Patterico's Pontifications

9/18/2008

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The FEC — Obama’s Dog Ate His Campaign Finance Report

Filed under: General — WLS @ 10:31 pm



[Posted by WLS]

Today is September 18.  The Obama campaign has not yet filed its Campaign Finance Report with the FEC for its fundraising in August.   It has until the 20th to do so. 

The options now are a Friday filing or a Saturday filing — notorious dumping grounds for news a political campaign wants to go under-reported.  Mike McCurry told the country how the Clinton White House made an art form out of the Friday afternoon “document dump.”

Lets recap the Obama campaign’s earlier filing dates of its illustrious fundraising efforts as catalogued here at thenextright.com:

Big Numbers To Report: Feb. 4, Mar. 6, and Apr. 3

Not-so-big Numbers:   May 20, June 20, July 17, and August 16.

I include the July and August reports (on June and July fundraising respectively) as disappointments for the reasons explained here and here.  The press didn’t cover them as such at the time, dazzled as they were by the “fact” that the numbers were records.  Some in the press have since caught on — like this New York Times article — to the fact that Obama has not raised money at nearly a fast enough rate to make opting out of public financing a wise decision.  

Last Sunday the Obama campaign leaked their August fundraising total out to Politico, as I noted here.  Again, they give out another “record” amount, and follow it up with great news about how much they got after Palin was named as McCain’s running mate, and how much Babs raised for them in Hollywood — but we still don’t have an actual FEC report for August.

What are we missing?  The amount that Obama and the DNC had on-hand to start September — the day McCain and the GOP had about $200 million. 

Why not?  Because I suspect it will show Obama at a huge cash disadvantage, which should trigger another round of press stories about whether Obama should have taken public financing as he promised to do.

This is not the time the Obama campaign wants to have the public reminded that he is both a hypocrite and a bad campaign strategist.

I’ll be looking for this report over the weekend, and will tell you all the things that Obama wants to keep hidden.

— WLS

39 Responses to “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The FEC — Obama’s Dog Ate His Campaign Finance Report”

  1. And the tardathon starts . . . now>>>>>

    Icy Truth (ef009a)

  2. My experience working in large private law firms suggests a reason for the last minute filing that’s both more benign and malignant: lawyers (including election law specialists) who bill by the hour will work late hours obsessively up until the last minute of the official filing deadline to make sure everything is “perfect.” Benign in that if you have a deadline, why not use all the time alloted to make sure what you submit is as polished and timely as possible; you don’t get extra points for filing something days before the deadline. Malignant in that when your client has open pockets like a huge company or national compaign, what you filed on deadline on Friday was probably pretty much ready to go on Tuesday if you had been required to submit it then and were somewhat organized, so that you grossly overcharged the client for merely marginal improvements.

    Point being, I don’t consider this a late week document dump like you see from salaried government agency employees or private industry employees who could issue statements or reports at any time so they could move on to other stuff, but instead strategically choosing to do so on the weekend to lessen impact. I see it as usual practice for lawyers used to seeing a deadline as the only time to file, not the last minute to file. Why would they file it days early, when they can massage and adjust the filing up until the last minute? They get to bill more hours and the client with the deep pockets sucks it up because it is so important that it’s worth it to pay the running meter to make sure it is as up to date and as polished as possible on the last possible day of filing.

    Aplomb (b6fba6)

  3. WLS…
    A junkyard dog with the fine senses of a bloodhound: He’ll find nugget, and won’t let go!

    And, on Monday we’ll find out whether Aplomb is being prescient, or just another political hack.

    Another Drew (c78d34)

  4. …forgot to insert an “a” between find and nugget.

    Another Drew (c78d34)

  5. Aplomb — I’m not talking about the “filing” date. I think I’ll need to rephrase some of this post to make it clear.

    The Obama campaign has publicly announced its fundraising totals far in advance of actually filing the paperwork with the FEC. I think that in every month they actually filed their report on the 20th for the very reasons you suggest.

    But when they wanted the press to know about their good news, the publicly announced it.

