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President Obama’s billion dollar campaign question

There was a recent story in the Politico (read it here) about the President’s re-election team and their need to be the first campaign to raise more than $1 billion in donor contributions to defeat the Republicans and their “outside money” in 2012. With the 2012 campaign cycle rapidly approaching, I felt it was time to conduct some independent research into campaign contributions on my own.

First off, let’s start with a quick refresher on campaign contributions. When a candidate reports a number for his/her campaign contributions, that number can be easily matched — if not exceeded by — contributions in support of that same candidate through party committees and non-profit organizations. So when it is reported that the President raised $744,985,625 in contributions, only part of the picture is painted. The remainder of the money in support of any candidate — or the President for instance — comes in the form of party committees like the DNC; through independent expenditures by political action committees, unions – think SEIU, and 501c’s; and finally in the form of Federal funds which can be waived, as President Obama did in 2008.

During the entire 2008 election cycle there was a total (reported) of $5,285,680,883 raised in political donations for candidates in the House, Senate and for the Presidency. That is over FIVE BILLION dollars raised in an effort to impact the outcome of the elections in 2008 for all seats that were up for grabs. Since 2000 there has been an average increase in political contributions of 131% during Presidential election cycles versus a 132.76% increase during non-presidential election cycles. If this average holds true, then we are looking at nearly $7 billion in campaign contributions for 2012. Considering the President’s own fundraising efforts in 2008 represented roughly 14% of the total Federal contributions reported and factoring in the expected increase to $6,924,217,190 for 2012, the President definitely has the edge and could raise an estimated $975,927,678. Remembering what I said earlier, this is only a portion of the money that will be available for his re-election efforts.

Of course the President has many hurdles to overcome, as pointed out in the Politico’s story. However, it is a long election cycle and when many on the left are faced with a real conservative candidate from the right — which we were without in 2008 — their pocketbooks will most certainly open up and the funds will start to flow. The two main questions then become 1) will it be in time; and 2) will it be enough?

As the Politico piece mentions, I think the real reason for anxiety on the left is the rise of the new super PAC, which first became available for Federal election cycles in 2010. Super PAC’s allow for unlimited individual/corporate contributions, instead of the previous cap that was — and remains — in place for regular PAC’s of $5,000 per calendar year. With this new tool available to the right — and the left — the potential for a big surge of previously capped political contribution sources into a campaign – or many campaigns – has grown exponentially.

One of the most important pieces to understand about both PACs and super PACs is that they are entirely independent of the candidate(s) that they are supporting. The organization cannot be in communication with the candidate(s) campaign nor can they be seen to work together in the slightest. Many believe that this is a blessing as it allows the organization to run negative attacks focused on their candidate(s) opposition instead of simply supporting their candidate. This keeps the candidates hands clean of the attack, with complete deniability, while being able to enjoy the potential benefits the attack can have — especially in the form of an October surprise.

Imagine if BP decides they want retribution from the President’s administration for placing their “boot on the throat” of the company and its shareholders and extorting billions of dollars from BP? Not to mention the financial institutions and insurance companies that have been targeted by President Obama’s administration in the past few years. The list is quite long and those adversely affected have the resources to provide large amounts of funding to these super PAC’s, creating a potential advantage that has heretofore been nonexistent. I think this is one of the potential scenarios that keep the left up at night.

This was originally posted on my main blog sites here: http://wp.me/p1hSjp-r and http://derekoberholtzeronline.com/2011/01/17/president-obamas-billion-dollar-campaign-question/

Source information:

- All contribution data was sourced from Center for Responsive Politics here:
 http://www.opensecrets.org/
- Politico story, “Barack Obama’s 2012 cash challenge” can be found here:
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47596.html
- Boot on the throat reference was sourced from the Fox News archive here:
nation.foxnews.com/robert-gibbs/2010/05/04/gibbs-well-keep-boot-throat-bp

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