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. Stacy (PA)

    This is a historic moment and I will be more than happy to donate and be part of history!

    November 18, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  2. Dave in Atlanta

    All that money for a freaking inauguration. Cancel the inauguration. We're in a recession.

    November 18, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. Laverne

    Obama does everything BIG, so I know this will be a spectacular event and well deserved!

    November 18, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. Mike in Ca

    One has to realize that there are those who do nothing but listen to right wing hate radio and repeat every talking point on these blogs. So there is no point even discussing any points with them, they are not capable of rational thought. There will always be something they will latch on to complain about Obama. Just ignore theri rantings.

    November 18, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. Independent Voter

    In case nobody noticed, in these times Obama needs all the help he can get. He can thank his lucky stars if Hillary Clinton agrees to be Secretary of State.

    His staff and the "more liberal than thou" attitude of some Obama fans and staff comes from people who don't seem to have noticed just how UN-liberal Obama has become.

    You all bought the Robin Hood line and the CHANGE line, and I guess you just can't stand the reality that you are ones who were duped here.

    The best you all can hope for is a very middle-of-the road president who gets everyone to begin to be more polite.

    Of course, I forget that you spent days congratulating yourselves on how "liberal" you were to vote for him in the first place. It really was all about YOU, wasn't it?

    November 18, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |

    Do you seriously think that he won't be able to come up with the money? Everyone else has and never raised no where near as much money as Obama. Seriously? Come on!

    November 18, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |


    November 18, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |

    »This is quite impressive,indeed.

    November 18, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  9. D in Phoenix

    This is news? There are about 3 million people ready to lose their jobs if GWB and crew don't bailout the Big Three. And King George has to think about it!

    And all we get from your No Bias, No Bull news organization is that the new guy is raising money to celebrate the incoming administration?

    Tell Campbell, Wolf and Lou to get ready to pay their fair share of taxes so that the rest of us can have a job to go to instead of sitting home unemployed and watching their incessant (but disguised as news) whining.

    November 18, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  10. TrueIndependent

    Why are you Republicans so filled with anger and bitterness?
    Why all of a sudden have your standards changed?
    I bet you are the same 17% that approve of George Bush.
    If you are so angry, move to Germany. There, you will have free health care.

    November 18, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  11. Kim J

    How bout due to tough economic times, we forgo the inauguration balls. If Obama really is a man of the people, he certainly doesn't need this type of hoopla. And don't give me the "he deserves it" or "he worked so hard" story. It's that kind of thinking that gets middle America in trouble – spending money you don't have because you think you deserve something. Now is the perfect time for Obama to start showing some financial restraint.

    November 18, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  12. ELF in SC

    Rick, wakey wakey.

    Today is November 18th. The election was November 4th.

    Obama won.

    On January 20th he will be sworn in as the 44th and first African American President of the United States of America.

    November 18, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. Lori

    I agree with Rogerd- why do we have to have such a big event. The country is in financial ruin. We won and the change will come. Lead by example Barack. Just have family and close friends and we can watch on T.V. We are already proud and look forward to having you in the White house.

    November 18, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  14. ShawnT

    And lets not forget...he already has $50 Million or so left over from his campaign fundraising. But Federel Laws do not allow him to use that cash towards his transition. And he promised not to take lobbyist cash. So obviously, the only sensible alternative is to turn to his supporters.

    November 18, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  15. Femi, Denver CO

    Rick, you are still living in the era of McCain's failed campaign. I think you should join your other shamefull fellows who are already indirectly lobbying for position in Obama's Incoming Administration. You need to swallow your pride like them. President-Elect Obama is our President whether you like it or not. An advice for you, you can migrate to Canada and stay there till 2012 when you can return for another political flush-out. Ha! ha! ha! (laugh)

    November 18, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  16. lynn

    If he uses lobbyist money you people complain that he went back on promises, if he uses money DONATED by people you still complain. Either get over yourselves or leave the U.S. We had to suck it up when a bunch of morons elected Bush for a second term. Deal with Obama for a while. Give him a's not like you have a choice, he won now let's move on!

    November 18, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. Dave, Central Illinois

    All you Obamite Zombies – did you pay extra taxes over the last eight years when you thought that the taxrate was to low? You didn't? Why not? You can do that, you know. Or, perhaps, did you leave that to somebody else? And, where is all this money coming from in a time of recession? Shouldn't you be helping your fellow man instead? Or, are you letting somebody else do that too? What a bunch of hypocrits!!!!

    November 18, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. Joe - Chicago, IL

    This sounds like an issue that needs to be fixed. If we want to be limiting the power of special interest money in government, we should be ensuring that tax dollars are properly allocated to such teams so that compromises don't have to be made with corporate leaders and elected officials can do what they were elected to do.

    November 18, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  19. Amy


    Please stop ranting and raving about Obama's birht certificate...DO YOU HAVE A BRAIN?

    Do you really think that he could have in for president if his credential were not correct!!! He was already checked out for EVERYTHING from the beginning...

    Stopr being a pest here on the blogs and GROW UP and stop being such a HATER!!! You sound IGNORANT!!! YOu really do!!!

    cnn please post..thank you

    November 18, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  20. forrest kimbrough

    Funny how right wingers will complain about being appropriatly taxed for the war in Iraq and thats the extint of their patriotism ...while young ones are dying for your freedom your are complaing about the money your being taxed on the cost to wage the war that Bush led us into..parents of those lost in the war read your comments with complete disgust

    November 18, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  21. shay

    If Obama says no lobbyist and no special interest, then he can count me in with the others.

    I will support him in his transition. At least this time we can say it is for the people and by the people. And not money that is paid for favoritism.

    This is what America is all about. UNITY AND NOT DIVIDED. He is about from the bottom up and not the top down.

    November 18, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  22. janine


    Move forward with Obama's election. Are you on drugs? The election is done.

    November 18, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. paul (staunch Moderate)

    I can see needing more money for the transition. I understand needing more money to cover the costs of security for this inauguration. The sheer size of the crowd will make it difficult to keep our leaders safe.

    But if it's money for the typical lavish dinners and parties, the dinner/party goers should foot the bill and purchase tickets, just like any other non-profit in the country must do.

    November 18, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. Brian from Fort Mill, SC

    EW November 18th, 2008 12:13 pm ET

    Tell me agian why I shold donate my hard earned money to the extravagant coronation of our Emperor, I mean President.

    Looks like I might be one of the first to be 'disappeared' by the new administration.
    Read my lips: It's voluntary! Besides, the real emperor will be dethroned on January 19, 2009. I'm talking about King George!

    November 18, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  25. Brenda C

    Excuse me! There has been nothing transparent about anything having to do with obama. His whole campaign was paid for by idiots and terrorists from other countries. That's why he won't release his list of contributors.

    November 18, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
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