October 21st, 2008
02:15 PM ET
10 years ago

GOP tries to pressure Obama over small donors

A crowd estimated at 100,000 turned out for Sen. Obama's recent rally in St. Louis. Obama's campaign has more than three million individual donors.

A crowd estimated at 100,000 turned out for Sen. Obama's recent rally in St. Louis. Obama's campaign has more than three million individual donors.

(CNN) – Republicans are looking to turn Sen. Barack Obama’s jaw-dropping $150 million September fundraising haul into a liability, pointing to a lack of transparency over the thousands of small donations that have padded the Democrat’s campaign coffers.

In its latest effort to cast a bright light of scrutiny on Obama’s fundraising, the Republican National Committee launched a new Web site Tuesday that allows users to search for individuals who have contributed less than $200 to the RNC since Sen. John McCain became the GOP’s nominee. The site follows up on an administrative complaint recently filed by the RNC that asks the Federal Election Commission to require Obama to disclose all of his donors – even small donors who give less than $200, which Obama is not otherwise legally required to disclose.

The new site hits the Internet a day after McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters that Obama’s failure to make a similar effort would leave lingering questions about the source of those funds. “Our house is right,” Davis said on a campaign conference call, referring to the McCain campaign’s decision to disclose all of its donors, even those it is not legally required to disclose because of the size of their contribution. Davis said that “the vast majority of [Obama’s donors] are probably legitimate,” but pointed to recent press reports of donations received by the campaign over the Internet that were not in compliance with federal campaign finance law. “So . . . from our perspective, a little bit of sunshine, a little bit of transparency will go a long way on this issue,” he said.

Click here to listen to Rick Davis on Obama's fundraising

The Obama campaign dismissed the suggestion from the RNC and the McCain camp that it is hiding something by not disclosing its small donors. “Without accepting a dime from Washington lobbyists or corporate PACs, which have paid a pretty penny to John McCain’s campaign, our campaign has shattered fundraising records with donations from more than 3.1 million Americans,” Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan said in an e-mail. “We have gone above and beyond the transparency requirements by disclosing our bundlers and the levels of contributions they raise – and we have followed the FEC’s disclosure rules for individual contributors. Compiling our monthly FEC report is no small feat – it totals nearly 80,000 pages. While the McCain campaign claims to have made their donor list fully transparent, they list hundreds of donors on their website under the name ‘anonymous,’ many more with zip codes that don’t exist, and fraudulent contributors with names like ‘Jesus II’ – we hope and expect that they will implement a rigorous review process like we have to make sure their contributions are appropriate.”

Since announcing his presidential bid, Obama has raised approximately $600 million as of the end of September. His campaign is the first to forgo public funds during the general election phase since the creation of the federal public financing system for presidential races in response to the Watergate scandal.

Early in his campaign, Obama made statements suggesting that he would agree to accept public funding if the GOP nominee did the same. He subsequently announced, however, that he had decided to opt out of the public financing system and would rely instead on private contributions allowed by federal law in order to finance his general election efforts. Because he decided against participating in the public funding system, Obama’s campaign will not be subject to an audit by the FEC, which McCain’s campaign will face as a result of receiving public money.

At the time the RNC filed its FEC complaint requesting an complete audit of the Obama campaign’s finances, the Illinois senator’s campaign said it had been the victim of Internet fraud in those cases where improper contributions were submitted online, and that it was reviewing its fundraising procedures to make sure every available step had been taken to root out such contributions in the future.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain • RNC
soundoff (336 Responses)
  1. More desperate GOP smoke screens

    This is yet another attempt by the GOP to insert doubt into the process. Discouraging participation in voting or even making contributions is about as anti-democratic as you can get. The GOP smear machine is shameful.

    I'm just an average American citizen who has donated to a campaign for the first time in my life. I'm glad to be part of it. My name doesn't need to be made public in order for my contribution to be valid.

    John the Deregulator and Sarah the Stalinist need to stick to the issues or just go home. On second thought, they just need to go home.

    Obama/Biden 2008

    October 21, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  2. Brenda

    I wonder if McCain has seen the photo of a 100,000 people in St. Louis and what were his comments.

    October 21, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  3. cann

    I am a 69 year-old retired school teacher. I gave $100 twice for a total of $200. I have never given a penny to a presidential candidate in my life before this election.

    Get out of my business, RNC !! This election belongs to THE PEOPLE !!


    October 21, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. Observer

    The GOP and RNC are driving donors to Obama's campaign with their ugly attacks. For an example of this phenomenon, just look what happened in Minnesota when the Congresswoman (can't recall her name) on "Hardball" called for the media to investigate "unAmerican" members of Congress-donations to her challenger poured in like never before. People are tired of the divisive and mean-spirited attacks from people like this and dig into their wallets.
    Of course the GOP and RNC are unhappy about the fundraising record-they're jealous. I think it's called democracy in action.

    October 21, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. Another White Educated Middle Aged Former Clinton-voting Woman for Obama!

    The $ is coming from average Americans, like myself who are fed up with the way our country is being run. I've voted in 8 presidential elections and have never once considered donating until this year. I was appalled when G.W. was voted in office in 2000 and devastated when Americans repeated their mistake in 2004. I, like most donors, want to know I am doing my part to make sure it doesn't happen again. The Obama campaign makes it easy with the introduction of online contributing. Hmmm...a president who "gets" how technology can work to his advantage. What an enlightening idea!

