Obama tops $1 billion in career political contributions

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama has become the first political $1 billion man.

He’s the first politician to take in that stratospheric number in donations during his political career, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.

His total take reached $1,017,892,305 in April, some nine years after he began his 2004 race for the Senate. Obama is widely expected to raise at least $300 million more before November.

President George W. Bush, in contrast, raised roughly $430 million despite running two complete presidential races and bearing the brunt of Democrats’ claims that he was a pawn of bankers, oil companies, coal magnates and defense contractors.

Bush’s total campaign spending was roughly $140 million more than his donations because he received matching federal funds in exchange for limiting his own private fundraising.

Obama, however, raised nearly all of his $1 billion after reversing his promise to follow suit. Obama broke his promise in June 2008, saying “We face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system.” (RELATED: Full coverage of the Obama campaign)

Obama’s flip-flop on federal funding is also unique.

Bush did not evolve on the issue, and instead limited his fundraising, as urged by many left-of-center groups and activists, such as Fred Wertheimer, the founder and president of Democracy 21.

That group, and other allied organizations, pointedly declined to criticize Obama’s backtracking in a letter sent to Capitol Hill asking for extra spending for politicians’ campaign expenses.

“The presidential public financing system has served the country and presidential candidates of both parties well for most of its 35-year existence,” said the January 2011 letter. “The system only began to decline when campaign costs outstripped the public financing,” said the liberal-leaning groups.

Bush’s campaigns were aided by spending by so-called super PACs, the independent groups that collect and spend political donations to help political candidates.

Obama’s support from super PACs’ spending is lower despite his February decision to stop discouraging his donors from supporting Democrat-aligned super PACs. Obama’s wide stance on the issue followed a disappointing few months of fundraising that ended speculation about a possible $1 billion fundraising total during the 2012 race alone.

In April, Obama brought in only $25.7 million for his campaign, plus $18 million raised in cooperation with the Democratic National Committee. That combined total of $43 million was down 20 percent from $53 million in March.

Gov. Mitt Romney’s April fundraising reached $40 million in cooperation with the Republican National Committee.

Obama’s May haul is expected to grow because of donations from wealthy gays and lesbians pleased by his effort to mainstream the idea of same-sex marriage.

By April 30, Obama’s donations from gays and lesbians had slightly outpaced his $7.8 million take from the financial, insurance and real-estate sectors, according to a May 14 Center for Responsive Politics report.

His top sources of funding are the sectors and companies that employ people like him — people with post-graduate degrees from elite universities.

The top sources are the University of California, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft Corp., Harvard University and Google, each of which provided him with $1 million or more. The University of California topped the list at $1.98 million.

The Obama campaign has taken in $58.9 million from retired Americans and $58 million from law firms, including his former employer in Chicago. It has also collected $29.8 million from the education sector, $19.8 million from Wall Street’s securities and investment industry and $16 million from the health care sector.

Although Obama’s $1 billion receipts are large, they pale in comparison to the impact of his White House policies. For example, the federal debt has grown since 2009 by more than $5 trillion, or more than $5,000 for every dollar Obama raised from donors.

The estimate of total donations for both Obama and Bush is slightly higher than the federal donations recorded by the center.

Obama also gained roughly $150,000 in state donations while running for the Illinois state senate, for example.

Bush raised $41 million while running for governor in Texas in 1994 and 1998, according to Texans for Public Justice, a liberal group that tracked Bush’s fundraising.

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