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Obama to Test Fundraising Skills Amid 'Donor Fatigue,' Crisis

By Hans Nichols and Jonathan D. Salant

March 16 (Bloomberg)—President Barack Obama will headline the first fundraiser of his presidency this month, appealing to donors large and small even as the economy struggles through the worst recession in generations.

Obama's appearance at the Democratic National Committee's March 25 event at the Warner Theatre in Washington, with tickets ranging from $100 to $2,500 per person, will be an early test of his ability to keep up the record-breaking fundraising he achieved during the campaign.

That may be difficult. While the president's approval rating remains above 60 percent in most polls, the U.S. is mired in the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression. Those circumstances may close some checkbooks and force Obama to tone down his partisan appeals for cash at a time when he is trying to persuade Americans he is focused on fixing the economy.

"After an election cycle, you're dealing with donor fatigue," said Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is in charge of raising money for vulnerable House Democrats. "Then you have the added layer of difficulty of the economy really hitting people hard."

Obama's advisers acknowledge that striking the right tone at the event - the first DNC fundraiser under its new chairman, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine - will be a challenge.

'Tough Time'

"It is a tough time," said White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton. "Nonetheless, the president feels a responsibility to help Tim Kaine build a party that will be an effective force for progress in this country."

Republicans said that Obama's return to the money circuit was premature. "It says a lot about President Obama's priorities that he would start fundraising so soon," said Alex Conant, a senior adviser to the Republican National Committee. "The economic crisis should be a higher priority than partisan politics."

Yet Obama isn't the first president facing a crisis at home or abroad who has had to balance his role as commander-in-chief with the demands his party places on him.

"We had the same problem," said Dave Carney, who was political director for George H.W. Bush during the Persian Gulf War and the 1991 recession. "There's just something unseemly about raising money for partisan purposes when you're engaged in an act of war or an economic recovery."

Still, there are ways that the Democrats can soften the partisan edges of Obama's fundraising activities, such as offering some tickets to smaller-dollar donors. "You don't want him to be just seen with fat cats," Carney said.

Recession

Then there are the hurdles to raising money in a recession, a task that's made more difficult after Obama drained so much from donors during the campaign. Many of them are less likely to give now that the Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Fundraising is "definitely not as robust as the same time two years ago," Wasserman Schultz said.

The fundraiser, featuring singer Tony Bennett, can't come soon enough for the DNC, which was outraised by the Republican National Committee, $427 million to $260 million, during the last election, according to Federal Election Commission reports. That disparity, however, was more than compensated for by Obama's campaign that set records by pulling in $749 million, largely by leveraging smaller donations on the Internet.

Through Jan. 31, the DNC had $5.9 million in the bank and $5 million in debts; the Republicans were debt-free and had $22.8 million to spend.

Joe Biden

Party operatives are eager to enlist Obama's money bundlers, fundraisers who bring in cash from other donors, some of whom raised more than $500,000 for his campaign, to work for the DNC. The effort begins this week, and some top fundraisers have been invited to a reception with Vice President Joe Biden tonight and meetings tomorrow with Kaine, and Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.

The DNC is counting on the Biden reception, which includes the chance to pose for a picture with the vice president, to help entice fundraisers who haven't contributed to the party, yet supported Obama.

The message, said Steve Grossman, a former Democratic national chairman, is that "by supporting the DNC, you are supporting the president's goals and objectives and you're making possible the type of grassroots organizing that will help us win in 2010."

The president still has tremendous fundraising potential and could prod his donors to become more active.

"Presidential events are a lot more recession-proof than your normal fundraising activities," Carney said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hans Nichols in Washington at hnichols2@bloomberg.net; Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.NI
Last Updated: March 16, 2009 00:01 EDT



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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Mar 16, 2009
    • This is awful!!!!  We have people losing jobs, losing their homes, their retirement....and he has the audacity to ask people to give to another damn campaign??  And he hasn’t even been in the office 100 days!!!!!!!!!!!!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Mar 16, 2009
    • Even so Annie....it just doesn’t look right.  He’s worried about raising money and not helping the economy...but oh I forgot he did...yeah right...it just makes me so angry.

      Lord I went back re-read your response..LOL...I was so mad I didn’t read it right ...

