Saturday, November 29, 2008

LA Times Accuses Obama of "Small Donor Myth"

Andrew Malcolm of the LA Times thinks he's caught Obama in a red handed lie. I think it's an inane false argument.

Everybody knows how President-elect Barack Obama's amazing campaign money machine was dominated by several million regular folks sending in hard-earned amounts under $200, a real sign of his broadbased grassroots support.

Except, it turns out, that's not really true.

In fact, Obama's base of small donors was almost exactly the same percent as George W. Bush's in 2004 -- Obama had 26% and the great Republican Satan 25%. Obviously, this is unacceptable to current popular thinking.
The study Malcolm is referring to counts any donation under $200 as a "small donation." And of course, as per federal law you are not allowed to contribute more than $4,600 to any campaign ($2,300 each for the primary and the general elections). They are looking at total donations and not individual donations. Now I consider myself a small donor, there is no doubt about that. I did not and probably won't ever max out at $4,600. Hell, I didn't even break $500 let alone the $1,000 that would have me considered a "large" donor, but I did break the $200 mark which puts me in a second category which Malcolm doesn't characterize in his post.

Now I don't know about you, but I think the whole point of "small" donations and the organization it took the Obama campaign to fine tune the donation process was the fact that small donors can be repeat contributors over the course of the campaign without causing too much of a burden for those who chose to donate again. I was a five time donor but I most likely would have given less if required to make a one-time large payment. It was a slow bleed instead of a major bloodletting, if you will. And that was fine with me - I was in a position to do so.

But in his article, Malcolm (who I am assuming is a Republican judging solely on his sarcastic characterization of Bush as the "great Republican Satan") is mixing percentages and actual donations. That's because the study does the same:
"Obama received about 80% more money from large donors (cumulative contributions of at least $1,000) than from small donors. "
Well... yeah. Fewer large donors are going to generate more money than a larger number of small donors. So now I'm going to play semantics with their numbers and actually come out with a more truthful result.

If you take what the Obama campaign said was the average donation from a small donor (some estimates were anywhere from $92 to $103 off the top of my head) and what the study in question claims the low end of the large donor category is ($1,000) then it's a ratio of about 10 to 1 to equate the monies. Of course large donors will account for more money. But how about the donors stuck in the middle like me who donated anywhere between $200 and $999? They accounted for 27% of donors according to the study.

So 53% of all Obama donors gave $999 or less and 47% gave $1,000 or more. Compare that with McCain's numbers: under $1,000 - 41%, $1,000 or more - 59%. And now let's look at the individual contributions:
Obama: Under $1,000 - 67%. Over $1,000 - 33%
McCain: Under $1,000 - 47%. Over $1,000 - 53%

You can play with these numbers all day, but the fact remains that overall, small donations whether one time or multiple accounted for more of Obama's total campaign finances than did the large donation no matter how studies or conservatives at the LA Times try to skew the numbers in order to cast doubt on the President-elect.

And the Obama campaign agrees:
The Obama team rejects the fundamental hypothesis of the study. If you were a donor who saved up to donate $20 to the campaign every couple months over the course of two years, an aide says, and all of those contributions eventually added up to more than $200, that doesn't mean you’re not a small dollar donor.
It's time that people like Andrew Malcolm and Jake Tapper join in the discourse on how to reverse the craptacular performance of the Bush administration and stop trying to lick the wounds of a huge Republican loss with semantic numbers games. Get used to the phrase "President Obama." He won. Get over it and move on.

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