Skip to comments.Dough-Faced -- Liberal fat cats wimp out.
Posted on 06/22/2012 6:07:19 AM PDT by Second Amendment First
IN EARLY JUNE, a small group of Barack Obama's top fund-raisers gathered for an urgent meeting in a bar on Chicago's Michigan Avenue. They had been summoned to town for a briefing from campaign manager Jim Messina to the several dozen moneyed men and women who make up Obama's finance committee. But, in a classic example of Citizens United-era subterfuge, a handful of the attendees slipped away from the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel in the South Loop and headed to the bar. Over drinks, they met with Bill Burton and Paul Begala, leaders of the super PAC that is supporting Obama, Priorities USA Action, which is forbidden by law from coordinating with the campaign. Burton and Begala pleaded for help. They said, Don't you know some billionaires you can send us to?" says one of the finance committee members. I tried to think of a couple.
With every passing week, Democratic insiders are becoming more and more panicked that, by November, their Republican opponents will have buried them under a mountain of money. After raising only $10.6 million through April, Priorities has picked up the pace somewhat, raising more than $9 million since. But the GOP money machinethat is, American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove; Americans for Prosperity, the group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers; and the U.S. Chamber of Commercehas vowed to spend $1 billion combined before Election Day. Meanwhile, the Mitt Romneyaffiliated super PAC, Restore our Future, has reported more than $60 million so far, a tally that doesnt even include a recent $10 million donation from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
One might think this juggernaut would jolt Democratic donors into opening their wallets. Instead, it has prompted an outbreak of soul-searching. So, is this how far weve stooped? Is this what weve come to? Burton recalls a wealthy Chicago supporter telling him when he came calling on behalf of Priorities. It turns out that the Democrats biggest problem this cycle isnt financial, but existential.
THERE'S ONE VERY OBVIOUS reason that Democratic super PAC fund-raising is lagging, and it can be gleaned from a cursory glance at the Forbes 400. Were not as rich as they are. Its that simple, says John Morgan, a personal injury attorney from Florida whose firm gave Priorities $50,000 and whom I reached as he waited on the tarmac for a flight to the French Open. We dont have billionaires who are willing to spend ungodly sums of money, adds the fund-raiser who met with Burton and Begala in Chicago. All we can turn up are people who give $38,500the maximum donation allowed to the campaign and party committee combinedand thats to have dinner with Anna Wintour.
Affluent liberals do exist, of course, but many of those who supported Obama in 2008 have been conspicuously absent this year. Some are miffed loyalists who felt slighted early in the administration, when, as one Democratic insider put it, the White House was more of a youre with us or against us Rahm place rather than a were all in this together Obama place. There is speculation that this category includes Penny Pritzker, the billionaire Hyatt Hotels heiress who led Obamas 2008 fund-raising effort but who has only given the maximum $5,000 to Obamas campaign alone and nothing at all to Priorities.
Meanwhile, many of the Wall Street types who supported Obama last election have switched sides in a well-documented fit of pique. Democrats have been working hard to make inroads into Silicon Valley to make up for the shortfall. But so far, the political spending of tech tycoons has remained nanoscale, focused narrowly on industry issues rather than a broader engagement with electoral politics. And, although Democrats can still depend on Hollywood, most liberal Tinseltowners prefer see-and-be-seen fund-raising, like glitzy dinners with the president. (The exceptions have included the $2 million that Priorities received from Jeffrey Katzenberg and the $1 million from Bill Maher.)
That leaves a rump of wealthy do-goodersthe core of bundlers who each raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from their associates for the 2008 campaign. Their efforts, combined with the contributions of countless small donors, helped Obama set a fund-raising record. But while the dollar amount was eye-popping, the breadth of the donors gave it an egalitarian sheen, a crucial distinction to many of the bundlers. This wasnt Bill Clintonera soft-money spending in exchange for an overnight stay in the Lincoln Bedroom; it was that rare happy moment where principle and financial dominance converged. Obama brought in a new crop, says a former Democratic fund-raiser. The first time these people got involved in politics, when they went out and raised money, it was for their brand new guy, a brand new brand. The audience [Priorities is] selling to is people whove never been through the soft-money world.
This time around, rather than simply rally their friends and colleagues around an inspiring cause, these donors are also being asked to cut massive checks. And because many of them share Obamas disdain for the excesses of a broken campaign finance system, the exercise has prompted considerable squeamishness. One bundler who has raised more than $800,000 told me there was an aversion to the super PACs, to the whole idea of them in the bundlers circle. Its left a really bad taste in peoples mouths. I think its awful, says another bundler who has raised more than $600,000 for the campaign this year. Theres too much money being spent on these elections to begin with. Why would anyone want to give $5 million to a super PAC to elect a president? Its incomprehensible. There are a lot of other things you can give your money to. Such as? Hospitals and investigative journalism, offered the bundler.
