Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama paid a German company nearly $700,000 for staging, sound and lighting services at the time he delivered a speech this past summer in Berlin and declared himself a "citizen" of both the U.S. and the world.
Billed as a highlight of Mr. Obama's July trip to Europe, the speech -- delivered before hundreds of thousands of people in front of the historic Victory Column in Tiergarten -- was organized by the Berlin-based company Mediapool, opening much like a rock concert, with warm-up performances from the band Reamonn and reggae singer Patrice.
The German company, whose Web page says it specializes in theater and event management, is listed as a disbursement recipient on Mr. Obama's most recent campaign expenditures report, filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.
The company prominently displays pictures of the Obama speech and rally on its marketing pages and lists the event at the top of its projects page.
The company was paid $667,082 by the Obama campaign in three disbursements in July and August, according to the FEC records. The campaign also paid $9,018 to the limousine service Bero Berlin, the records show.
The disclosures come at a time of giant campaign budgets and massive spending by both Democrats and Republicans.
Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin's maverick image as a moose-hunting "hockey mom" took a hit with disclosures that the Republican National Committee had spent $75,062 at high-end department store Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis and $41,850 in St. Louis in early September on her wardrobe, along with $4,100 for makeup and hair consulting. About one-third of the Alaska governor's purchased clothes have since been returned.
At the time of the wardrobe disclosures, Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro noted that neither the campaign nor the Democratic National Committee had paid for the wardrobes of Michelle or Barack Obama.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said it "should come as no surprise" that the events Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain have participated in over the past two years cost a lot of money to produce.
"But given that the executive editor of The Washington Times attacked our campaign this morning with talking points ripped from our opponent's playbook, we doubt that it will investigate the hundreds of thousands of dollars the McCain campaign spent on fair complexes, opera houses, clubs, aquariums and casinos around the country," he said.
Mr. LaBolt's comments were in response to a statement Friday by Executive Editor John Solomon after The Times was kicked off Mr. Obama's press plane in the final days of the election.
"This feels like the journalistic equivalent of redistributing the wealth," Mr. Solomon's statement said. "We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars covering Senator Obama's campaign, traveling on his plane, and taking our turn in the reporters' pool, only to have our seat given away to someone else in the last days of the campaign."
Also dropped were the New York Post and Dallas Morning News. All three newspapers have endorsed Mr. McCain.
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers, speaking on the Berlin expenditures, said, "Clearly, being the biggest celebrity in the world doesn't come cheap."
During the Berlin speech, Mr. Obama spoke repeatedly of the things "we" must do on terrorism, the environment and other global issues. The speech was filled with references to politics, from acknowledging American shortcomings to urging Germany to recommit to NATO success in Afghanistan.
"I speak to you not as a candidate for president, but as ... a proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world," he told the crowd, which had gathered not far from where the Berlin Wall once divided the city.
Officials estimated that the crowd was one of the largest in Berlin's history. Estimates ranged from the campaign's guess of 200,000 to as many as 500,000 from the German Embassy in Washington.
The Obama campaign carefully crafted the event, which was helped by perfect weather, and said the footage might be seen in a political ad. Obama fans distributed a photo of the massive crowd next to a photo of a remarkably similar crowd at the 1963 March on Washington.
The reception from the Berlin crowd was as rapturous as the campaign could have hoped. During the speech, one fan held a sign reading, "Barack for Kanzler," the German word for "chancellor," and dozens of Europeans in the crowd said they could not wait to see President Bush leave office.
About 700 Berlin police officers reportedly were assigned to the event, which also needed a larger-than-usual force of U.S. Secret Service agents.
Mr. Obama received raucous applause for saying the future meant "finally bringing this war to a close" in Iraq, but the loudest cheers erupted when he talked about climate change and railed against genocide.
For hours before Mr. Obama arrived, attendees listened to live reggae, drank beer and munched on bratwurst and steak sandwiches. Many in the crowd sported black-and-white Obama T-shirts with the slogan, "I want you to stop climate change."
Jerry Seper is the investigative editor for The Washington Times.
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