Obama's $100,000-Plus Donors Were Able to Give to Several Entities

Texas businessman Bill Perkins, left, and his family got some face time with candidate Barack Obama at a 2007 fundraiser at their home.
Texas businessman Bill Perkins, left, and his family got some face time with candidate Barack Obama at a 2007 fundraiser at their home. (Courtesy Of Bill Perkins)
By Kimberly Kindy and Sarah Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nearly 100 wealthy families and power couples contributed at least $100,000 each to help Barack Obama over the past two years, creating an elite set of donors to whom the president-elect repeatedly turned in financing his campaign, transition and inauguration, a Washington Post analysis shows.

As inaugural donations become public, a list of Obama's most loyal backers has emerged, pointing to his success with a system that allows supporters to give maximum amounts on several occasions and to multiple committees.

The families gave to as many as five committees, records show, and 27 of the 94 families also bundled money from others, collecting millions of dollars on top of their personal donations.

Among the supporters were well-known families such as the Rockefellers, as well as lesser-known backers such as New Yorker Frank Brosens, a leader in the hedge fund industry, who raised $500,000 for Obama's campaign and inauguration in addition to the $182,000 he gave with his wife, parents and three sons.

"I told them it's going to be a passion for me, and I'd like for them to get involved," Brosens said.

The $100,000 group stands in stark contrast to the grass-roots campaign that Obama's team has waged over the Internet, through which small donors, giving $200 or less, made up about a quarter of Obama's campaign revenue. Small donors are still receiving e-mails directing them to the inaugural Web site, where they are asked for contributions of $5 and where 10 people just won free trips to the inauguration in an essay contest.

Many big donors will also watch Obama be sworn in next week, but from premium seats, and will attend an inaugural ball and other private celebrations using tickets they received in exchange for their donations.

"Obama had a well-organized core of larger donors who he went back to repeatedly for donations," said Stephen Weissman, associate director for policy at the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, citing the election's "many vehicles" for giving. "These cumulative donations add up and lead to greater and greater influence."

Inaugural committee staff members attributed Obama's success to both small and large donors and said that special tickets are given in appreciation to big contributors but that there is no quid pro quo.

"Although the Obama campaign was unprecedented in its aggressive outreach to small donors, it is a fact in American politics that large donations are necessary as well," said committee spokeswoman Linda Douglass. "Nothing has ever led any donor to believe they will have special access to President-elect Obama."

High-profile donors include Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, who gave $163,900, and baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and his wife, Liz, who donated $111,600. Both couples gave to two campaign committees and the inaugural committee.

Twelve members of the Rockefeller extended family gave a total of $316,000. Hotel magnate and former Maryland lawmaker Stewart Bainum Jr. and 13 members of his family gave $236,000. Both families gave to four committees and the inauguration.

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