The Washington Post

Michelle Obama: ‘Write a big, fat check’

(Gerald Herbert/AP)
(Gerald Herbert/AP)

First lady Michelle Obama had a message for supporters at a Chicago fundraiser: keep writing checks to help Democrats win the midterm elections. And the bigger those checks are, the better.

"And that’s where all of you come in, because there is something that all of you can do right now, today, to make a difference, and that is to write a big, fat check.  I kid you not," she said to a group at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Chicago Thursday evening. "I’m going to be honest with you, that’s what we need you to do right now.  We need you to write the biggest, fattest check that you can possibly write."

Obama's remarks at the fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee came on the heels of her husband doing a three-day West Coast fundraising swing. She urged donors to give as much money as possible. President Obama, the first lady and Vice President Biden have been instrumental in helping pull the DNC out of massive debt it incurred to reelect Obama in 2012. And this is not the first time the first lady has urged donors to open up their wallets in a big way.

"Now, I know, particularly for this group, some of you might occasionally feel a little bit annoyed that we are always hitting you up for money," she said. "But we do this because writing those checks is the single-most impactful thing that you can do right now."

President Obama has been criticized both for fundraising as crises flare around the world and for attending private events for super PACs. The president once railed against the organizations, which can collect unlimited money for candidates, once calling the unlimited campaign spending by "special interest groups" a "threat to our democracy." But after the Citizens United Supreme Court case, Democrats embraced super PACs. Obama was obviously reluctant to publicly appear at events for the organizations, but agreed to do so as a way to help Democrats in the midterm elections. This is the first year he is attending such events.

Unlike events for the party or its legislative fundraising arms, the media has not been allowed into the super PAC events and few details of them have been made public. The president attended super PAC events in Seattle and Los Angeles.

The first lady said Thursday that there's "too much money in politics," and pleaded with people to vote, but said that Democrats can no longer pretend that money doesn't made a difference.

"So we can’t just stake out the moral high ground and feel good about ourselves -- we need to act," she said. "And understand that your actions will absolutely make the difference, because when you dig deep, when you max out, that translates into staff hired and offices opened and ads running where they need to run.  And we can’t wait until September or October to get going here because these candidates need these resources right now."

Fred Wertheimer, a longtime proponent of campaign finance reform and founder and president of the non-profit Democracy 21, said President Obama has failed to act to fix the campaign finance system and his attendance at super PAC events moves him even further away from attempting to change the system.

"The president has failed for years now to live up to the early commitments he made to challenge the existing campaign finance system in Washington," he said. "As he goes around the country raising both hard money and unlimited contributions for the Democrats, his silence speaks very loudly about fixing this corrupt campaign finance system that the country is now faced with."

Katie Zezima is a national political correspondent covering the 2016 presidential election. She previously served as a White House correspondent for The Post.



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