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Hamstrung by corporate-money reversal, Obama group raises $4.8M

- The Washington Times - Friday, April 12, 2013

President Obama's presidential campaign's newest incarnation, a nonprofit intended to mobilize volunteers and use their donations to prop up his bully pulpit, raised a paltry $4.8 million, constrained by its reversal under criticism of its intention to collect money from corporations.

Only 25 people gave $10,000 or more.

But the group is still reaping funds from the same big-money "bundlers" who collected massive swaths of Mr. Obama's re-election funds, with more than 25 bundlers who collected at least $8 million to his 2012 election chipping in, including 6 who gave $10,000 or more.

The bundlers-turned-nonprofit donors are mostly in the financial and legal industries, such as Imaad Zuberi of Diamond Pacific Capital. William H. Freeman, Wayne Jordan and Michael Kempner have bolstered their places among the elite class of Democratic donors, having given $50,000 to the nonprofit on top of raising at least half a million dollars each for the 2012 election.

"109,582 supporters stepped up and invested in what we're building together — from the grassroots up," Jon Carson, executive director of Organizing for America, said in an email to supporters Friday. "Here's something else I'm proud of: Our average donation is just $44."

As a nonprofit similar to the Koch-brothers backed Americans for Prosperity, the group is legally allowed to collect checks of any size from individuals, corporations, unions and other groups, and is not required to disclose its donors.

It first said it would accept donations from corporations, but backed down after fierce allegations of hypocrisy and the potential for influence-peddling, which were only partially mitigated by the reversal.

"People — especially the special interests on the other side — are taking notice of what this grassroots-funded organization is up to. We're digging in, we're speaking out, and we're amplifying the voices of ordinary Americans on some of the biggest issues of our time," Mr. Carson said.

Last month Mr. Obama spoke to the advocacy group's "founders' summit," a two-day event for donors and supporters at a Washington hotel, where donors paid $50,000 to hear from the president, along with Jim Messina, OFA's chairman and former Obama campaign manager, and Mr. Carson, the group's executive director who formerly served as the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

The group did take gifts from a few Democratic groups and organizations, such as the National Education Association, the teachers' union whose headquarters the group worked out of for a time. The union gave $15,466.

Philip Munger, a major Democratic donor, son of a Warren Buffett business partner and instructor at the New School in New York City, was the group's top donor at $250,000, followed by John Goldman, the former Chairman of Willis Insurance Services of California, Inc. and Nicola M. Miner of San Francisco's Quotidian Gallery Corporation.

The nonprofit has not yet run any television ads in the country's major media markets, according to The Washington Times' political advertising tracker, but it has purchased online ads promoting gun control.

A list of major donors, by city and amount given:

Philip Munger, New York, $250,000

John Goldman, Atherton, Calif., $125,000

Nicola M. Miner, San Francisco, $125,000

Orin S. Kramer, Englewood, N.J., $75,000

Ryan Smith, Salt Lake City, $50,875

Anthony P. Crabb, Healdsburg, Calif., $50,000

Barbara Grasseschi, Healdsburg, Calif., $50,000

S. Donald Sussman, Portland, Maine, $50,000

Andrew Tobias, New York, $50,000

Wayne Jordan, Oakland, Calif., $50,000

John Morgan, Orlando, Fla., $50,000

William H. Freeman, Nashville, Tenn., $50,000

Michael Kempner, East Rutherford, N.J., $50,000

Imaad Zuberi, El Monte, Calif., $50,000

Charles H. Murphy III, Little Rock, Ark., $50,000

Laura Debonis, Boston, $50,000

Ercument Tokat, Clifton, N.J., $40,000

Frank White Jr., Washington, D.C., $30,000

Prakazrel Michel, Beverly Hills, Calif., $20,000

National Education Association, Washington, D.C., $15,466

Abdulhadi Yildirim, Clifton, N.J., $10,000

Naomi D. Aberly, Dallas, $10,000

Erdal Durmaz, Bloomfield, N.J., $10,000

Richard Harpootlian, Columbia, S.C., $10,000

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