November 18th, 2008
11:25 AM ET
14 years ago

Obama still fundraising even after taking in hundreds of millions

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Money donated to support Obama's campaign can't be used for the transition or the inauguration so President-elect Obama is still fundraising."]
(CNN) - After raising a staggering amount of money for the general election, President-elect Barack Obama must now rake in more cash for his transition and inauguration.

There is about $9.74 million of taxpayer funds available to pay for the transition, but experts say that's not enough.

To make up the difference, past presidents have turned to private money and corporate cash.

Obama's transition team, however, is taking pains to keep lobbyists out of his transition and forgo corporate cash.

John Podesta, the co-chair of Obama's transition team, has vowed to make this "the most open and transparent transition in history," but Obama has not explicitly outlined his intentions for the inauguration.

The transition team said an announcement will be made next week on how the event will be funded.

The Obama team will have to balance how to raise enough money without contradicting Obama's tough talk during the campaign against lobbyists.

"I really do hope Obama sticks by his principles and does not accept corporate money, does not accept money from lobbyists, and places a very, very low ceiling on the amount of money he'd accept from individuals to pay for his inauguration," said Craig Holman, a legislative representative for Public Citizen.

Public Citizen is a national nonprofit organization that says it advocates for consumer interests in Congress and openness and democratic accountability in government.

The group says companies sometimes contribute cash to the inauguration in order to buy influence.

President Bush raised a record $42.8 million for his second inauguration, and according to Public Citizen, more than 90 percent of donations to that ceremony were from executives or corporations.

Bush limited corporate donations to $250,000 each in order to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

Obama could decide to accept corporate donations for the inauguration, but may impose tighter limits.

"I think past presidents have had to raise lots of private money to do these things. And I think he's actually got a good resource base of donors that are willing and probably will give money for both the transition effort, but also the inaugural campaign as well," said David Lewis, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University and author of "The Politics of Presidential Appointments."

Even without corporate cash, the Obama fundraising machine has been a force. Nearly half of the record $639 million that his campaign raised during the primaries and general election came in the form of donations of $200 or less.

As of mid-October, the Obama campaign had spent about $594 million, but any money left over from the general election cannot go toward the transition.

The president-elect could return that money to contributors, donate it to charity, form a political action committee or contribute to other candidates, PACs or party committees, as long as he stayed within the federal contribution limits.

Obama could also hold on to the money and use it for a future federal campaign, like a re-election bid.

The public will get a better idea of exactly how much cash is on hand when the next reports are filed with the Federal Election Commission on December 4.

soundoff (254 Responses)
  1. Pat F

    "The Obama team will have to balance how to raise enough money without contradicting Obama's tough talk during the campaign against lobbyists."

    Translation: The Obama team is trying to figure out how they can continue to con the American people.

    November 18, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  2. Tom in Delaware

    Why not just take up a collection to bail-out the homeowners who bought houses they couldn't afford while you're at it?

    Oh, that's right, the taxpayers get to foot that bill...or is it gonna go to The Big Three Auto-Makers now?!?

    Notice how there's no news at all about how great all the other (i.e. non-American) Auto-Makers here in the US are booming.

    Of course, they produce a product that makes sense.

    November 18, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  3. TangoDancer

    Just out of curiosity, why does a transition from one president to another cost so much money? Almost $10 million in tax payer funds for this purpose sounds like more than enough. So... I'm obviously missing something. I think that it would be a good idea for CNN to devote some reporter time and effort to review this matter more thoroughly so that the public can be more enlightened about this process.

    November 18, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  4. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    November 18, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  5. sf

    Love the fact that he's keeping lobbyists and corporate big wigs at bay (not that they should be able to afford it these days anyway).

    Think I'll donate to the Celebration!

    November 18, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  6. J.P.

    Maybe Obama can push for an "inaguration bailout." 😉

    Also, I want one of those fancy new hi def televisions... can I get a TV bailout? And while we're giving out goodies from the federal bucket o' money, can I also get a Blu-ray player bailout, too?

