Obama's Fundraising Raises Questions

The president's detractors criticize his fundraising blitz. 

Posted: 03/16/2012 03:26 PM EDT
Barack Obama

The president has taken quite a few hits over the issue of fundraising recently. First, there was this week’s state dinner where it was noted that dozens of campaign fundraisers and bundlers (those who raised more than $50,000 for the Obama campaign) were in attendance. The move is prompting questions about whether it is proper to use the White House to wine and dine big money donors. 

 

While Obama follows a long tradition of presidents who have rewarded people who have helped build campaign coffers, he faces increased scrutiny because of his reputation as a vocal champion of grassroots, small-dollar fundraising efforts. In fact, during the final stretch of 2011, President Obama managed to rake in over $68 million in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee. In the month of January alone, he outpaced himself, raising more than $29 million. It is clear that the president is an effective fundraiser but that success has also brought criticism.

 

The state dinner was followed by what can only be described as a whirlwind 5-stop fundraising blitz in Chicago and Atlanta Friday. A few fundraising events involve big names and big dollar ticket prices. The president will be on hand as Tyler Perry hosts fundraisers at his home and movie studio. Tickets to the Tyler Perry Studios event range from $500 to $10,000 a pop. But in order to step foot inside the private event at Perry’s home, be prepared to shell out $35,800 per ticket.

 

Although it is common, if not expected, for an incumbent to raise money during a heated election cycle, it does raise questions about whether fundraisers should have added access to the president. This was an issue which came up during the 2008 campaign, as the president decried the role that money plays in influencing politics.

 

Then there’s the question of time and whether the campaign is becoming a distraction for a president leading a country still reeling from an economic meltdown. White House spokesman Jay Carney downplayed the apparent campaign ramp-up, telling reporters yesterday, “Well, he certainly has been having political events, and we’ve been clear about that.  And he is participating in that way in his campaign, but as a share of time it is still fairly minimal.” 

 

The White House contends that the president has been able to focus on his official duties. “He'll continue to do that for as long as possible, within the confines that a general election campaign creates,” Carney said.

 

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 (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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