Obama Raised $104 Million Toward Election's Close

Barack Obama's presidential campaign raised $104 million in the weeks around Election Day, a grand finale to a successful bid that shattered fundraising records.

Overall, Obama raised nearly $750 million during his odyssey to the presidency, and his spending in the eight weeks before the election vastly outpaced that of his Republican rival John McCain, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. The reporting period covered Oct. 15-Nov. 24.

The campaign said more than 1 million contributors donated during the period, more than half for the first time. Throughout the campaign, more than 3.95 million contributors gave to the eventual president-elect, his campaign said.

Obama's fundraising sum was more than the combined total of the two major parties' nominees four years ago. George W. Bush and John Kerry pulled in a total of $653 million in the 2004 primary and general election campaigns, including federal public financing money.

The final numbers underscore how pivotal the two candidates' strategies were for funding their general election campaigns: McCain accepted $84 million in taxpayer money through the public financing system; Obama gambled that he could raise far more from private money.

The two campaigns spent identical amounts in June, $25.6 million each. But from there the numbers diverged widely, September and October when the Obama financial juggernaut swamped McCain. By the end, the Democrat was outspending his rival four to one.

Also on Thursday, the Republican National Committee was expected to report spending $30,000 on accessories for McCain running mate Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska. The RNC reported in October that it had spent nearly $150,000 on Palin for clothes and accessories. A party spokesman said Thursday that the expenditures were directed by the McCain campaign and that the garments have been returned to the party.

"The accessories used by Governor Palin and represented in the Republican National Committee's filings both in October and December with the Federal Election Commission were the result of coordinated expenditures at the campaign's direction," the spokesman, Alex Conant, said. "Accessories have been returned, inventoried, and will be appropriately dispersed to various charities."

In his Oct. 15-Nov. 24 report, McCain spent a mere $26 million to Obama's $136 million. While McCain was limited to spending $84 million from September on, Obama spent $315 million during the same period. McCain tried to narrow that yawning gap with help from the Republican Party, which pumped in millions to promote his candidacy. The party spent $53 million alone on independent ads targeting Obama.

Obama ended with a cash balance of nearly $30 million. He still owed vendors nearly $600,000.

Obama's prowess at attracting money was one of his campaign's defining characteristics. After initially vowing to take public funds if McCain did, Obama became the first presidential candidate since the campaign finance reforms of the 1970s to raise private donations during the general election.

What distinguished him from his successful predecessors was his ability to motivate donors to give repeatedly, said Michael Malbin, director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, which studies money in politics.

"Obama persuaded an unusually large number of people to give more than once," Malbin said Thursday at an election law conference. The institute's research showed that 212,000 people were repeat givers who donated a total of $200 or more, averaging $490 each. Obama had a total of 580,000 individual donors as of mid-October, the most recent data included in the study.

Overall, the institute found that Obama collected about 26 percent of his total haul from people who gave less than $200 — about the same as President George W. Bush did in his 2004 campaign, but less than Democrat Howard Dean's small-donor take of 38 percent in his unsuccessful primary bid that year.

And like other campaigns, Obama's relied for nearly half of its fundraising on big donors, those who gave $1,000 or more, a finding that "should make one think twice before describing small donors as the financial engine of the Obama campaign," the institute reported.

McCain's biggest expense in the final stretch was for television. But he only spent $9.5 million during the period, compared with $19 million during the first two weeks of October. In a tactical shift, McCain devoted nearly $4.5 million to phone messages as Election Day approached.

He reported nearly $5 million in debts and nearly $1.5 million in money owed to his campaign committee.


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