Friday, July 11, 2008

The Money Game - And Rove's Advice for Obama

July 11, 2008, 4:00 p.m.

Campaign Finance is Back in the News

Matthew Mosk, "Donors Asked To Give for Two; Clinton Debt Adds to Obama Burden," Washington Post, July 11, 2008, p. A4.

Given that the Obama Campaign hopes to raise $450 million by Election Day, the trend lines in his contributions aren't encouraging. (Election Commission data, as charted by The Washington Post.)

What would really be revealing of the impact (if any) from the FISA bait-and-switch would be a comparison of the total contributions, by month, for contributions under $200, comparing those for June and July with those from prior months.

So much for a campaign funded by 1.6 million "small donors." The real money, as in times past, comes from the big money folks (who, the Wall Street Journal reports, brought the cash flow back up to something closer to $30 million in June). Mosk gives us a sense of what's now going on:
"Each of the hundreds of members of the senator's main fundraising team has been asked to raise at least $100,000 for the Victory Fund, which spreads money among Obama's general-election account, state party accounts and the DNC. Those joining the committee from the Clinton camp have been asked to raise another $250,000 in money Obama can continue to spend before the party's late-August nominating convention. And each finance committee member has been asked to collect checks from at least five donors to help Clinton retire more than $10 million of her campaign debt."
(Her debt, it might be noted, is almost exactly the entire amount raised by Senator Obama during the month of May.) Since there is a limit of $2300 per person on campaign contributions, we must assume that these $30,000-a-plate dinners are in part raising "soft money" for the Democratic Party rather than money for Senator Obama's continuing pre-nominating-convention campaign.

All of which brings us to the matter of "bundling." (See, Nicholas Johnson, "Getting in Bed with Bundlers," June 26, 2008.)

Yet records show that in their presidential campaigns, neither has lived up to his promise to fully disclose the identities of his top money collectors who bundle millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

Since November, Mr. Obama had added just two new names to a list of 326 fund-raisers who have bundled contributions of $50,000 or more for him, despite the campaign’s taking in more than $180 million during that time.

After receiving an inquiry from The New York Times, the campaign scrambled on Thursday evening to update its list of bundlers, adding 181 names, a jump of more than 50 percent, and increasing the amounts some were credited with raising. The number of bundlers who have collected $200,000 or more increased to 138 from 78.
Michael Luo and Christopher Drew, "Candidates Are Slow to Identify ‘Bundlers,’" New York Times, July 11, 2008. And see, Michael Falcone, "The Early Word: Show Me The Money," New York Times: The Caucus, July 11, 2008.

Notwithstanding the fact that these contributors -- the bundlers, the soft money underwriters, lobbyists, corporate CEOs, and the upper 1% of the wealthy -- are getting a 1000-to-2000-to-one return on these investments ("campaign contributions") (see, Nicholas Johnson, "Campaigns: You Pay $4 or $4000," Des Moines Sunday Register, July 21, 1996, p. C2) the Onion News Network's "In the Know" reports that some lobbyists are complaining that they're not always getting everything the candidates have promised. "In the Know" calls the piece, "Are Politicians Failing Our Lobbyists?"

In The Know: Are Politicians Failing Our Lobbyists?

Karl Rove as Obama Strategist

Whatever you may think of Karl Rove, you have to respect his success as a political strategist -- especially given the candidate/president he was handed

In order for Obama to run a better campaign than than Rove/Cheney/Bush he must first run one that is at least as good

Here's Rove's advice to Obama

Mr. Obama's biggest problem is that when it comes to substance, he's following the playbook of a Republican other than George W. Bush. In 2000, Mr. Bush won the general election on the same themes and positions as in the primaries, including compassionate conservatism, the faith-based initiative, tax cuts and Social Security reform. There was no repudiation of past positions, no chameleon-like shifts in positions.

Instead of consistency, Mr. Obama has followed Richard Nixon's advice, to cater to his party's extreme in the primaries and then move aggressively to the middle for the fall.

In the primary, Mr. Obama supported pulling out of Iraq within 16 months, called the D.C. gun ban constitutional, backed the subjection of telecom companies to expensive lawsuits for cooperating in the terror surveillance program, opposed welfare reform, pledged to renegotiate Nafta, disavowed free trade and was strongly against the death penalty in all cases. But in the past few weeks, Mr. Obama has reversed course on all of these, discarding fringe liberal views for relentlessly centrist positions. He also flip-flopped on accepting public financing and condemning negative ads from third party groups, like unions.

By taking Nixon's advice, Mr. Obama is assuming such dramatic reversals will somehow avoid voter scrutiny. But people are watching closely, and by setting a world indoor record for jettisoning past positions, Mr. Obama may be risking his reputation for truthfulness. A candidate's credibility, once lost, is very hard to restore, regardless of how fine an organization he has built.
Karl Rove, "Barack's Brilliant Ground Game," The Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2008, p. A13.

And what if all this leaves you totally bored? The Onion News Network has some helpful hints in this piece from their morning "Today Now!" show they call, "Election '08: Pretending You Care":

Today Now!: How To Pretend You Give A S*** About The Election

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