The 1,000,000 Donor Barrier
To generate enthusiasm for President Obama’s reelection campaign for this reporting cycle, campaign manager Jim Messina touted that their campaign effort had brought in nearly a million individual donors so far.
Were there really a million donors? Lets see for ourselves. The pundits just accept that figure without question.
The Million Donor Hype
A million donors was splashed all over the news both on TV and in newspapers.
Just prior to the October 15th FEC reporting deadline, Messina proudly sent an email to Obama supporters saying there were 982,967 individual donors as of the end of the FEC’s September 30th, 2011 reporting deadline.
Messina was so proud of that number that he made it the title of the email!
After the FEC report was released the campaign came out with numerous other email challenging supporters to keep making donations so that they, too, could be among the first million donors to President Obama’s reelection.
At the official reelection campaign web site – www.barackobama.com – a big counter at the top clicks off each new donor in real time as they come in.
Yesterday, in a blizzard of unselfish giving, Barack Obama’s total number of individual donors blasted through the coveted 1,000,000 donor barrier!
Or did it? After all, we only have the campaign’s word for it.
Fortunately, there is a way to check up on these guys!
A Little Thing Called The FEC
Over the years federal election laws have been passed to limit the amount of individual and corporate donations and other stuff like that to try and prevent election campaign fraud.
To insure that campaigns play by the rules the FEC, Federal Elections Commission, was created in 1975. It’s purpose is to validate that politicians aren’t cheating. That is the idea, anyway. It doesn’t work, but that is the subject for another article.
You can learn all sorts of neat stuff there.
The FEC accepts reporting of a list of all of a campaign’s donors… complete with who made the donation, how many times they donated, how much they donated each time, and when they made the donations along with other demographic information.
That is perfect for a grassroots campaign like President Obama’s boasting of a million donors.
The Obama campaign has submit such a list.
The good news is that list is available online!
Not each and every individual donation has to be itemized for the FEC by the Obama Campaign. There are itemized donations and there are unitemized donations.
According to FEC records, the Obama campaign has reported 126,808 total itemized individual donations for 2012 so far. That is all inclusive as of September 30th, 2011.
For those keeping count, that isn’t anywhere near the 982,967 Messina claimed in his email.
No doubt its true that the number of “unitemized” individual donors to the Obama campaign is very large. How large we will never really know.
We can tell that this itemized list is far from complete because the total number of small donations, $25 or less, is small. The average donation on the itemized list is $380.
The FEC list is pretty comprehensive, though. Some of those individual donations are as little as 40 cents!
1,179 of those donations on the FEC list aren’t donations at all, but rather are refunds of donations.
One refund was one of those $30,800-a-plate donations allowed at big fundraiser dinners. Outside those dinners the largest individual donation allowed by law is $5,000.
You will have to look up Cynthia C. Murphy of Little Rock, Arkansas to ask her why she asked for her donation back.
Donors vs. Donations
The number of individual donors is not equal to the number of individual donations. The number of donors is less than the number of donations.
For example, Tara Hunsucker (No, that is not made up) of Salem, Massachusetts has made 74 individual donations to the Obama campaign so far. All were made between June 21st and June 27th of this year.
63 individual donations were $5 each. 9 donations were for $50 each. One donation was for $10, and one large donation was for $500.
She must be an enthusiastic Obama supporter. $1,275 donated is a big chunk of change for a lowly help desk tech at Intersystems Corporation. Hmmm?
The point is that the 126,808 total donations on the itemized FEC list far exceeds the total number of donors. Scanning the list in alphabetic order shows that most folks have made two or more donations.
A Fair Assumption
It is likely that many unitemized donors contributed more than one unitemized donation to the campaign as well.
Given that most itemized donors made two or more donations then the total number of itemized donors is probably closer to 50,000 donors than it is the 126,808 total donations reported to the FEC.
That said, the number displayed on the big ticker is probably showing the total number of DONATIONS and not the total number of DONORS.
There have not been a million donors to the Obama campaign as claimed by Jim Messina.
The facts as we know them support a conclusion that the overly hyped and widely reported claim of a million donors is a serious over-exaggeration. For the Obama Campaign its a necessary hype fundamental to its success.
For reasons of its own, the Obama Campaign has chose to attempt to use the same grassroots campaign style that propelled Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008.
The problem with that is its impossible to generate grassroots enthusiasm for an unopposed incumbent who is becoming increasingly unpopular and who is losing the support of independents in droves.
It didn’t work when it was tried in the 2010 mid-terms and it won’t work now. What are these guys thinking?
The Obama Campaign is committed to a populist grassroots campaign that can’t possibly work. Yet they refuse to give it up.
Therefore, through hype, they have to try to convince voters that their grassroots campaign is working when its not… hence the million donor claim.
Given President Obama’s dismal poll numbers it distorts reality that some 45,000 new donors have contributed to the Obama campaign in just the last couple days as displayed on the big ticker.
However, the Obama Campaign is still formidable. The Obama money machine is big and getting bigger. There is no organization even close to his.
The number of big money “bundlers” is up from 244 last quarter to 356 this quarter. The number “bundling” more than $200,ooo in donations is more than double last quarter.
Yet total donations are down. Last quarter the Obama campaign raked in $47 million. This quarter it brought in $42 million.
All other Democrats last quarter raked in $38 million. This quarter they brought in only $28 million.
Even more disturbing is Republicans have caught up and passed the Obama juggernaut according the the latest FEC reporting figures.
President Obama and all Democrats have plenty to be worried about.
When Democrats have to start depending on over-hyped, exaggerated campaign donor numbers to get reelected things are not looking good for 2012.