Barack Obama "has been the most aggressive of presidential candidates in using his leadership PAC—money [usually] used for national party-building, including helping other members of Congress, or local candidates in the home state—to help the campaigns of state and local candidates and not coincidentally, the funds spent that way have gone to Democrats in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. More than one-third of his leadership PAC money is being used this way," Alex Knott reported November 16, 2007.
When Obama "launched his presidentialcampaign in January , he stopped raising money for his Hopefund, the political action committee he used to raise millions for fellow Democrats in previous campaigns. But in recent months, Obama has handed out more than $180,000 from the nearly dormant PAC to local Democratic groups and candidates in the key early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, campaign reports show," John Solomon reported November 26, 2007, in the Washington Post.
"Some of the recipients of Hopefund's largess are state and local politicians who have recently endorsed Obama's presidential bid," Solomon reported. "Obama's PAC reported giving a $1,000 contribution, for instance, to New Hampshire state Sen. Jacalyn Cilley on July 25, six days before she announced she was endorsing Obama for president.
"Likewise, state Rep. J. Todd Rutherford, a lawmaker from South Carolina, received a $1,000 contribution from Obama's PAC on Sept. 24, a few months after he endorsed Obama," Solomon wrote.
"The bulk of donations from Obama's PAC to state and local candidates this year went to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In addition, there were more than $60,000 in donations to national candidates in those same states, including $9,000 for Rep. Paul W. Hodes, the first member of Congress from New Hampshire to endorse Obama earlier this year.
Note: Hodes, who is Obama's N.H. co-chair, received Hopefund Inc. funds on June 15, 2007, endorsed Obama on July 26, 2007, and received additional funds on September 27, 2007. In July 2007, the Boston Globe quoted Obama as saying "he was proud to have Hodes' endorsement, but conceded he would not have near the number of endorsements that other candidates, like Hillary Clinton will have.... 'We haven't been in Washington all that long and we haven't traded that many favors'."
"In addition to donating to individuals, Hopefund donated to several key Democratic groups in the battleground states, including $30,000 each to the Iowa House Truman Fund and the Iowa Senate Majority Fund and $15,000 to New Hampshire's Friends of a Democratic Senate," Solomon reported.
Hopefund Inc. also made two $5,000 contributions to the New Hampshire Democratic Party: on July 26, 2007, and September 27, 2007.
"Obama and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. are the only ones among the Democratic candidates to make active use of this. Among Republican Presidential candidates, only former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani appears to be using leadership PAC money this way, albeit to a much lesser extent," Knott wrote.
"Even though federal campaign finance law requires that leadership PAC donations be spent only on 'party-building,' and not for the benefit of the donor’s own political prospects, it appears that Obama faces little risk of accusations that he is skirting the law.
"'As a practical matter, it is fair to characterize the donations as strategic and with the intent of building support within key presidential election states,' said Paul S. Ryan, an attorney at the non-profit and non-partisan Campaign Legal Center. But, Ryan added, 'This is sort of a classic example, where even though the activities do not pass the smell test, they are nevertheless legal under our campaign finance statutes'," Knott wrote.
Not new "news"
All this is not actually new "news", as David Jackson and John McCormick reported April 13, 2007, in the Chicago Tribune:
"But his U.S. Senate campaign raised at least $1.2 million of its $15 million total from special-interest PACs, according to fundraising tracker PoliticalMoneyLine.com. And in January 2005, 20 days after he was sworn into the U.S. Senate, Obama launched his own PAC, Hopefund, which raised $4.4 million over two years, making it one of the largest PACs members of Congress have established to fund other candidates.
"Obama has distributed Hopefund's dollars to Democratic organizations across the country, the Tribune's analysis shows, including in the early presidential battleground states of Iowa and New Hampshire as well as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida."
The HopefundAmerica.com website now consists of a single opening screen which, when clicked, redirects to BarackObama.com. According to a WHOIS search, the website was created January 25, 2005. The interactive website was last updated February 4, 2007, but by February 17, 2007, following Obama's announcement that he was in the running for the 2008 presidential nomination, the website was converted to the lone home page. There is no mention of Hopefund Inc. at BarackObama.com.
Hopefund funding and oversight
In 2005 and 2006, Hopefund Inc. was funded by a number of industry political action committees as well as more than 1,800 individual contributions. FEC records show that Hopefund Inc. is overseen by Harvey Wineberg of the Chicago accounting firm Wineberg, Solheim & Howell, who has contributed to Obama's campaigns since 2004.
On October 9, 2007, it was reported that Anita Dunn, a longtime aide to Tom Daschle, "has been tasked with straightening out Obama's Hopefund PAC through the end of this year." Dunn, who served as Sen. Evan Bayh's "chief consultant" before he ended his campaign for the 2008 Democratic nomination in December 2006, had been affiliated with Hopefund previously.