    Last week’s leak to the Politico was anonymous — not official. There has been nothing “on the record” from the campaign yet.

    They know the number. There is no reason to keep it hidden — unless there is.

    wls (c1b09d)

  6. He’ll find [a] nugget. . .

    Oh yeah, AD, is it just a coincidence that you use the word “nugget” in your comment of a post about Obama? What disallowed word is very similar to “nugget” and might potentially maybe quite possibly perhaps be used against Obama? Bob Herbert taught me how to be so wise in reading between the lines in comments like yours, and I am sure Andrew Sullivan would heartily approve of my comment.

    JVW (6c4300)

  7. Damn, I meant to refer to Karen Tumulty in comment #6, but I completely overlooked her.

    JVW (6c4300)

  8. Let’s see, why would I use nugget?
    Because I think he’ll find: a lump, esp. of native gold or other precious metal (Random House Coll. Dict., 1979).
    In other words, the real deal.

    Bob Herbert???
    Krugman, Doud, Herbert…
    No wonder the Times is in such trouble.

    You need to seek professional help.

    Another Drew (c78d34)

  9. AD, I’m still doing a memory flush from a speech by the NYT’s Futurist writer on Tuesday. I had to restrain myself from shouting and what else does George Soros want said on behalf of Obama?

    PCD (1df2b5)

  10. Nugget?! Seriously, nugget?! How freakin’ racist can one person be?!?!?!

    Good Allah, the racism oozes from the pores around here. Next thing you know, you will start talking about Franklin Raines being an advisor to Baracky, or his white grandmama under the back of the bus, or that Barack is a halfrican.

    JD (41e64f)

  11. This is off topic, but does anyone know what is going on with Steve Diamond’s Global Labor site globallabor.blogspot.com? It comes up with a Blogger login page now. Is he under siege?

    jeff (06fe75)

  12. He is just waiting until the DNC dumps a ton of money in on the last day like always and he can then show he earned a billion dollars.

    bio mom (a1e126)

  13. I can only comment on the timing aspect of potentially negative press releases – when I worked at a big media concern that was notorious for wanting to keep it’s in – house dirt mostly under the carpet, the rules were the following:

    – keep the announcement to one page; better yet, one paragraph;

    – release at 5:00 PM on a Friday afternoon; if possible, do it at the beginning of a long holiday weekend (Labor Day was a favorite there);

    – never issue any follow – up releases; do not accept phone calls asking for further explanation.

    Dmac (e639cc)

  14. The other thing you have to keep one eye on is the Joint Victory Fund recently opened by Obama and the DNC.

    Under FEC rules that is treated as a whole totally new donation and has individual donation limits north of 28k unlike a presidential campaign fund.

    That is the reason all the Hollywood fund raisers had that cap specified.

    August has been reported for that fund and they are taking in money via it hand over fist and last month transferred only 1.4 million to the Obama president fund.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  15. It seems like everything I’ve read shows that O’s campaign is burning money up faster than a drunken Sailor on liberty in Subic Bay (I know about that first hand…). People who have been donating in the past may be getting tired of the “Hope…Change” message and want to see the “meat and potatoes” of his economic and foreign policies.

    It doesn’t help that he’s spent the last couple of weeks going after Palin and not McCain…probably pushing the middle age, women’s vote over to McCain…

    fmfnavydoc (0dd45c)

  16. Subic Bay…
    Prescribed a lot of penecillin and salve did you doc?

    Another Drew (909672)

  17. I specialized in “bore punching”, Gamma Globulin, and Trobicin administration, Another Drew…

    fmfnavydoc (0dd45c)

  18. Ah, drunkin sailors on shore leave….
    Well, I hope they thought it was worth it?

    Another Drew (909672)

  19. WLS@#5: Last week’s leak to the Politico was anonymous — not official. There has been nothing “on the record” from the campaign yet.

