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Friday, July 04, 2008

Obama Picks Up Fund-Raising Pace

By MICHAEL LUO and CHRISTOPHER DREW,NYT

In the wake of Senator Barack Obama’s decision last month to bypass public financing for the general election, his campaign is embarking on a spree of pricey fund-raising events across the country.


As Mr. Obama shattered fund-raising records over the last year and a half and collected nearly $300 million, much of the attention has been on his army of small contributors over the Internet. He cited that broad base of small-dollar donors in justifying his decision to reverse his pledge to take part in the public financing system if his opponent did as well.

But Mr. Obama’s stepped-up schedule of big-money fund-raisers — the campaign has more than a dozen events planned over the next two weeks — showcases a formidable high-dollar donor network that is gaining more heft with an influx of former supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Obama campaign was initially powered last year in large part by high-dollar donors, but his schedule of traditional fund-raising events fell off this year in the face of a packed campaign schedule. Mr. Obama attended only a handful of fund-raisers, relying instead on contributions over the Internet.

Now, with his schedule freed up and faced with the need to raise more than $200 million for the general election, Mr. Obama’s major fund-raisers are eager to have him back to headline events that require attendees at the highest echelons to contribute more than $30,000 a person to a joint fund-raising committee for the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

“We have not been able to have much of the senator’s time during the primaries so we have had to rely more on the Internet,” said Penny Pritzker, the Obama campaign’s finance chairwoman. “Now that we have a little bit more access, the senator is able to do events, and we can use him more.”

Campaign finance experts said that while Mr. Obama had taken in record sums from smaller contributors, those contributions tended to taper off once the intensity of the race cooled. It is the larger, traditional donors who tend to support the party organizations, and that is a large part of Mr. Obama’s focus at this point.

Now that he is the presumed Democratic nominee, Mr. Obama is able to collect the much larger checks to the cash-strapped party, on top of the $4,600 he can get from each contributor for the primary and the general election.

“He has to worry not only about his own campaign, but he’d also like to raise money for the Democratic National Committee and for the convention,” said Michael Malbin, executive director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute. “And what he is doing now is going to the major donors who are able to give to all those things."

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