Rahm Emanuel to raise funds for Democratic campaigns
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a legendary fundraiser and political strategist before he won elected office, has dropped his honorary chairmanship of the Obama campaign to help raise big-dollar contributions so that Democrats can compete with what is emerging as a clear GOP fundraising advantage this election cycle, according to campaign and fundraising individuals.
Emanuel’s switch came as the Democratic National Convention was getting underway and at about the same time that Romney officials told reporters they raised $100 million for the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee in August. That would mark the third straight month the campaign announced that kind of haul.
Obama’s campaign has not yet released numbers for August, but the campaign and party has lagged behind the Republicans for months.
While Democrats gathering this week in Charlotte are enthusiastic for Obama, there is an undercurrent of concern among party leaders and strategists about the big money advantage emerging for the GOP.
It is unusual for an incumbent president to fall behind a challenger in fundraising. Until the spring, Obama officials were confident their well-oiled finance committee could remain in the lead.
While insiders say Obama expects to have enough money to compete, there is growing fear about the down ballot effect of the GOP money edge. Republicans surpassed their ambitious fundraising goals by taking advantage of new campaign finance rules and new anger among ideological and business donors.
Nearly every political cycle raises more money than the one before, but the record being set now is remarkable for several reasons. First, it marks the first presidential election year in which corporate, labor and individuals can legally provide unlimited funds to political causes. Second, it has produced a new class of mega donors, with the potential to have extraordinary influence on candidates and elected officials and policies that they set.
The flow of money to campaigns from these sources turned in to a torrent following a 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, that allowed individuals, unions and businesses to write checks of unlimited amounts to independent political groups, many of which later become known as Super PACs.
Donations to SuperPACs requires disclosure of the donor’s name. But the SuperPACs associated with both parties have set up nonprofit arms that can legally accept anonymous donations as well. This cycle has already seen a record number of pledged donations over $1 million.
Rich donors within the GOP have outstripped contributions from Democrats. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson already has spent tens of millions to help GOP candidates, for instance.
All told the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics predicts that the 2012 election will cost about $6 billion or more, compared with $5.4 billion in 2008.
Super PAC spending is expected to soar. As of July 30, the Center reported that these new groups that can spend unlimited sums have spent more than $165 million. Of that total, one pro-Romney group, Restore Our Future, has spent $55 million as of July 30.
This is a shift from four years ago. In 2008, Obama raised a record $750 million and they were credited with developing and dominating a new style of small dollar fundraising. This year, Obama’s financial advisers acknowledge they will be out raised and outspent.
According to the Center, the GOP raised a combined $101 million in July, $106 million in June and $76.8 million in May. Meanwhile, Obama and the Democrats raised about $75 million last month, and $71 million in June and $60 million in May.
A recent book by Politco reporter Glenn Thrush reported that behind the scenes Emanuel had been pushing Democrats to set up a Super PAC to compete with the GOP. His initial efforts were rebuffed, however, by Democrats who preferred to hold the “high ground” of campaigning for president without relying on megadonors.