      Yeah ...a campaign tax...that will be next.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Mar 16, 2009
    • Heck...everything about him and WAshington makes me angry.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cynthia Schmidt wrote Mar 16, 2009
    • I’m confused. I don’t understand exactly what the money raised will go to? When it comes to things like this, I admit I’m not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jacquie6363 wrote Mar 16, 2009
    • Did we really expect the economy to change, “that” quickly.  Like everything else, it will get worse, before it gets better.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Coachmombabe wrote Mar 16, 2009
    • Cynthia, I bet you’ve got more going on than me! I have to have it all explained by my husband, and he’s somewhat (very) biased! ;o)



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Mar 16, 2009
    • No I didn’t expect the economy to change but I did expect Obama to keep his word....he didn’t.  You got stuff in that package that doesn’t stimulate a dang thing!!!  Why was that crap even aloud to be included?????  

      Doesn’t make a bit of sense whatsoever!!  Yep..it’s going to get worse....and unless we get rid of some people in Washington...out of all parties....ALL OF THEM..nothing will get better.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mztracy wrote Mar 16, 2009
    • we know that it will not change right away.

      The bush admin knew we were in this mess going on 2+ years, and kept spending as well....

      Sadly the things that go on in the way of fundraisers will not stop for any party, dems or reps during this time. that is the way of politics on both sides. If a rep had made it in office, you would see the same thing. During the depression, this stuff happened as well.

      And i thinnk what people forget is that the pres does not make all these decisions on his own.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Mar 16, 2009
    • I understand about the president does not make all the decisions on his own but he is surrounded by people who think as he does...heck he put most of them there.  

      But...what has happened in the past doesn’t necessarily need to happen in the crisis we are in right now.  All this tells me is that he is only worried about keeping an office or making sure his other buds are in their place as well.  Not saying you don’t have to do that at some point but please...NOW?    I think we as a PEOPLE of these UNITED STATES need to be hearing positive things not how we are going to protect or kill the mice in Pelosi’s district...whatever the hell she is doing or wants done.....that my friend is a disgrace.  Tell that to the family of four that just lost their house...and the parents have lost their jobs.  

      And not to be ugly..but I don’t want to hear about Bush.  Dems didn’t want anyone to talk about how Clinton was....well...here we are...the tables are turned.  The crap that is happening and expoding right now started way before the last Bush.  They (all of Congress) and the Presidents are guilty.  And I can’t afford to wait for four years.  Heck...I can’t afford to wait until 2010...but I’m going to do everything in my power to help get rid of some of them.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jenz ~ wrote Mar 16, 2009
    • Being that this information comes from the press/media, I’ll believe half of it until it’s confirmed & confirmed again. lol As for fundraising, it is early on to be doing this. He’s going to have to do it anyway and there are still people out there willing to spend it. Where exactly are the raised funds going? Hopefully to help rescue the homeless!
      I’m not choosing a side here. But as president, it certainly would be difficult to please everyone, that’s for sure. WHERE is this $ going?



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Mar 17, 2009
    • Good question jenz41!  Where is the money going and exactly who is giving it?  I guess those CEO’s that got bonuses are the ones contributing....especially since they have LOST NOTHING!!!!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Mar 17, 2009
    • Annie...to be honest I am not sure when current Presidents actually start fund raising for the next term or for whomever.  I don’t know that but this particular article just didn’t sit well with me being that we are in the major crisis we are in right now.  To me he is telling me...oh yes we are going through some tough times (his favorite line) right now and people are losing jobs, homes, and retirements but I think it’s still ok to ask people for money (when they have already given...given...and given....not to mention robbed from with this stimulus package)for your “so call party“.

      Maybe in the past this has been the norm, but for me I think it’s awful and just another slap in the face to all Americans. Hopefully I answered your question.  