Hopefund recipients in early 2008 caucus and primary states
A number of the people who have endorsed Obama are members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) or are prominent in the Black community. Hopefund Inc. contributed $5,000 to the CBC PAC on June 15, 2007.
In New Hampshire, Hopefund Inc. "also contributed $1,000 each to Sens. Iris Estabrook, Kathleen Sgambati and Lou D'Allesandro, all of whom later endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton. The PAC gave $6,000 to Gov. John Lynch's campaign war chest; Lynch has not endorsed in the presidential contest." On November 26, 2007, Lynch's wife, Susan Lynch, announced her endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
Also, "[t]en county Democratic committees in New Hampshire received $1,000 each from Obama's PAC and the state Democratic Party received $5,000. The Iowa Senate Majority fund and the Iowa House Truman Fund, political groups that assist local legislative candidates, received $30,000 each from the PAC." NH's Friends of a Democratic Senate and Committee to Elect House Democrats each received $15,000.
As of October 24, 2007, BRIDGE PAC had received more than $400,000 for the 2008 campaign cycle, with nearly $300,000 redistributed to other political action committees.
In this way, the $5,000 limit for primary elections and $5,000 for general elections can be by-passed by an individual political action committee. A number of those to whom Hopefund contributed directly were also recipients of BRIDGE PAC funds, thereby funneling more funds to them indirectly. Although it is obvious that Hopefund's $5,000 contribution did not support this level of funding, it does indicate a system by which collectively PACS and individuals can contribute more than the allowed amounts to candidates.
In the 2007-2008 election cycle, the list of those receiving BRIDGE PAC funds and those listed as Hopefund recipients are very close:
Mary Jo Kilroy
Hopefund funded "Camp Obama"
As of June 30, 2005, after six months in operation, Hopefund Inc. "receipts totaled $851,674 with Obama traveling the nation to headline events and collect checks," Lynn Sweet reported October 27, 2005, in the Chicago Sun-Times.
In January 2006, "Obama's Hopefund will bankroll a 'school' to train first-time campaign workers and place them in campaigns across the country," Sweet wrote, with the "recruiting focus of Obama's 'Yes We Can' program [to] be young African Americans and Latinos" and the "aim of the week-long campaign school ... to 'create this whole class of young, talented staffers who can work their way up in the Democratic Party.'"
"Obama's Hopefund is 'not the beginning of some run for higher office. That is not what this is'," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told Sweet.
However, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote November 2, 2005, that Obama was "polishing his credentials for a potential national run down the line."
Hopefund was to "partner with EMILY's List, which has significant experience in staff training, to get the campaign school off the ground," Cillizza wrote. Interestingly, EMILY's List has endorsed Hillary Clinton's candidacy and not Obama's.
During a period when Hopefund Inc. was believed to have been dormant—January through May 2007—FEC filings reveal that it paid AKP&D Message & Media of Chicago, Illinois, and Squier Knapp Dunn Communications of Washington, D.C. in excess of $10,000 each for political consulting services and A.B. Data of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, almost $7,000 for direct mailing services.
During the period June through October 2007, Hopefund Inc. paid more than $18,000 to Consolidated Printing Company Inc. of Chicago, Illinois, for printing.
Obama 2010 Inc. support
Obama 2010 Inc. PAC contributed $1,500 to the Ohio Democratic Party on July 13, 2006, and $2,500 to the New Hampshire Democratic State Committee on December 6, 2006. The only other contributions from this account—two $2,000 contributions—were made in 2005 to Illinois Democratic U.S. House candidate Lane A. Evans' Friends of Lane Evans Committee.
↑ Lynn Sweet, "Campaign splits Jacksons,"Chicago Sun-Times, November 30, 2007. Both Jesse Jackson, Jr., who is on Obama's leadership team, and Jesse Jacskon, Sr. support Obama. Jacqueline Jackson, the wife of Jesse Jackson, Sr., supports Clinton. "Another son who lives in Chicago, Yusef, is a major Clinton fund-raiser who has bundled together at least $100,000 in contributions. ... Now his mother is also siding with Clinton and may go on the road to stump for her. If she goes to South Carolina -- where Jackson Sr. was born and where he won the 1988 presidential primary -- she will find herself having to dilute the impact of radio ads her son Jesse Jr. has made for Obama."
↑ She is the widow of the late Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.) who won the October 2007 election to fill the seat left vacant by Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) in October 2007, will run for re-election in 2008. Tsongas' daughter, Katina Tsongas, is a member of Obama's N.H. staff. SeeKatina Tsongas, Obama NH Staff, My.BarackObama.com. During her mother's campaign, "New Hampshire campaign volunteers from Barack Obama's presidential campaign [held signs for Niki Tsongas] throughout the district."