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U.S. election fundraising frenzy at full tilt

U.S. President Barack Obama talks at a fundraiser in Los Angeles, June 6, 2012.

Larry Downing/Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama could not find time to campaign for the Democratic candidate trying to unseat Wisconsin's Republican governor in the state's recent recall election because he has a "lot of responsibilities."

And few of them occupy as much of his time these days as fundraising – including a celebrity-laden dinner this week at the Manhattan home of Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

Before that, Mr. Obama is set to attend no fewer than six fundraisers in Baltimore and Philadelphia on Tuesday that are expected to add (U.S.)$3.6-million to his campaign war chest. Two of the events are intimate affairs – 15 people will attend one in Baltimore, 25 will join the President in Philly – with a ticket price of $40,000 per person.

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Including Tuesday's events, Mr. Obama will have spent nine of the past 27 week days raising money for his own re-election bid and the Democratic National Committee, which will spend the money both on his behalf and the party's congressional candidates.

Since Mr. Obama officially announced his plan to seek re-election 14 months ago, he has attended some 160 fundraisers (including Tuesday's sextet), apparently setting a record for an incumbent president. By this time in George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, he had attended only half as many fundraisers.

It is little wonder the 2012 presidential race will be the most expensive in history. Not only is Mr. Obama expected to spend at least as much as the $750-million his campaign disbursed in 2008, Republican Mitt Romney is aiming to match or exceed that amount.

In 2008, GOP nominee John McCain spent $333-million on his presidential bid. Because he accepted public financing, he faced a cap on expenditures.

Neither candidate this year faces a limit on spending and, combined with the estimated $1-billion outside groups are expected to spend on the race, this presidential contest could cost about $2.5 billion.

Mr. Obama had been expected to have a financial advantage over Mr. Romney, given the latter's protracted bid to win the GOP nomination, which prevented him from accepting direct donations for the presidential race until only recently.

But Mr. Romney and the Republican National Committee significantly outraised Mr. Obama and the DNC in May, taking in nearly $77-million compared to Mr. Obama's $60-million. It marked the first month the Obama team had raised less money than that of its principle rival since 2007.

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It also came despite the May 10 mother-of-all-fundraisers to benefit Mr. Obama held by actor George Clooney at his Los Angeles home. With an estimated $15-million take, it is considered to have been the single most lucrative fundraising event in U.S. campaign history.

Celebrities will also be swarming around the Obama fundraiser hosted this week in Manhattan by Vogue's Anna Wintour and actress Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex in the City fame. Ms. Wintour starred in a recent web video touting the June 14 event, sparking a retaliatory spoof from the RNC.

Ms.Wintour is already one of Mr. Obama's most prolific "bundlers" – über-connected fundraisers who call on friends and associates to ante up for a candidate – sparking s peculation that she is angling to be rewarded for her efforts with an ambassadorship.

But the British-born fashion editor, who is an American citizen, has denied any interest in becoming the next U.S. ambassador to her native country.

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About the Author

Columnist Konrad Yakabuski writes on politics, policy and business for The Globe and Mail’s Comment section and Report on Business. More


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