    To the RNC: I'll gladly fork over my credit card statements. Let me know where and when you want them! You might be done sifting through the millions of them sometime around Obama's inauguration day! At least that will give you something to do until then, besides lick your wounds! 🙂

    October 21, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  6. Sue

    I have made a number of small donations to the Obama campaign since he started running for president. I think it totals a little over $300. I'd give more if I could.

    If John McCain could energize his supporters the way Barack Obama has, he would have raised more money. As it is, McCain could not wake up anyone with a trumpet and a drum.

    October 21, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  7. FactCheck

    I have never, ever donated a single dime to ANY candidate during the last 4 decades, until now. I have given a total of $1000 to the Obama/Biden ticket over the course of the last few months (most of it, after Palin's ridiculous acceptance speech and after the Katie Couric interview). Anything else you'd like to know RNC?

    October 21, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. Siva

    I just became a US Citizen on october 3rd. I registered to vote on October 6th and voted for Obama/Biden. As a permanent resident I was legally allowed to contribute to the campaign. So, I have contributed $100 toward the campaign till now. I feel so part of this movement. I like the concept of public funded radio (like NPR). I like the concept of public funded campaign like Obama's.

    October 21, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  9. Joe Regis

    The repubs are doomed this year. The earlier the realize that the faster they will recover.

    Landslide Obama/Biden 08/12.

    October 21, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  10. Serious Voter

    Come get me RNC! I've donated everytime the McSame camp did something stupid. Uh Oh! Guess I better donate again. This time a whopping $100.

    October 21, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  11. Robin

    With 14 days to go we've crossed the point of no return, people have already started voting, trying to make mountains out of molehills at this point wont work.

    October 21, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  12. Republicans= Me First Country Last

    If McCain wants my info I'll be glad to send it to him. I've donated at least three times to Obama.

    Why is there no story that on McCain's website the donor list has hundreds of donations from the name and location of Anonymous??
    CNN are you looking into this?

    October 21, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  13. dawm

    My husban and I were arguing over this last night. He was saying he thought that something was fishy in the Obama campaign. Then I told him that I had made 2 donations of 25.00 a piece. I said that is where the money is coming from. He never said another word.

    October 21, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. Kevin Leo (Jonesboro, GA)

    McCain should have learned months ago that green is not a color that looks good on him, whether it is a green backdrop or green with envy!!!

    October 21, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  15. ArielB

    Hey John – I donated $100 to Obama...oh & I live in Arizona.

    October 21, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. John S

    Typical White Person October 21st, 2008 3:57 pm ET

    So why is there a billboard in Belgrade advertising Obama for President? Is he running there or just fundraising?

    If you had done research on the group, instead of presuming or trying to blantatly try and mislead people, , you would have known it was done by a group called ‘Europe has no alternative’ which has nothing to do with Obama. This group's campain is a demand for responsible governance and responsible approach to the adoption of all important decision that confirm Serbia's European course.

    October 21, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  17. Stacy from Loudoun Country VA

    Senator McCain,

    You want transparency? Come on over to my house, I will give you some coffee and tell you how wrong you are for this country. You can find me at the Obama rally here in Leesburg tomorrow as well.

    October 21, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  18. Jean

    How much of Obama's financial power has come from FOREIGN citizens... outside the United States?

    McCain wants Americans to buy American.

    Obama wants Foreign countries to buy America (right under our noses).

    October 21, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  19. AKI


    October 21, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  20. I see Russia from my HOUSE

    I have sent a total of 3,000 to Obama camp!! I'm a small donor that have enough to give to who I THINK IS RIGHT FOR THE JOB!!! I will keep donating, as a matter of fact I donated $500.00 yesterday!!!

    October 21, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  21. Kate

    Oh, brother. The Reps will talk about ANYTHING but the issues at this point, won't they?
    I have NEVER given money to a politicial campaign before. I make $40,000 dollars a year and I have given Obama $400 dollars in the last 3 months.
    Average Americans have pulled out all of the stops to get this guy elected, get it?? The majority of us WANT HIM IN OFFICE and find the idea of a McCain/Palin White House terrifying.
    Obama has raised that much money fair and square because he INSPIRES people.
    Jealous much?

    October 21, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  22. African American Hockey Mom

    II have never donated to campaign until now. I have donated to the Obama campaign more than three times. I have lost money in my 401K, but it's worth donating to this campaign. I will donate again today.

    I know a lot of people that are donating to the Obama campaign. We are not on welfare; we are not from foreign countries. We are Americans that want a change.

    Yes We Can

    October 21, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  23. TjayeInLA

    If the McCain campaign would spend more time on the issues and less on these non issues – Ayers, socialism accusations, why Obama didn't fall for the okey doke and take public financing so McCain would whip with back end 527 groups....he may have been better off.

    Fortunately for him, this country still has a lesson to learn on racism, so they will vote him in on race and we will fall even lower and hopefully FINALLY America will learn to stop looking at skin color and start dealing with real issues like humans.

    October 21, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  24. Kingslough

    Hey 'TAINOPOWER' keep living in the past. We have all moved on including HRC. Sorry thought i should update you.

    October 21, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  25. Jeff

    Yet another desperate McSame/ Plain act. Obama is raising funds within the law and good for him...it's money well spent..."We won't be fooled again" – The Who should be one of Obama's campaign lyrics/ songs. You will not stop the REAL change RepubliCONS !


    October 21, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
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