    November 18, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  7. Watch your pockets....

    They're about to be depleated of their contents....

    November 18, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  8. Rick

    Why is this going on. Also why are there still questions about Obamas' birthplace. This man needs to bring forward the proof of his birthplace, open up his fundraising books and any other question the people have. This is the only way we can move forward with Obamas' election, unless he has something to hide.

    November 18, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  9. Maggie from Virginia

    Count me in... I will happily contribute.

    November 18, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  10. Erika, KS


    November 18, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  11. mitch

    if i can keep any 'lobbyist' from attempting to earn 'favor', i'd be happy to donate some more. he should ask his constituents, not lobbyists. if just 1 million of his election donors sent $10,that should cover it. many of us will be happy to support barack's transition to his presidency! he doesn't need the support of big oil, big $ types. he only needs his supporters. our voices will not be drowned with 'special interest's' $.

    November 18, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  12. GA Independent

    In keeping with the economy issues, the Inauguration should NOT be the crowning of the emperor. Keep it reasonable – don't show the world an extravaganza... And NO LOBBYSISTS or CORPORATE donations...

    November 18, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  13. Reality

    And where is this money going? Into the pockets of the old-timer millionaire DNC elites that are part of the "transition team."

    And what is the money being used for? To fund lavish hotels, clothing, travel accommodations, and food for the old-timer millionaire DNC elites who are having a grand popularity contest that will determine future cabinet seats.

    And where is this money coming from? PAC groups who will expect Obama to return the favor once he is in office. Even CNN's own Campbell Brown, a far-left commentator, has acknowledged this.

    Once the donations stop, expect taxation.

    Do you really think that once money spending institutions are created and staffed in the government that they will suddenly go away when they are not needed?

    CHANGE? Yeah, right.

    November 18, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  14. Laura, Boston

    With the country in such a economic mess, why isn't over 9 million dollars enough to stand on a podium and take the oath of office?

    Why can't history be made by having a transition and inauguration that is quiet and simple.

    Just my opinion.

    November 18, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  15. thomas

    Why not raise money by selling tickets? They seem to be invaluable and they could bring in millions if not billions of dollars. This seems like an extrordinary amount of money to spend on tradition and ceremony when times are so hard.

    November 18, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  16. Crazy Cat Lady

    Quote: Farrell, Houston, Tx November 18th, 2008 11:34 am ET



    I'm with you! I'll scrape up a little more to toss in the kitty.

    November 18, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  17. gt

    change we can beleive in ,, money changing hands of corrupt people ..... pitful .... what a joke !!!

    November 18, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  18. Matthew

    Anyone who gives the President-Elect money to plan a party – especially in this economy – is a fool. It was one thing to help get the guy elected. This is just crazy though. The inauguration should be scaled back as much as possible.

    November 18, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  19. tigerakabj

    If Obama needs money, I and 3 million others will give him the money he needs so that he won't have to turn to lobbyists or any other entity that drowns out our voices.

    November 18, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  20. john

    Really, this man is a prophet! I know that he'll realize great things during his presidency.

    November 18, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  21. Pat Pa.

    Obama can count on me. NO LOBBYISTS WANTED.

    @ Rick
    Grow Up !

    November 18, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  22. Patriot from ATL GA

    I'll donate – just tell me how. We are FIRED UP AND READY TO GO!

    November 18, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  23. Crazy Cat Lady

    Rick, you ignorant butt: Obama's birth certificate has been made public, and the State of Hawaii has certified it's genuine. Obama's fundraising books are opened up, all right; his campaign complies with strict Federal filing and disclosure regulations every month.

    Got any more witless worn-out talking points to regurgitate?

    November 18, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |


    November 18, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  25. Michelle, PA

    What I want to know is, why can't Obama use cash left over from the campaign to help fund his transition and/or inauguration? His donors gave it to him to get elected and become President. This includes the transition and inauguration, doesn't it? Can someone explain how this makes sense?

    November 18, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
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