The High Cost Of Constant Fundraising

We’ve heard a lot recently about President Obama’s fundraising.  One journalist reports that, so far, the President has attended 160 reelection fundraisers — twice as many as President Bush had at the same time in his 2004 re-election bid.

I’m not a Polyanna about fundraising.  Modern presidential campaigns are crushingly expensive.  A President seeking reelection needs to raise lots of money, and no one is going to be a more effective at it than the President himself.  The inevitable consequence is that the President will spend a lot of time at fundraisers, hobnobbing with high-rollers and collecting their checks.

There’s an unseemliness to the emphasis on cash, cash, cash and the President’s involvement in raising it, but we’re beyond the point of worrying about unseemliness in modern politics.  Instead, I’ve been thinking about the impact of constant fundraising on the President’s ability to perform other important parts of his job — such as working with Congress and trying to build the kinds of coalitions needed to pass legislation.

The focus on fundraising interferes with the President’s relations with Congress in at least two ways.  First, there are only so many waking hours in the day.  Every hour spent on the rubber-chicken circuit is one that could have been spent strategizing with congressional allies, schmoozing opponents, or seeking points of potential compromise on important legislation.  What’s more likely to break the stalemate in Congress — another glitzy fundraiser in Hollywood, or a weekend retreat to Camp David with House and Senate leaders, or wavering Members of Congress who might be persuaded to vote for a presidential initiative?  Politics is personal, and if a President doesn’t regularly offer the personal touch, he is bound to be less effective in his relations with Congress.

Second, the President gives a speech at every fundraiser.  What does he typically talk about, to fire up his supporters and spur them to write bigger checks?  Why, it’s the “do-nothing” Congress that won’t act on his agenda.  So the fundraising grind exacts a dual toll — the President not only is taken away from Washington and the opportunity to spur the legislative process, but he also bashes Congress and thereby reduces his chances of achieving consensus in the future.

President Obama wants to win re-election, and he and his advisers know that he needs money to achieve that goal.  I understand why he’s doing what he’s doing.  Still, I can’t help but think that it would be better for the country — and for President Obama, too — if he spent less time at black tie galas and more time with Senators and Representatives, slapping backs and twisting arms.

7 thoughts on “The High Cost Of Constant Fundraising

  1. how can you even attempt to blame this on Obama? This deregulation of campaign fundraising is entirely a product of Bush II and the republicans. If you want proof, see who gets the most donations from wealthy private citizens. Dont start your articles with clear partisan baiting, especially when it’s so transparent. k thx bye


    • As a liberal Democrat, and avid reader of this blog, I do not believe I have ever read a word of partisan baiting in the content posted here. If anything I would characterize the author as a Libertarian. The opinions expressed are fair and respectful. The author clearly states, “I understand why he’s doing what he’s doing.” and goes on to say that President Obama should spend more time “slapping backs and twisting arms.” One would suppose the arms Obama would be twisting would be those attached to Republicans.

      Reading for content is a skill. k thx bye


  2. reading for content is a skill, but reading for tone and author bias is a higher one. if you cant identify the bias tone within all this, then, well, I guess I just know the writer better than you. And ya elroy,,, it would be really accurate to characterize webnerbob, the LAWYER, as a libertarian….



  3. Fair and Respectful*:

    “We’ve heard a lot recently about President Obama’s fundraising. One journalist reports that, so far, the President has attended *160* **(italicized)** reelection fundraisers — twice as many as President Bush had at the same time in his 2004 re-election bid.”

    *(according to elroy and the New York Post)

    How many did McCain go to in ’08? HOW MANY HAS ROMNEY BEEN TO? more than 200 i bet.

    Wouldn’t a “fair and balanced” article have included the answers to these questions? Instead of comparing Obama to an (obviously) antiquated statistic from nearly 10 years ago?

    In your idealized world shouldn’t Romney be concentrating on broken government processes and appealing to his potential constituents too? It’s funny, but it appears he’s not even mentioned in this article. Maybe it would’ve shed some light on Obama’s fundraising motivation if you mentioned how Obama has to match the unlimited contributions of a handful of gay-hating, evangelical texas oil barons. (Hey, how about you right an article about that) <— Fair and Respectful…



    • G2, I appreciate your visiting our blog and providing us with your perspective.

      I’m not sure it will make any difference to you, but the point I was trying to make was about how fundraising obligations were interfering with President Obama’s ability to function as an effective President. There’s no point in drawing parallels between the fundraising activities of President Obama and those of Mitt Romney, from that standpoint, because President Obama is the President and Mitt Romney isn’t. Romney doesn’t need to worry about getting his agenda through Congress, whereas President Obama does.

      I use emphasis when I think it is pertinent. I think it is pertinent that President Obama has attended more than twice as many fundraisers as his immediate predecessor. Shouldn’t we all be a bit concerned that the head of our national government is spending so much time raising money? Do you honestly believe that the time President Obama spends pressing the flesh at fundraisers is as useful to the performance of his constitutional duties as time spent working with Congress?


  4. BOLOGNA BOLOGNA BOLOGNA. Obama is only raising the money because his OPPONENT is raising more(who it’s his JOB to BEAT ((and him beating Romney is more important to the vast majority of his supporters than trying to placate an immature, cranky Republican congress in the short 3 months before the election))).

    WEBNERBOB, for a sport’s fan it’s pretty easy to understand this strategy, no? Playing for the series and not the individual game? I.e. fighting for the battle and not the war? There is no one, not even Obama’s opponents, who would argue that figuring out ‘fast and furious’ or other ticky-tack issues is more important than the election in November. It would be incredibly idealistic to expect Obama to act any differently than he is. In fact, I would say if you did expect him to, it exposes your complete naivete about American politics and how they currently work.

    It takes two for an arms race. And let’s blame Obama for Congress’ issues, too,not the Boehner or every other sad sack Republican slug. Please!!! IMAGE VS. REALITY.



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