- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas | Sen. Barack Obama raised $52 million in June and had $72 million banked for the presidential campaign, showcasing a massive donor network that the Democratic candidate can continue to tap until the Nov. 4 election.

“I know this isn’t the first time we’ve asked you for money, and it won’t be the last,” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told supporters Thursday when announcing the haul.

June was the second best month to date for the senator from Illinois. Campaign donations averaged more than $1.7 million per day during the month, when Mr. Obama wrapped up the presidential nominating contests and announced he would become the first major party candidate in history to opt out of the public financing system established in 1974.

The money allows his campaign to continue airing biographical ads in the 18 states targeted as battlegrounds and helps fund the unprecedented number of campaign offices in all 50 states. The spending pace also keeps Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, on the defensive in traditionally red states that President Bush won easily in 2004.

June was the biggest fundraising month for Mr. McCain. He raised $22 million, bringing his total to $132 million compared with Mr. Obama’s $340 million.

The Obama campaign said the average June donation was $68, far less than the $2,300 legal maximum.

Mr. Obama argues that he has created a new public financing system, attracting more grass-roots support than big-money donors and refusing money from lobbyists and political action committees.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, speaking at the Netroots Nation conference here, hailed the Obama campaign’s fundraising as true campaign finance reform.

“When your average donation … is $68, you are owned by nobody but the American people,” he said to loud applause from the 2,000 liberal activists and bloggers.

Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee have a combined $92 million cash on hand. Mr. McCain and the Republican National Committee have $96 million on hand.

Each team is sending e-mails warning of the other’s potential advantage.

Mr. Plouffe said $52 million is a “healthy number” that puts Mr. Obama in a “very strong financial position.”

“But we can’t stop now,” he wrote. “It’s going to take everything we’ve got to defeat John McCain and the Republican National Committee … [which] together still have a huge cash advantage, and we need your help to close the gap.”

“We’re facing a Republican machine with unprecedented resources at its disposal,” he wrote, in part because of “vast amounts of unregulated money being raised by shadowy outside groups.”

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis offered a similar warning in a fundraising note Thursday, while announcing the relaunch of the “McCain Aces” group that earns recognition by name on the campaign site with a contribution of $25 or more.

“I cannot stress enough that your immediate support for John McCain is more crucial than ever,” he told supporters.

“Senator Barack Obama is raising record amounts of campaign money and is aided by special interests like big labor and MoveOn.org who are set to spend hundreds of millions of dollars against John McCain,” he said. “Combined, they will spend nearly 1 billion dollars to defeat John McCain on Election Day.”

Last month, Mr. Obama turned down the $84 million available to candidates through taxpayer funds, saying the public financing system was broken.

Most of his fundraising total was given toward the Democratic primary race, even though that was effectively over at the beginning of June. Whatever primary cash remains after Mr. Obama formally accepts the nomination at the party convention in August can be rolled over into his general election fund.

His refusal to accept public funding allows the transfer and does not limit spending.

Mr. McCain plans to accept $84 million of public financing after the Republican National Convention, and must abide by the spending limits that come with the cash.

Mr. Davis has boasted in a memo that he expects a big boost from the RNC after the convention.

“This money will be ready for us to spend on day one,” he said of the public funds. “We [also] will have roughly $110 million reserved at the RNC for ground operations and other campaign activities. … The combined total leaves us $212 million to spend after our convention.”

The Associated Press estimated that Mr. Obama is spending $7.6 million on ads in 18 battleground states and Mr. McCain and the RNC combined are spending about $7.3 million per week in 11 states.

Mr. Obama’s best fundraising month was February, when he collected a r ecord-setting $55 million during his heated battle with primary rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

In June, Mr. Obama held several big-money fundraisers and started receiving support from former Clinton supporters.

This month, the campaign is asking supporters for as little as $5 to win a chance to go “Backstage with Barack” at his nomination acceptance speech at Invesco Field in Denver.

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