Posted by: Joshua Gross | September 17, 2008

Obama goes to Hollywood

So the headlines have been blaring about a $28,500/plate fundraising dinner for Barack Obama last night, one attended by about 300 people (the usual Hollyweird crowd – Will Ferrell, Jodie Foster, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Lee Curtis, Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg…). Barbara Streisand was there singing, so I have to admit, I’m glad I wasn’t there.

But it raises a question. I am NOT an expert on presidential fundraising or the laws that govern it (I’m a policy/communications guy…important to “know thyself”), but if memory serves, the legal presidential contribution limit is $2300 per person, no corporate contributions allowed, and all of those people must be US citizens or legal residents, who in turn must also report home address, employer and occupation, etc.

So, if the legal limit is $2300, how do you even legally schedule a $28,500/plate dinner, and have the headline “Obama raises $9M at Hollywood fundraiser”? Isn’t the most Obama could raise from 300 people $690K? (I’m a policy guy ‘cuz I’m good with the math…) That sounds like more than twelve times the legal limit to me… or is there some weird loophole that lets celebrities give more than normal people?

(Paging Sunny Philips – your expertise is needed today… and we miss your blog)

These have been held previously – most notably one for Hillary in 2005. That one ended badly, with one of the fundraisers getting in federal trouble for breaking campaign finance laws, but for reporting misdeeds, not the clearly obvious “over the limit” thing (The the NY Times has a page up from 2007 that alleges a series of Clinton fundraising abuses.)

Interesting note – McCain, whose monstrous campaign finance law at the least complicates this issue, dinged Obama about the fundraiser with “celebrity friends” but not about the dollar amount.

So why is it legal to hold events that cost 12 times the legal contribution limit to get in? Anyone?



  1. I think McCain couldn’t ding him about the amount because the night before he was in Florida for a $50,000 a head dinner:

    I suspect the Obama event was a “party” fundraiser like the McCain event, where contribution limits that you and I understand are somehow inapplicable.

  2. BTW – I miss Sunny’s blog, too. I hate it when people give up blogging for stupid reasons like earning a living.

  3. I’ll see your Streisand and raise you The Donald and Lady Lynn Forrester de Rothschild.

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