Obama fundraising, policies do delicate dance

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, June 30 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — Even as President Barack Obama's re-election effort is powering toward an impressive early fundraising haul, campaign officials are trying to reassure donors who have concerns about a range of policy decisions and pace of change during Obama's first term.

Some top donors and even members of Obama's campaign team say that to replicate the success of 2008, the president and his advisers must reassure the fundraising community on a number of issues, from regulations on Wall Street to the Middle East peace process to the president's refusal to endorse gay marriage.

"It's not unfair to say the donor base, at least the significant to large donor base, has questions," former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, told reporters Thursday. But he said Obama "has good answers for all of them."

Obama's team hopes to raise $60 million for the campaign and the Democratic National Committee when the latest fundraising quarter ends Thursday. Obama and the Republicans competing for the GOP nomination will file quarterly reports that will be disclosed by mid-July, offering the first extended look at each campaign's financial health.

Obama, who was holding fundraisers Thursday in Philadelphia, is expected to demonstrate a whopping fundraising advantage over the entire GOP field, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is expected to post as much as $20 million. But Obama's team is leaving little to chance, hoping to prove through fundraising success the president is strongly positioned for the campaign ahead.

"Come next fall, people might not remember this date — or make the connection between the strength of our campaign then and the steps we took in these early months," campaign manager Jim Messina told supporters in an e-mail. "But anyone worth their salt in politics knows (Thursday) is one of the most important tests we'll face as a campaign this year."

As it seeks both big checks and small donations, however, Obama's finance operation has had to mend fences with donors who are ambivalent or even angry about some policy matters.

"I can't think of a constituency that doesn't feel frustrated," said Democratic National Committee member Robert Zimmerman, an Obama donor. "But at the end of the day, this is a president who provides the best hope for the values donors share."

First up: the Wall Street community, many of whom recoiled when Obama called them "fat cats" whose misdeeds led to the 2008 financial crisis. Many also have resisted his efforts to enact financial regulatory reform.

Obama has retained a core group of fundraisers on Wall Street, including Orin Kramer of Boston Provident, Mark Gallogly of Centerbridge Partners, Marc Lasry of Avenue Capital and Blair Effron at Centerview Partners. But some bankers who supported Obama in 2008 have stayed on the sidelines, prompting outreach by top campaign officials.

There have been signs of a thaw.

An April fundraiser at the New York apartment of ex-New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs executive, sold out two weeks in advance and raised more than $2 million from donors largely representing the financial industry. Obama also drew a large audience at a fundraiser last week at Daniel, a top New York City restaurant.

In March, the DNC organized a meeting for Obama and 30 Wall Street and business leaders at the White House. The gathering prompted questions from Republicans and good government groups over whether it blurred the lines between the campaign and official White House business.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, in response to a question, said Thursday that Obama had also met with DNC members in February at the White House residence. Carney said "all presidents have meetings with their supporters in the residence" and said the event was a reception for DNC members who were in Washington for the committee's annual meeting.

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