Fighting Fund-Raising Excess, But Raising Lots

Barack Obama may be looking to free presidential campaigns from their “dependence on private fund-raising,” but as his supporters can attest, that hasn’t slowed his aggressive pursuit of influential contributors and bundlers in New York and elsewhere.

At the first of his two donor events in the city last week, held at the East 66th Street apartment of hedge fund chairman James Torrey, Obama drew 34 guests to listen to his pitch over a pousson chicken dinner. The result, according to the host, was a room full of wealthy converts to the cause and a lot of money for the campaign.

“To say that people were impressed would be an understatement. It was a successful night in the hundreds of thousands,” Torrey said.

According to Torrey, Obama answered questions and talked about his life story. “He talked about if he was ready. I think he was the first one to say that this has happened kind of rapidly, he thought he would not be thinking about this in the middle of his first term as Senator.”

After dinner, Obama went across town for a reception and fund-raiser at the home of Peter Herbst and Ann Colin Herbst on West End Avenue. According to a guest at the reception, Obama stayed for about 45 minutes as a mostly young crowd of about 50 people signed checks for $2,300. As pizzas and appetizers were passed around, Obama gave a speech about the “common good.” When one guest asked what he meant by that, Obama answered by using his experience in rural South Illinois, where people’s common interests included making a living and providing healthcare for children.

“People liked him. He’s an outsider,” said the guest. “I heard they raised a lot of money.”

–Jason Horowitz