Another donor who had contributed a six-figure sum to Priorities was already experiencing serious buyers remorse. Im very much against people who give; everyone who gives to it has made a mistake, lamented the donor. I should not have given [the money] I gave. I asked whether the stratospheric sums being raised by Republicans required wealthy Democrats to set aside these sorts of qualms. After all, Obama himself adopted this logic when he grudgingly endorsed Priorities efforts in February. I understand the argument, that the bad guys are using this. But its a question of moral standing, the donor explained. We should have said, This is bad for America, and we should have appealed to the American people. . . . Our side gave into panic for short-term gain. The fund-raiser who met with Burton and Begala in Chicago essentially agreed: With the benefit of hindsight, they should have said no to going [the super PAC] routeits disgusting. I think theyre shocked at how unsuccessful theyve been.
To be sure, not all Democratic donors are so agonized. John Law, director of a California real estate firm, sent $100,000 to Priorities late last year. After doing so, Burton was like my new best friend, Law jokes, because no one else was giving. Law is no fan of super PACs either, but for him the calculation was an easy one. I want the president to win, he says. Its that simple. Unfortunately, Law is a mere mortal by super PAC standards. Im not a multi-billionaire, he says. A hundred grand is a sizable contribution for me. I cant write a million-dollar check.
There are a tiny number of liberals capable of single-handedly reversing Priorities lackluster fortunes. But financier George Soros has shown no signs of supporting Priorities; his adviser Michael Vachon told me that this year his boss was more focused on Europe. Meanwhile, Progressive Insurance chairman Peter Lewis, who gave $25 million in 2004, is currently concentrating on marijuana-law reform, and his adviser Jennifer Frutchy told me that he wont be contributing to Priorities. He finds the idea of giving ones fortune to denigrate opponents with negative advertisements rather repulsive and doesnt really want to be a part of corrupting the electoral process more than it already is.
WEALTHY LIBERALS have constructed an elaborate rationale to explain why wealthy conservatives are more willing to cut big checks. Said one top Obama campaign fund-raiser: For Republicans, if you say that God created Earth for the purpose of facilitating capitalism and how capitalists use their money will create the best outcomes for society, . . . then theyre not going to have inhibitions about spending their money that way. Plus, they add, conservative mega-donors can view their contributions as a sound investment. Since Shelly Adelson genuinely believes there shouldnt be any estate tax, one-time payments to insure against adverse outcomes are expenditures with higher economic returns than are available in traditional investment markets, says the fund-raiser.
There is some truth to this argument, but greed isnt the only motivating factor at work. Yes, hedge fund and private equity managers benefit from the Republicans preservation of the carried-interest loophole, but many big donors also genuinely believe that the president is, in the words of hedge fund manager Paul Singer (a $1 million donor to Romneys super PAC), putting the country on a course for mass poverty and degradation of freedom. We tend to entirely rationalize it, says Robert McKay, chairman of Democracy Alliance, a liberal fund-raising network. But they are ideologues and are very committed to a cause.
By and large, wealthy liberals are not zealous. Instead, they tend to get discouraged. When I pressed Frutchy on why Lewis wasnt willing to replicate his spending in past campaigns, she told me: Theres no question he thinks its extremely important to get Obama reelected. But on the other hand, he spent tens of millions dollars in the 2004 election for advertising, and that didnt work. Morgan, the Florida personal injury attorney, sounded plaintive, rather than proud, about his giving. Im about ready to say, Everything Im doing goes against my financial intereststaxes, Obamacare, he says. If these fools want to vote for these people, . . . let them have it.
Of course, Election Day is still more than four months away, and its possible that many wealthy Democrats will eventually change their minds. Michael Kempner, a public relations executive who has raised more than $700,000 for Obama this year and given $50,000 to Priorities, predicts more people will contribute to the super PAC once theyve done their share of bundling. Those who are not believers in super PACs, when it comes to crunch time, theyll be there, he says. Steve Rosenthal, who oversaw the Democrats outside-spending effort in 2004, was hopeful that a healthy fear might kick in as Election Day nears: Maybe the bell will go off over the summer, where theyll start to say, Oh shit, [Obama] can lose this thing.
