Obama’s ‘grassroots campaign’ includes thousands of big-money donors

By Laurie Bennett

October 20, 2008 at 11:10am

Barack Obama is breaking all records in political fundraising, bringing in a whopping $150 million last month alone.

All told, the campaign has raised more than $600 million. Robert Gibbs, senior strategist for Obama, calls it “a grassroots campaign funded by the grassroots,” pointing out that the average contribution is less than $100.

By law, each voter is limited to a total of $4,600 - $2,300 for the primary and $2,300 for the general election.

Not many grassroots folks can afford to give the max (to say nothing of the less restrictive soft money contributions to committees and outside political organizations other than the candidate’s).

Obama’s most recent report to the Federal Election Commission, posted Oct. 14 and listing individual contributions in July, included nearly 3,000 people who had reached the federal limit that month.

Among them were financial players such as venture capitalist Alan J. Patricof of Apax Partners, Blair Effron of Centerview Partners and Blackrock chairman Larry Fink.

Also reaching the max in July were entertainment figures such as TV producer Norman Lear, actresses Susan Sarandon and Marg Helgenberger, and Adrian Pasdar, star of the TV show Heroes and husband of the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines.

Other donors who would fall well outside the common-man category included:

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt III, a professor at Sarah Lawrence and grandson of the president
  • Terry MCAuliffe, former finance chair for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, and Clinton bundlers Declan Kelly, Jay Eisenhofer and Ellen Chesler
  • Christie Hefner, daughter of Hugh and head of Playboy Enterprises
  • Revlon chairman Ronald Perelman
  • Designer Donna Karan and retail titan Lillian Vernon
  • Gates Foundation CEO Jeffrey S. Raikes
  • Robert Soros, son of George
  • Justin Rockefeller, son of Sen. Jay Rockefeller
  • Music producer Phil Spector, who is accused of second-degree murder in the 2003 death of actress Lana Clarkson. Spector’s Spector’s first trial ended last year with jurors deadlocked 10-2, with a majority favoring conviction. Jury selection in a second trial is scheduled to begin today.

Obama’s money edge over John McCain is glaringly obvious in the two campaigns’ advertising efforts. The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama last week spent almost $39 million on TV ads, more than three times the amount spent by the McCain campaign.

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