    In your last post on Obama’s finances, I pointed you towards this Washington Times article (c/o AP) which discusses the $66 mil. raised by Obama and states:
    “The combined efforts of the two campaigns and the two national parties left both candidates on nearly equal financial footing with about $94 million at the end of August, according to campaign and party officials who discussed the finances on Sunday.” I don’t know if you consider that “on the record” or not? (this also answers your queston of “The amount that Obama and the DNC had on-hand to start September”

    I also made the argument then that Obama will easily raise more than $84 million through September and October (i.e. $42 mil./month) and therefore is better off financially than staying within the public system. What McCain and the RNC has or can raise is irrelevant to whether Obama’s campaign financially benefits from opting out of public funding. That should be obvious.

    Now the early speculation was that Obama and the DNC may be going into the fall campaign with the overall financial advantage because of Obama’s unprecedented fundraising and early anemic fundraising by the RNC. I concede that’s likely no longer the case. I still don’t think it will be as disparate as you attempt to paint, and the Dems. will likely be less disadvantaged than they have been in all recent presidential campaigns.

    Bob Loblaw (6d485c)

  20. I still don’t think it will be as disparate as you attempt to paint, and the Dems. will likely be less disadvantaged than they have been in all recent presidential campaigns.

    It’s hard to accept the notion of the Dems being “disadvantaged” in 2004 when spending from 527 groups tilted nearly three to one in favor of Dems over Republicans.

    JVW (6c4300)

  21. That Obama Joint Victory Fund I mentioned earlier in a little over a month and a half of operation has raised about 42.4 million bucks.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  22. “What McCain and the RNC has or can raise is irrelevant to whether Obama’s campaign financially benefits from opting out of public funding. That should be obvious.”

    Bob – That is a clueless statement. That should be obvious.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  23. JVW @#20: I wasn’t really talking about 527s, just thinking of the campaigns themselves, but that’s a fair point – I admit I found that surprising. I guess if I moved to Ohio, I might be less surprised 😉

    Bob Loblaw (6d485c)

  24. Good argument daleyrocks!

    You can lead a horse to water…

    Bob Loblaw (6d485c)

  25. Daytrader @#21: That Washington Times story I mentioned above, also notes an RNC party official talks about having approx. “$20 million in a joint fundraising committee and in special state party accounts that can be used to help McCain.”

    I assume that is something similar to the Joint Victory Fund – they probably need to set something like this up for those large fundraising events. If so, they would appear to be about even in that regard at the start of September.

    Bob Loblaw (6d485c)

  26. Good argument daleyrocks!

    You can lead a horse to water

    Bob – I’m learning from the master.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  27. Bob Loblaw — we can quibble with the numbers, and I have some quibbles with your’s. We can also wonder why there has been no formal press release from the campaign when they have done so in the past when they wanted their fundraising publicized.

    What is not debateable, however, is that Obama screwed up in opting out of public financing — with one possible caveat.

    First, he turned himself into a hypocrite from the moment he became the presumptive nominee. I don’t think that card has been played yet by the McCain campaign. That’s one you want to leave a mark just before the voters go into the booth because its so easy to explain.

    Second, the decision has him running all over the country in the final 60 days before the election with his tin cup out in order to fund the beheamoth they created. Two nights ago Obama was sipping champagne with his friends in Hollywood while McCain-Palin were meeting with voters in Ohio that might actually influence the outcome of the election. That circumstance is going to repeat itself at least a dozen more times in the weeks ahead.

    Finally, how much money did Obama spend in order to riase the $66 million he collected, because its only the net that counts. The money spent to collect the $66 million can’t now be spent on phone banking, advertising, or GOTV.

    How much money did Mccain spend to get his $84 million? Nada.

    My one caveat to the decision — it may have been the right thing to do if the Obama campaign sat down around a table in may and said to each other “How much money do we really think a Howard Dean-led DNC will be able to raise to support us over the next 5 months? If the RNC outraises the DNC by 4-1, and we take on McCain dollar for dollar in public financing, aren’t we really going to be in trouble at the end?”

    If that was their calculation — and I have read speculation suggesting that it was — then opting out was probably the right decision.

    But if that was the case it was a decision based on necessity and not based on the idea that buckets of money would come there was based on a simple email to the masses.