But by then, it could be too late. For one thing, super PACs must reserve airtime for ads in advance; if Priorities fails to amass sufficient cash soon, it may be unable to counter the coming onslaught of Republican ads. Meanwhile, conservative groups are already unleashing attacks in must-win Obama states, such as Michigan, with little response from the other side. For folks to think the president can will his way to victory is wrong, Burton told me. If the president and the people supporting him dont have the resources they need, the president will lose.
This article appears in the July 12, 2012 issue of the magazine.
Why would anyone want their name associated with this President? This whole administration is an embarrassment.
“Why would anyone want their name associated with this President? This whole administration is an embarrassment.”
I agree. And a lot of these true believers have now seen what this idiot has done to the economic fortunes of this country in the last 3+ years and much of it has affected them directly.
” Morgan, the Florida personal injury attorney, sounded plaintive, rather than proud, about his (Obama) giving. Im about ready to say, Everything Im doing goes against my financial intereststaxes, Obamacare, he says. If these fools want to vote for these people, . . . let them have it.
A lot of big money got hoodwinked by the hope and change bs. They figured that it would be good advertising to have voted in the first Mulatto president, and maybe get a return on there investment in the “New America”... WRONGO...
Who's fortune? "Your" fortune is the states fortune, comrade 1%er. Especially if you're white.
Its the libs like soros and the idiot owner of Progressive Ins. they have a very liberal agenda and don’t give a hoot who the dem prez is so long as he pushes their agenda.
Besides, even though they are wrong they ain’t totally stupid and can see that nobama was akin to a fart in a spacesuit. I think they also see the possibility of his turning against even them to save his own sorry butt and that he is not just liberal, but insistantly wasteful.
Price Club/Costco donated $225K, 99% went to Democrats
Rite Aid donated $517K, 60% went to Democrats
Magla Products ( Stanley tools, Mr. Clean) donated $22K, 100% went to Democrats
Warnaco (undergarments) donated $55K, 73% went to Democrats
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia donated $153K, 99% went to Democrats
Estee Lauder donated $448K, 95% went to Democrats
Guess, Inc. donated $145K, 98% went to Democrats
Calvin Klein donated $78K, 100% went to Democrats
Liz Claiborne, Inc. donated $34K, 97% went to Democrats
Levi Straus donated $26K, 99% went to Democrats
WalMart donated $467K, 97% went to Republicans
K-Mart donated $524K, 86% went to Republicans
Home Depot donated $298K,
Target donated $226K, 70% went to Republicans
3M Co. donated $281K, 87% went to Republicans
Hallmark Cards donated $319K, 92% went to Republicans
Amway donated $391K, 100% Republicans
Kohler Co. (plumbing fixtures) donated $283K, 100% Republicans
B.F. Goodrich (tires) donated $215K, 97% went to Republicans
Proctor & Gamble donated $243K, 79% went to Republicans
Southern Wine & Spirits donated $213K, 73% went to Democrats
Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons (incl. beverage business + considerable media interests) donated $2M+, 67% went to Democrats
Gallo Winery donated $337K, 95% went to Democrats
Coors & Budweiser donated $174K, 92% went to Republicans
Brown-Forman Corp. (Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, Bushmills, Korbel wines - as well as Lenox China , Dansk, Gorham Silver) donated $644 K -- 80% went to Republicans
Sonic Corporation donated $83K, 98% went to Democrats
Triarc Companies (Arby's, T.J. Cinnamon's, Pasta Connections) donated $112K, 96% went to Democrats
Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (chicken) donated $366K, 100% went to Republicans
Outback Steakhouse donated $641K, 95% went to Republicans
Tricon Global Restaurants (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell) donated $133K, 87% went to Republicans
Brinker International (Maggiano's, Brinker Cafe, Chili's, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, Crazymel's, Corner Baker, EatZis) donated $242K, 83% went to Republicans
Waffle House donated $279K, 100% went to Republicans
McDonald's Corp. donated $197K, 86% went to Republicans
Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Smokey Bones, Bahama Breeze) donated $121K, 89% went to Republicans
Heinz Republicans $64,000 Democrats $21,300!!!!! John Kerry's wife's company!!!
Traveling and / or Dining
Hyatt Corporation donated $187K of which 80% went to Democrats
Marriott International $323K, 81% went to Republicans
Holiday Inns donated $38K, 71% went to Republicans
Home Depot donated $298K, 89% went to Republicans
And: Warnaco (undergarments) donated $55K, 73% went to Democrats
I think Warnaco is the corporate name for the Warner's brand.
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