Obama raised $1 billion

The Baltimore Sun

Chicago - As he hosted a gala celebration for some of his earliest and most loyal financial supporters last night, President-elect Barack Obama's aides released new information showing the magnitude of their feat: They raised nearly $1 billion for his campaign and other election-related efforts.

The stunning total also includes already recorded and estimated fundraising for his campaign, national convention, transition and coming inauguration.

That sets a new and dramatically higher bar for future presidential candidates, radically changing the financial definition of a serious bid for the White House.

Roughly three-quarters of the money Obama raised was directly channeled to his campaign, a marathon that lasted nearly two years and ushered in an unprecedented level of national fundraising using old-school techniques as well as a cutting-edge Internet-based operation.

A disclosure report filed late yesterday showed that Obama raised $111 million from Oct. 16 through Nov. 24.

That brings his campaign total to $770 million, easily more than the combined fundraising for the 2004 election by President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Not including money that was later distributed to his own campaign fund, Obama also helped raise more than $100 million for a joint committee he had with the Democratic National Committee. The party used that money for voter turnout and other election-related activities.

A host committee for the Democratic National Convention in Denver also raised about $61 million, while his transition and inaugural committees will likely raise a combined $50 million or more.

The flood of money provided Obama crucial strategic advantages in the election, allowing him to deploy resources beyond recent partisan battlegrounds to compete in traditionally Republican states.

Obama was even able to do what only billionaire Ross Perot had done before: purchase a half-hour of prime-time network television to make an extended and highly polished closing argument during the final week of the campaign.

Obama was able to capitalize on his fundraising success because of his choice to break political tradition and reject public financing of his fall general election campaign. That freed him from strict spending limits that have covered every other major-party nominee since the modern campaign finance reforms were passed in the wake of the Watergate scandals.

Serious presidential candidates are now likely to follow Obama's example and refuse public financing unless there are major changes in the system.

Even as Obama's aides prepare to close the books on his campaign effort, he is still raising money.

As recently as Wednesday, supporters received an e-mail solicitation on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. The pitch offered a "limited edition" Obama coffee mug, in exchange for contributions of $15 or more.

Over the course of the campaign, Obama assembled a donor database of nearly 4 million, including many who gave multiple times in smaller-dollar increments.

Much has been made of the importance of such small contributions to Obama's effort, but more traditional big donors also played a significant role.

Though Obama was less dependent on big donors who contributed more than $1,000 to his campaign than recent presidential nominees, they still provided nearly half the funding for his campaign.

Big donors contributed 47 percent of the funds for the Obama campaign versus 60 percent for George Bush in 2004 and 56 percent for John Kerry that same year, according to a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute based on disclosure data through mid-October.

Through mid-October, the Chicago metropolitan area was Obama's third-most-important area for fundraising, contributing $23.8 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Only New York and Washington areas sent him more.

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