PACs helped launch bid
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) used campaign donations generated by PACs and lobbyists to bankroll the birth of his White House bid -- though he's banning that money for his presidential 2008 race.
Obama's conversion to a laudable higher standard does not negate that money from sources he now disdains helped paved the way for his kickoff in Springfield on Saturday.
Obama has been raising campaign cash for two political pots -- Obama 2010 Inc., his Senate re-election committee, and the Hopefund, another war chest. Obama, until his recent conversion on the eve of his presidential run, took more than $1 million from political action committees.
An examination of disbursements from the two funds reveals how Obama was able to use legal loopholes commonly used by other presidential contenders to pay for White House testing-of-the-water expenses:
• • $3,214.95 on Dec. 20 to the political consulting firm of Hildebrand Tewes. Steve Hildebrand starting helping Obama last year in Iowa, the state with the crucial leadoff presidential vote. Paul Tewes is now Obama's Iowa campaign manager and Hildebrand will be an important adviser.
• • More than $100,000 in consulting fees in 2005 and 2006 to the Chicago-based AKP Message and Media firm. Firm founder David Axelrod is one of Obama's most influential strategists; he will make his ads and shape his message. Obama's AKP partner David Plouffe is Obama's campaign manager. Obama worked out of the AKP Washington offices -- as did other Obama presidential staff -- after announcing his exploratory bid a few weeks ago.
• • $1,590 in December for hotels and food for staffers who helped stage Obama's December visit to Manchester, New Hampshire -- the state with the first-in-the nation primary. He also made a $2,500 donation to the New Hampshire Democratic party.
• • $51,000 last August to Obama polling firm Harstad Strategic Research for a "Survey on Health Care Reform." Harstad will share polling duties for Obama's presidential bid. Obama is making health care coverage a key White House theme.
• • Thousands of dollars in 2005 and 2006 to pay the salary of professional fund-raisers who will be transferred to the presidential payroll.
Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, said, "taking the highly selective view of any finance report would allow you to make any conclusion you would like to make." Burton said Obama made the decision to ban the special interest money recently, just as presidential fund-raising was beginning.
• • A side note, the records also show that Obama paid his publisher, Random House, $24,162 for copies of his book Audacity of Hope to give as gifts.