- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2012

President Obama raised more than $56 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 for his re-election bid, $24 million of which came through a channel that allowed him to raise money from wealthy donors in chunks of more than $30,000.

At least $9 million of that haul came from just 88 newly enlisted wealthy power brokers, which the campaign has attempted to brand as “volunteer fundraisers.”

About one-third of the $56 million came from people giving $200 or less. Small donors make up one-fifth of the Obama re-election money raised in 2011.

While the Obama campaign consistently has touted its grass-roots, small-donor fundraising appeal, the reach of the tentacles of a few hundred people, largely Hollywood moguls, Wall Street financiers and Chicago establishment figures, is astonishing.

Of $120 million raised in 2011, 445 bundlers gathered at least $75 million for Mr. Obama, and likely much more.

Even as campaign officials said 98 percent of its donations were less than $250, more than 100,000 people donated between $5,000 and $35,000, totaling $16 million. Meanwhile, contributions under $250 amounted to $24 million. Seven times more people gave more than $5,000 than gave between $250 and $1,000.

Nine people and couples collected more than half a million dollars each in three months by hosting parties and phoning wealthy friends. Sixty-one gathered half a million a piece last year.

Among the new bundlers are Marilyn Katz, a Chicago public relations consultant who was a member of the radical Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the 1960s; Thomas McLarty, a one-time chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton; Eva Longoria, an actress who appears on “Desperate Housewives”; and Bettylu Saltzman, an heiress and longtime supporter of Mr. Obama.

In the District, real estate developer R. Donahue Peebles, who contemplated a bid for mayor, raised between $100,000 and $200,000.

Mr. Obama raised more than $8 million of his funds in the final days of the quarter, a hearty response to pleas by campaign operatives to help boost the quarterly totals that show the president still has the ability to motivate a wide base.

He has also firmly fastened technology workers into a reliable money spigot. Where lawyers and energy executives have long dominated campaign contributions, Mr. Obama has found thousands of computer programmers and Internet executives who are enthusiastic, liberal [-] and wealthy. Among his top contributors are employees of Google.

Candidates are not required to report such fundraisers, except when they are lobbyists, but Mr. Obama has elected to do so voluntarily. All Republican candidates have refused to say who is gathering money for their campaigns, except Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who has said he has no bundlers.

But according to the required overall campaign reports released Tuesday evening, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney outraised chief rival Newt Gingrich $24 million to $10 million.

More striking is the difference in resources moving forward: The former U.S. House speaker had $1 million in debts and only $2 million in cash on Dec. 31, compared with $20 million for Mr. Romney. Former Sen. Rick Santorum raised less than $1 million and had less than $300,000 on hand.

More than $1 million of Mr. Romney´s funds in the third quarter were raised by 14 bundlers who also are lobbyists, thus must be disclosed.

The risk of relying on only a segment of the population to fuel a campaign was illustrated by the carcasses of several candidacies laid bare Tuesday.

Sixty percent of contributions to Texas Gov. Rick Perry came from his home state, leaving him with nearly $4 million in leftover campaign funds at year’s end but without the nationwide support necessary to attain the Republican nomination.

Money backing former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. came even closer to home: Two-thirds of the money behind the super PAC that was the chief advertiser for Mr. Huntsman came from his father.

Both candidates have since dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination.

Whatever its source, Mr. Obama will distribute his campaign money far and wide. The filings detail an operation spanning the country, with a $5 million payroll in the past three months and 430 workers across 45 states. It also spread campaign cash to Democratic Party organizations in key battleground states such as Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Chuck Neubauer contributed to this article.

• Luke Rosiak can be reached at lrosiak@washingtontimes.com.

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