    WLS (26b1e5)

  28. Bob @ 25

    Nope not the same…RNC can’t give money to Mc only indirectly support the efforts via other methods.

    Public Funding laws prohibit that.

    Mc is stuck with the funding amount transferred from the Treasury and that should be enough to last to the general election.

    Mc has had to open a Compliance Fund so that any money donated on his website or new donations received now get routed to the RNC instead since he can no longer take new funding.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  29. This is wonderful news. Obama is paying the price for his own lie about seeking a pact with McCain to take public financing. There’s a moral in here somewhere.

    That said, I don’t believe in public financing of campaigns. Contributions and expenditures should be unlimited, but immediate disclosure should be mandated. This can be done over the Internet.

    Bradley J. Fikes (7a4664)

  30. I am so sure that the ‘nugget’ = racism comment was a joke. It was, right? I’m not placing too much faith in mankind, am I?

    Juan (4cdfb7)

  31. Oh, I agree there are a lot of variables involved in determining who’ll come out ahead here. Opting out of public financing was a political bullet Obama handed to McCain – but will it really have an impact with voters? Who knows? The time and costs of fundraising all factor in, but you seem to only be factoring them in for one side?

    Again from that Wash. Times story: “Even though he can raise no more money for his campaign, McCain has placed his popular running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, on an aggressive fundraising schedule for the Republican Party. She has about one fundraiser every two days for the remainder of the campaign.”

    And here’s a snippet from an April Time magazine article that’s worth reading (it gets into the distinct difference and spin off advantages of Obama’s online fundraising): “While his rivals rake in bundles of cash in small-dollar checks, McCain makes the rounds of hotel ballrooms, charming wealthy donors with traditional chicken dinners and fruit-platter mixers. In March he attended 26 fund raisers in 24 cities, raising about $15 million, with roughly one-third of it coming from the Web. Obama attended just six events in the same period, yet his campaign raised three times as much, mostly online.”

    I’m sure Obama and his team weighed everything and made a measured decision in deciding to opt out – particularly because he had to go back on his word – its one of his qualities that I like. He still would have had to attend fundraisers, only for the DNC and he would then have had less control over exactly how those funds were spent. I wouldn’t characterize it as necessity, but rather as practical self-interest.

    I’ll again suggest you check out fivethirtyeight.com where Nate Silver has spent a lot of time discussing and analysing where Obama has spent all that huge fundraising cash he had – on an enormous ground effort that is unprecedented in recent Democratic campaigns. Nate’s excellent statistical work on polling data is worth checking out for its own sake – there’s a reason Karl Rove reads and cites his work. Whether Obama’s ground game will make the difference, unfortunately we won’t find out until November.

    I do have a question for you though. What happens to money collected during the primaries that was designated for the Presidential campaign when the candidate opts in to public financing? Does it get turned over to the “public” that is now funding the campaign? Much was made of the distinction in the press during all the primary fundraising horserace coverage, but I never heard what happens if a)the candidate doesn’t win or b) they opt for public financing?

    Bob Loblaw (6d485c)

  32. Thanks for the info Daytrader, I’m even more convinced Obama made a good decision then.

    Bob Loblaw (6d485c)

  33. I am so sure that the ‘nugget’ = racism comment was a joke. It was, right? I’m not placing too much faith in mankind, am I?

    OK Juan, you caught me. I don’t use smiley emoticons or tags to indicate sarcasm or irony; I like to see whose sensibilities are on hair-trigger (dammit, that is a word that connotes racism — now I have to watch myself). Be assured, though, that I will be closely watching for any posts or comments about Obama that contain words such as “bigger,” “noggin,” “nugat,” and the like. These will immediately be reported to Bob Herbert, with a copy to Karen Tumulty.

