they represent — signals another potential juggernaut like 2008, when he shattered all records by raising $745 million. During his first campaign, he had 47 bundlers who raised $500,000 or more — a total he is already more than halfway to matching."