Barack Obama’s campaign seems to have accomplished two things in the days leading up to the Super Tuesday primaries. It positioned him to battle Hillary Clinton to an electoral stalemate. It also further weakened the declining position of the super-duper Democratic bundler.
Not that they still don’t impressively roam the political earth—at Hillary Clinton’s “victory” party last night at the Manhattan Center Studios, some of her most loyal and successful fund-raisers were there wearing campaign buttons – but they simply can no longer compete, at least in current circumstances, with the millions of dollars raised by small donors on the Internet.
“The biggest thing from the campaign perspective is all the money that is raised by the people actively trying to raise it is dwarfed by orders of magnitude by the amount that is raised on the Internet,” said Obama supporter Orin Kramer, a private equity investor and one of the big names in New York-area fund-raising.”
The incredible financial solvency of Obama’s campaign has shaken the city’s most exclusive zip codes, where the super donors and bundlers of Park and Fifth Avenues have long been among the most coveted supporters of any candidate looking to wage a serious and viable campaign.
Early in the race, Clinton rounded up an impressive number of the city’s most sought after contributors. And yet it is eminently possible that Obama, who brought in $32 million in January alone, has out-raised her.
It is Obama’s supporters, naturally, who have been the more eager to discuss what they describe as a major shift away from big bundling in the way campaigns are funded.
“The pie has gotten bigger,” said James Rubin, calling Obama’s $32 million in a month “preposterous.”
“More people are involved, and I think that necessarily dilutes the impact of any individual. Which is probably a good thing.” (Rubin’s father, former Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, is supporting Hillary.)
When Kramer, a veteran of Democratic Party fund-raising and former official in the Carter administration, went with Obama it was treated as big news.
He insists it shouldn’t have been.
He noted that while the campaign had been successful in raising money the old way, adopting donors orphaned by John Edwards and Chris Dodd having dropped out of the race and lining up checks from Wall Street, it paled in comparison to the money brought in online.
The Internet money accounted for 85 percent of the overall cash the campaign had raised.
“If you said, ‘Orin, what’s happening here that most affects money flow has nothing to do with anything you do,’ I would say, ‘that’s correct.’”
The era of the bundler, like the rulers from some political Cretaceous Period, he said, was drawing to a close: “These really are my friends, but you basically say, well if I went out and raised $200,000, you’d say, gee that’s really nice.’ It is not a material number relative to what Barack Obama raises a day. If I come in with a new $200,000 this morning, you’d say, ‘Great, you’re the biggest guy in the country, but the truth is we have raised $200,000 in the morning from people you have never met.’”