According to the latest media-aided meme emanating from the Obama re-election campaign, the president and his supporters are being outspent by the Romney campaign. A fund-raising email sent out in late June reveals the level of purported angst. “I will be the first president in modern history to be outspent in his re-election campaign, if things continue as they have so far,” it reads. “I’m not just talking about the super PACs and anonymous outside groups–I’m talking about the Romney campaign itself. Those outside groups just add even more to the underlying problem.” Yet like so much of what the president has said about a variety of things over the last three years, this is yet another statement at odds with the truth.
The email continues. “The Romney campaign raises more than we do, and the math isn’t hard to understand: Through the primaries, we raised almost three-quarters of our money from donors giving less than $1,000, while Mitt Romney’s campaign raised more than three-quarters of its money from individuals giving $1,000 or more,” it said. “We can be outspent and still win–but we can’t be outspent 10 to 1 and still win.”
That is undoubtedly true. It’s also complete hyperbole. As the charts from the Center for Responsive Politics shown here indicate, the president’s campaign has not only raised more money that Romney’s campaign it has spent more and has more cash on hand. Yet campaigns are only part of the picture. When President Obama attends fundraising parties, such as the one at the home of celebrity Sarah Jessica Parker attended by 50 donors who paid $40,000 each for the privilege–even as the above email excoriated Romney for raising money “at a secretive retreat for the biggest donors to both his campaign and the super PACs that support him”–that money goes to both the president and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The DNC spends a substantial portion of that money to re-elect Obama. As of now the DNC has also raised more money that the Republican National committee as well.
So what is President Obama talking about? Much like former president Bill Clinton, parsing the language becomes a critical element in this deception. Romney has indeed out-raised Obama on occasion, meaning in a given month his cash intake may be higher than the president’s. But the number of months President Obama has out-raised Romney far is higher. With respect to outside money, such as 527 organizations, which are tax-exempt groups that engage in political activities, Obama may have a point, since Romney currently maintains a small edge. Yet if the president insists on counting 527s, etc., then the part of his email contending he will be “the first president in modern history to be outspent,” is also untrue: in the 2004 election campaign, George W. Bush was outspent by challenger John Kerry.
The Washington Post, hardly a bastion of conservative thinking, further undermines President Obama’s contention. “The lie needs to be put to the very idea that President Obama might be outspent during the 2012 election. Nobody knows how much the candidates and campaign will raise in the weeks ahead, but, so far, the numbers are pretty clear,” writes Ed Rogers. Rogers totals up the amount of money raised by three elements: the respective campaigns, national committees (RNC vs. DNC) and the so-called Super PACs, which are political action committees arising as a result of a federal court case known as SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission. Super PACs can raise unlimited sums of money from sources such as corporations, unions, associations or individuals. They can spend those unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. But they are prohibited from donating directly to candidates.
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