Behind the veil of Obama's campaign finance

The president's re-election team wants to promote his "middle class" small donor supporters, not his million-dollar Hollywood fundraisers.


    I could have been writing this from balmy, beautiful California, but I'm not.

    As many of my colleagues jet to Seattle and stop in Los Angeles for a series of fundraisers, I'm still in Washington D.C.

    We decided not to go, and there's a good reason why. We wanted to tell you about who's paying for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, and the campaign happens to be the worst place to do that.

    At Obama's kick-off in Richmond, Virginia, I watched as he made repeated references to "ordinary people" and "middle-class Americans".

    Conventional wisdom holds that Obama's presidency was made in 2008 by a horde of "ordinary people" donating small amounts.

    He did have more small donors then the other candidates, but studies have since said the phenomenon was exaggerated, and this time around, small donors make up only 45 per cent of his donations.

    Even without the numbers, I'd still know that wasn’t the case, because I pay attention to the president’s schedule.

    It's a very exciting life. This president has been to more fundraisers than any other, experts say, though we don't see much of them.

    The most I catch is his massive security force messing up my commute home, since Obama tends to go to the fancy hotels near the White House and our offices.

    It’s not just me though, that's all anyone ever sees of the fancy fundraisers, and the White House makes sure of it.

    The White House press corps doesn’t get to see what the president is saying, much less who he is meeting. The president’s staff sets the agenda and limits, and the American media go along with it.

    Young, hip events

    During expensive fundraisers where a handful of people pay tens of thousands of dollars, the most the media get is a few "pool" print reporters inside for the remarks portion.

    Those few tell the rest of us what was said and wait in a van until the president is done doing whatever it is he does - I assume taking pictures.

    The few times we’ve seen the president raising money he's at young, hip events where big crowds pay smaller amounts.

    In Seattle, 70 supporters will pay $17,900 to brunch with Obama. Next stop, the cool kids will pay a minimum of $1,000 to hear Obama and Dave Matthews.

    But then there's the big event at George Clooney’s house near Los Angeles, where 150 supporters will each pay $40,000.

    That's $6 million, and it doesn’t include the raffle. Yes, the president’s campaign made millions asking supporters to give just $3 dollars in a raffle for the chance to party with the rich and famous.

    A few regular people will witness what the rest of us will not, since the campaign doesn’t want us to. They are very well aware that in the United States, pictures matter more than words.

    Images of the president hanging out with Hollywood hotshots doesn’t fit his middle-class narrative, so you won’t see them. That's why I’m not in California, because I don’t have to be, unlike many of my colleagues.

    Because getting shots of palm trees and cop cars is not worth my time or my network's money. We told this story from here, but it wasn’t easy. It took our producer, Khody Akhavi, hours to track down simple pictures of some of the fancy houses that Obama has been to.

    If you want to see what a challenge that was, check out our story, the one we did from Washington, D.C.



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