    JVW (6c4300)

  34. Next time, JVW, I’ll just call a spade a garden implement.

    Another Drew (909672)

  35. Bob Loblaw — I think I agree with a lot of what you say in 31.

    As for the expenses tied to fundraising, while its true that McCain incurred fundraising expenses in August same as Obama, my point is that there won’t be any such expenses for the McCain campaign in Sept. or Oct., whereas Obama’s campaign is going to bear the burden in both time and money of trying to raise $200 million over 60 days. McCain’s $84 million comes free of charge, and the RNC will pay for its own fundraising expenses.

    Re his “internet” fundraising, I remain of the opinion that we are taking the word of his campaign for just how much money comes there way via the internet. They can slice and dice their numbers any way they want in terms of saying their “average” donor gives only $25. The fact remains that the bulk of his campaign funds come from $2300 contributions just like all the other candidates. The inability of his campaign to get Hillary’s $2300 contributors to give money to his campaign has been the source of their shortfall. They projected much higher contributions from her supporters — I think I read a few weeks ago they were hoping to collect $10 million a month once she dropped out, but barely collected $2 million in the first six weeks after she did so.

    Obama shouldn’t have money problems based on one stat and one stat only — given the amount he raised in the primaries, if it is true as they claimed that they did not begin asking Obama contributors for general campaign funds until late August, content to collect primary funds up to that point, then they should get a flood of $2300 checks from the contributors who maxed out early in the primary campaign and have been waiting around patiently for Obama to ask them for more.

    Those contributions will not begin to show themselves until the Sept numbers — if what Obama has been saying is true. But if it were true, there would be “no worries” in Obamaland, and there wouldn’t be any press reports of hand-wringing over dissappointing fundraising to date.

    WLS (26b1e5)

  36. Bob Loblaw,

    Here’s a US government link regarding public financing of Presidential campaigns.

    DRJ (0754ed)

  37. WLS,
    That was my point in regard to fundraising – that the RNC would still be incurring costs for fundraising as well as taxing the time of the candidates themselves; and yes, Obama & the DNC will have redundancy costs.

    While I share your scepticism of anything a politician or their campaign says (regardless of the letter after their name), is your claim about $2,300 donors an actual “fact” fact? I do agree with you that Obama has had a problem winning over Hillary’s big money supporters – at least that is the impression I get from my reading. I’ve already conceded that I don’t think Obama is currently hitting the fundraising projections they set for themselves – frankly I don’t think they are ever going to.

    I didn’t realise they had held off on general campaign fund requests. Reading that did make me consider that perhaps Hillary’s big donors are holding off to see how Obama was doing after the conventions – maybe hedging their bets to see who was leading? Maybe he’ll get better results with them if he can maintain his slight lead after the first debate? I guess we’ll all have to wait and see – at least I have hope on my side. 😀

    DRJ, thanks kindly for the link.
    It wasn’t great on the nuts and bolts (and I avoided diving into the actual legislation). McCain can use any general funds collected to pay for legal and accounting fees related to compliance costs, but I assume there are methods to funnel it over to the RNC.
    Didn’t give any answers on what Hillary had to do with any general campaign funds she collected (and I recall there being discussion of that during the primaries) so I suppose she gave it all back……hahahaha, yeah right!

    Bob Loblaw (6d485c)

  38. I imagine most might not see this response as the post has rolled off the front of the lists, but many seem to not understand the limitations of the interaction between the various funding methods under the FEC rules.

    Part of the reason Obama opted out is that even with his larger total cash donations received his amount that was able to qualify for Federal Matching Funds was LESS than McCain’s due strictly to the funding sources of the donations which did not qualify for matching funds.

    Any fundraising done by McCain and Co now goes to benefit down ticket races.

    Obama has the big cash burn rate that he is having issues trying to keep up with.

    The Joint Victory Fund and it’s limitations shows that ‘big money’ is still alive and well.

    Don’t forget that each two years I can donate well in excess of 100k to campaigns but there are many sub restrictions as to how much to candidates and pacs and other caps that have to be observed.

    Few if any have a real grasp on the ins and outs of the FEC rules.

    They are much more complex than any have even a glimmer of a concept of.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  39. WLS-

    Did Obama file today? I can’t find anything about it on Google News.

    Marty

    MartyH (268543)


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