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Yes, I donated to Obama, but I didn't mean to

September 20, 2012|By Doyle McManus
  • Christian Jett, 7, of Charlotte, N.C., waits as his mother and sister shop for campaign buttons outside the Democratic National Convention.
Christian Jett, 7, of Charlotte, N.C., waits as his mother and sister shop… (Los Angeles Times )

Two weeks ago, when I was at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., my wife called with a request. Three high school students from Italy were visiting, and they were fascinated by the presidential campaign; could I pick up some buttons or bumper stickers?

So I wandered across the convention center to the Obama-Biden Campaign Store and picked up an assortment of buttons. The bill came to $19.50. When the cashier asked for my name and address, I figured I was going on somebody's mailing list.

The Italian kids were delighted by the tchotchkes. The button with Bo the presidential dog was a big hit; so was one with Michelle Obama, toned arms and all. They even liked the toothy-grinned Joe Biden button.


Then I noticed the fine print on the store receipt. “Your purchase of Obama campaign merchandise will be a contribution to Obama Victory Fund 2012, a joint fundraising committee,” it said. Uh-oh: The Times, like most newspapers, forbids its staff from donating to political campaigns. What to do?

I couldn’t send the buttons back; the Italian kids took them to Rome. So I sent a letter to the Obama Victory Fund, sternly informing them that my purchase was not intended to be a contribution. Then I bought exactly $19.50 worth of equally attractive tchotchkes from the Romney-Ryan campaign to even things out.  Two wrongs don’t make a right, but at least I can’t be accused of tipping the balance in the electoral college.

I like to think this makes me like those big-time lobbyists who hedge their bets by donating to both sides.

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Lesson learned: Always read the fine print. And next time you read a report that says the Obama campaign has collected $656 million from 3.1 million donors, please subtract $19.50 and one donor.


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