Fundraiser Obama works in tough money environment

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Sept. 26 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Obama Victory Fund — a joint fundraising arm between the DNC and Obama's campaign — raised just $3.6 million during July and August, compared with $7 million in June.

His campaign issued a "grassroots fundraising challenge" during the summer as a way to encourage activists to create their own fundraising Web pages and set individual targets. It set a goal of 20,000 donations through the program by this Friday. But by Monday morning, the website showed that the program had received only about 7,500. And a "national leaderboard" listing the top performers showed only five people raising more than $1,000, a fraction of what it would cost to attend one of Obama's high-end fundraisers.

Several times a week, Obama's campaign sends out emails trying to raise money by touting his policies, such as the jobs bill he's trying to get Congress to pass and the end of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays and lesbians in the military.

In one, deputy campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said the campaign faced a serious deadline that would "determine what kinds of resources we can commit to which states."

In another, Ann Marie Habershaw, Obama's chief operating officer, asked supporters for donations of $3 or more — about the cost of a Starbucks latte. "What we do before midnight on September 30th determines our budget until the end of this year. And what happens this year will set in motion the results on Election Day 2012. It's that simple," Habershaw wrote.

Some of the president's fundraisers say Obama's jobs plan, announced earlier this month, helped them focus their pitches to prospective donors after many liberals criticized him for giving in to Republican demands during the summer's debt ceiling debate.

"After a very difficult period, the American Jobs Act has given this administration a very clear agenda and plan and that has given greater energy to the Democratic donor community," said Robert Zimmerman, a member of the Democratic National Committee and a New York-based donor.

Obama was expected to raise at least $4 million on the West Coast this week, from small gatherings where supporters paid the maximum of $35,800 each, to larger gatherings at Seattle's Paramount Theatre and Hollywood's House of Blues where as little as $100 to $250 got supporters in the door.

Obama officials are keeping a watchful eye on how much money rival Republicans will have raised when the quarter ends Friday. The deadline amounts to an important test of strength for Obama and his opponents with the 2012 presidential election little more than a year away. The president is expected to post much bigger numbers than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, though both are formidable fundraisers.

Obama's campaign has said it has received broad support from Democrats, pointing to more than 550,000 people who gave money through the end of June, with more than 260,000 giving to him for the first time. About 98 percent of the donors gave $250 or less. But about 4 million people gave to Obama's 2008 campaign, raising questions of whether many are sitting back and declining to donate at this point.

The campaign is expected to launch a drive to reach 1 million donors later this fall. That would put him ahead of schedule compared to the last campaign. Obama topped 1 million donors in February 2008, officials said.

Ken Thomas reported from Washington.

Follow Ken Thomas at http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

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