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Obama's combined election fundraising approaches $1 billion

December 05, 2008|John McCormick and Mike Dorning | McCormick and Dorning write for the Chicago Tribune.

CHICAGO — As President-elect Barack Obama hosted a gala for some of his earliest and most loyal financial supporters Thursday evening, his aides released new information showing the magnitude of their feat: They raised nearly $1 billion for his campaign and other election-related efforts.

The total includes already recorded and estimated fundraising for his campaign, the national convention, his transition and his upcoming inauguration.

That sets a new and dramatically higher bar for future presidential candidates, radically changing the financial definition of a serious bid for the White House.

Roughly three-quarters of the money Obama raised was directly channeled to his nearly-two-year campaign, using old-school techniques as well as an Internet-based operation.

A disclosure report filed late Thursday showed Obama raised $111 million from Oct. 16 through Nov. 24.

That brings his campaign total to $770 million, easily more than the combined fundraising for the 2004 election by President Bush and Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.

Not including money that was later distributed to his campaign, Obama also helped raise more than $100 million for a joint fund he had with the Democratic National Committee. The party used that money for voter turnout and other election-related activities.

A host committee for the Democratic National Convention in Denver also raised about $61 million. Obama's transition and inaugural committees are likely to raise $50 million or more.

The flood of money provided Obama crucial strategic advantages in the election, allowing him to deploy resources to compete in traditionally Republican states. Obama was even able to do what only billionaire Ross Perot had done before: purchase a half-hour of prime-time network television to make an extended closing argument during the final week of the campaign.

His fundraising totals were possible because he rejected public financing of his general-election campaign and its attendant spending limits. He was the only major-party nominee to do so since major campaign finance measures were passed in the wake of Watergate. Republican John McCain, who accepted taxpayer money, was limited to spending $84 million from September on.

As recently as Wednesday, Obama supporters received an e-mail solicitation on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. The pitch offered a "limited edition" Obama coffee mug in exchange for a contribution of $15 or more.

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