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[Washington Babylon]

Obama’s Money: Will his big donors top Bush’s Pioneers and Rangers?

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I posted an item last week noting that Barack Obama’s presidential campaign liked to talk about all the money it has raised from small donors, but that it was raking in big bucks from traditional fat cats as well. I included in the item a fundraising pitch for Obama that offered seats at a dinner for him at $15,000 per head or $28,500 per couple (a price that included a photograph with the candidate as well).

The New York Times has just published a story about Obama’s fundraising operation that says:

In an effort to cast himself as independent of the influence of money on politics, Senator Barack Obama often highlights the campaign contributions of $200 or less that have amounted to fully half of the $340 million he has collected so far. But records show that one-third of his record-breaking haul has come from donations of $1,000 or more: a total of $112 million, more than Senator John McCain, Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, or Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, his opponent in the Democratic primaries, raised in contributions of that size.

Behind those larger donations is a phalanx of more than 500 Obama “bundlers,” fund-raisers who have each collected contributions totaling $50,000 or more. Many of the bundlers come from industries with critical interests in Washington…While his campaign has cited its volume of small donations as a rationale for his decision to opt out of public financing for the general election, Mr. Obama has worked to build a network of big-dollar supporters from the time he began contemplating a run for the United States Senate. He tapped into well-connected people in Chicago prior to the 2004 Senate race, and once elected, set out across the country starting to cultivate some of his party’s most influential money collectors.

He courted them with the savvy of a veteran politician, through phone calls, meals and one-on-one meetings; he wrote thank-you cards and remembered birthdays; he sent them autographed copies of his book and doted on their children. The fruits of his efforts have put Mr. Obama’s major donors on a pace that almost rivals the $147 million raised by President Bush’s network of Pioneers and Rangers in contributions of $1,000 or larger during the 2004 primary season.

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