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Buoyed by $150 Million Month, Obama Camp Spending Big

Black America Web.com, News Report, Jackie Jones Posted: Oct 21, 2008

Barack Obama is, to paraphrase an old song, in the money.

The Democratic presidential nominee raised $150 million in September, more than doubling his previous best of $67.5 million in August. So far in this campaign season, Obama has raised a remarkable $605 million.

That kind of cash makes the big push for the final weeks of the campaign just a little easier.

In addition to advertising, the Obama campaign has money to spend on get-out-the-vote efforts and funding its legal support unit, which has gone to court in several states to challenge the removal of thousands of voters from the rolls.

With his money and a favorable political wind at his back, Obama has secured his foothold in states that have voted for Democratic presidential candidates in the past. But he has also been able to expand the contest to reliably Republican states, forcing GOP rival John McCain and the Republican Party to spend their money defensively.

McCain, who is participating in the public financing system, is limited to spending about $84 million for the general election, not counting money raised by the Republican National Committee.

Politico.com reported Monday that campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters on a conference call that McCain had about $47 million left at the beginning of October, but expected to have about $150 million by months end with help from the GOP. He admitted, however, that Obama could raise as much as $250 million through October.

By opting out of the public financing system, Obama could raise money without restriction. The McCain campaign has accused Obama of reneging on a promise to accept public money.

Last November, Obama said he wanted to participate in public financing and had a plan to sit down with the Republicans and work out an agreement. Each side has accused the other of failing to negotiate in good faith.

In June, Obama announced his campaign was opting out of the public financing system because we face opponents whove become masters at gaming this broken system. John McCains campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And weve already seen that hes not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.

On Monday, the Republicans campaign sent out a memo pointing to early editorials that pounced on Obamas decision, accused him of essentially killing the system and implying he would be beholden to special interests.

But Obamas money isnt coming from fat cats. Campaign manager David Plouffe said the campaign added 632,000 new contributors in September, for a total of 3.1 million donors. The average contribution, he said, was $86.

Obama's extraordinary fundraising is bound to set a new standard in politics that could doom the taxpayer-paid system. Many Republicans have begun to second-guess McCain's decision to participate in the program.

McCain, reacting to Obama's announcement in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," raised the potential for fundraising abuses. He said Obama is "completely breaking whatever idea we had after Watergate to keep the costs and spending on campaigns under control. ... That has unleashed now in presidential campaigns a new flood of spending that will then cause a scandal, and then we will fix it again."

While McCain said he was not suggesting the Obama campaign had done anything illegal or improper, he said "history shows us where unlimited amounts of money are in political campaigns, it leads to scandal."

Some political observers say the problem isnt that Obama has raised a lot of money as much as it is that McCain didnt spend his money well.

It looks as though John McCain isnt able to raise as much money, but he also hasnt used it as wisely, said Ronald Walters, a professor of government at the University of Maryland.

Most campaigns save their money for the final 30-day push, Walters told BlackAmericaWeb.com. It doesnt look as though McCain has enough money. You saw a lot of his ads in the dead period leading up to the (RNC) convention. They hadnt even come close to the convention period, and the ads were running.

He said Obamas fundraising prowess gives the campaign far more leverage in the final days. For example, the campaign has bought half an hour of prime time television on Wednesday, Oct. 29 on the major broadcast networks so Obama can run a nationwide pitch to voters. Each network is selling time for $950,000 to $1 million, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Now that theyve raised $150 million in September, they can do even more, Walters said. I dont think he gets enough credit for having run an organization. If anyone had run an organization that raised this much money in a month, in as timely a way, they would be getting all kinds of kudos.

The McCain campaign, meanwhile, is trying to take some of the luster off of the financial good news for Obama by targeting questionable donations made to the campaign.

New discoveries from a cursory review of the listings include Edrty Eddty, who donated $250 in July 2008 and Es Esh, who gave $325 in July. Esh hailed from this unusual address: fhdfhdfh, Erial, NJ 08081 Eddty listed his, or perhaps her, employer as Poiuyttrrewe / Qwertyuio -- the letters, more or less in order, found on the top line of standard computer keyboards, The Washington Post reported.

The Obama campaign returned the money, as did the McCain campaign during the primaries when it refunded more than $1 million in contributions.

According to The Post, campaign finance experts say its not difficult for someone to donate under a pseudonym. Some contributors want to avoid future requests for money, so they use a fake name, while others do it as a prank. Brett Kappel, a Democratic campaign finance lawyer, told The Post what is different this time is the scale of the problem because of the dramatic increase in the use of fundraising on the Internet.

Plouffe pointed out that the campaign is now spending resources in West Virginia. Obama running mate Joe Biden was scheduled to campaign in Charleston, West Virginia on Friday, and the campaign has secured television advertising in the state for the next two weeks, according to ad data obtained by Associated Press. Plouffe hinted at further expansion, noting that public opinion polls show the race tightening in Georgia and North Dakota.

Associated Press contributed to this story.

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