      Last night I think I was so pissed off at everything I was reading it was all getting jumbled! I“ll try to do better in keeping my subjects more separate.  estatic  

      Unless I’m in the same office as the President and hearing everything for myself in which I’m not...I have to depend on what I hear and what I read to determine if something is true or not.  I would love for this to not be true...believe you me.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Joan Durso wrote Mar 17, 2009
    • These politicians of ours are so pathetic.  No one is for the American people anymore, just their special interests and pet projects.  You can’t trust any of them.  All of our money they gave to these kniving banks who squandered it all away.  It’s pathetic.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Mar 17, 2009
    • www.AmericanSolutions.com

      Dear Mary,

      We‘re happy to announce that on April 15th, American Solutions will be sponsoring Tax Day Tea Parties all across the country. We’ve partnered with the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, and over 150 cities have already been confirmed.

      You can find a Tea Party in your area by going to www.AmericanSolutions.com/TeaParty.

      This is our opportunity to do two things.

      First—to communicate our anger and opposition to the irresponsible, big spending policies of Washington politicians who have failed to solve problems.

      Second—to clearly define a bold, new agenda and tell our elected officials that they can either work for us, or we will vote them out of office.

      To help do this, we’ve created an American Solutions Toolkit for Tea Parties. It includes our 12 American Solutions for Jobs & Prosperity, a few handouts about our solutions relating to spending and taxes, and a checklist so we can begin to find out where our elected officials stand.

      To download your Toolkit for Tea Parties go to www.AmericanSolutions.com/TeaParty.

      Propping up and bailing out failure with our tax dollars is not a solution for our economy. It is irresponsible, and we must not tolerate it any longer.

      We hope you’ll join us on April 15th to make this clear to Washington.

      Sincerely,

      Dave Ryan
      President & CEO
      American Solutions



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tamra wrote Mar 17, 2009
    • Well now, Pres O may have to re-think his ideas about hitting the "rich" folks up for more taxes.  How many of them are gonna be willing to hand over any money to him now that he wants to take it away from them through higher taxes?  Especially since political donations ARE NOT tax deductible. Those big "playas" are gonna be looking for tax deductible ways to spend money.  The DNC may have a hard time getting their hands on their money now.

      Like Justin Timberlake says, “what comes around, goes around!”



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Mar 17, 2009
    • You know....I think a wonderful solution would be...no more free rides after you (senator/representative) leave your political office....no full salaries...no pensions....because there will be term limits.  So no life time career of ruining other people’s lives for your personal gain. Oh...and your background will looked at with a fine tooth comb.  No...bankruptcies...no not paying your taxes....no shady connections....you need to be an fricken angel to hold that political office.  No big parties....no free airplane rides to wherever...no government paid vacations.  When you‘re suppose to be at the capitol working....you best be there...no laying out...or voting not present....unless you are on your death bed.  It’s your fricken job...be there.  

      Yes...Pres O‘Bama needs to do some re-thinking. I wouldn’t give the DNC a penny of my money .....even if they were the only political party in the nation.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Katie O'Neill wrote Mar 21, 2009
    • Hello all!
      I’m new to this site and can’t help myself when I see anything having to do with our current administration... I’m a Republican and have not been happy with the previous administration either - just to make that clear, I’m sorry I voted GWB in for a second term, but with that said, the current administration is taking us in a direction we don’t want to go. Obama has spent more time on the road since being elected than in the oval office. If you watch any of his television appearances, it is apparent he is still campaigning. A serious flaw... I am retired from corporate america now - once having a fairly high powered sales career and because of my background I am always wary of the “eloquent speaker“. More often than not, they speak well, but have no substance or are all BS. I feel Obama is one such person. I also don’t believe he is running this country. So far, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barney Frank are making all the decisions. It is so evident Obama has little control over what the fate of this country is. Obama campaigned that when it came to a stimulus bill or any earmarks on spending, he was going to “take my time and go through any bill, line by line, and reject any pork spending“. In my book, he lied to all of us. I’ve taken the time to read, page by page, the two last spending bills most recently signed and I think if everyone knew what was put through, there would be a march on Washington so massive, he would fear impeachment. Please take the time to read these bills and see what the CURRENT administration is trying to push through. It will make you cry and hopefully make you angry. With regard to obtaining the actual bills signed into legislation - there is no transparency. I’m lucky to have a family member in Washington who mailed me the bills. You can try to download them off the government site but so far, either their server is down or something else makes it impossible to get the documents.
      thanks for letting me vent - hope everyone has a wonerful day =)



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