WASHINGTON — Democrat Barack Obama, who rewrote the book on presidential campaign fundraising, amassed more than $745 million during his marathon race, more than twice the amount obtained by his rival, Republican John McCain.
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In his latest finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission, Obama reported raising $104 million in more than five weeks immediately before and after Election Day on Nov. 4. It was his second-biggest fundraising period and a fitting coda to a successful presidential bid that shattered fundraising records.
In the end, Obama still had $30 million left over, raising questions about what he will do with the excess.
The campaign said more than 1 million contributors donated during the period, with more than half donating for the first time. Throughout the campaign, more than 3.95 million contributors gave to the eventual president-elect, his campaign said.
Obama's fundraising sum was more than the combined total of the two major parties' nominees four years ago. George W. Bush and John Kerry pulled in a total of $653 million in the 2004 primary and general election campaigns, including federal public financing money.
Obama's prowess at attracting money, one of the many characteristics that defined his campaign, could well spell the end of a 30-year experiment in public financing of presidential contests.
After initially vowing to take public funds if McCain did, Obama became the first presidential candidate since the campaign finance reforms of the 1970s to raise private donations during the general election.
The final numbers underscore how pivotal the two candidates' strategies were for funding their general election campaigns: McCain accepted $84 million in taxpayer money through the public financing system; Obama gambled that he could raise far more from private money.
The two campaigns spent identical amounts in June, $25.6 million each. But from there the numbers diverged widely, until a stretch in October when the Obama financial juggernaut swamped McCain. By then, the Democrat was outspending his rival four to one.
In one of the starkest examples of Obama's overpowering cash advantage, the campaign reported spending $62 million on media buys in his latest report covering the period from Oct. 15-Nov. 24. The amount far outdistanced the combined efforts of McCain's $9 million spent on advertising and the $34 million that the Republican National Committee spent during the same period on independent ads attacking Obama.
The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, couldn't escape one of its most awkward moments of the campaign. After spending nearly $150,000 on clothing and accessories for McCain's running mate Sarah Palin in September, the party reported spending more than $23,000 in additional accessories in the latest finance document, including $4,384 at Saks Fifth Ave. and $2,130 at Nieman Marcus.
"Accessories have been returned, inventoried, and will be appropriately dispersed to various charities," party spokesman Alex Conant said.
In the latest report, McCain spent a mere $26 million to Obama's $136 million. While McCain was limited to spending $84 million from September on, Obama spent $315 million during the same period. McCain tried to narrow that yawning gap with help from the Republican Party, which pumped in millions to promote his candidacy. The party spent $53 million alone on independent ads targeting Obama.
Obama ended with a cash balance of nearly $30 million. He still owed vendors nearly $600,000.
Speaking in his hometown of Chicago, Obama thanked his Illinois finance committee on Thursday night for helping him win the election, telling them it was not the end of their work but the beginning.
Obama made the remarks at a private club, where roughly 100 fundraisers had joined him and his wife, Michelle.
What distinguished Obama from his successful predecessors was his ability to motivate donors to give repeatedly, said Michael Malbin, director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, which studies money in politics.
"Obama persuaded an unusually large number of people to give more than once," Malbin said Thursday at an election law conference. The institute's research showed that 212,000 people were repeat givers who ended up giving a total of $200 or more, averaging $490 each.
Overall, the institute found that Obama collected about 26 percent of his total haul from people who gave less than $200 — about the same as President George W. Bush did in his 2004 campaign.
And like other campaigns, Obama's relied for nearly half of its fundraising on big donors, those who gave $1,000 or more, a finding that "should make one think twice before describing small donors as the financial engine of the Obama campaign," the institute reported.
Obama told the crowd in Chicago there was still work to be done, such as helping people find jobs and improving the nation's global standing.
"This is not goodbye; this is the start," he said.
Separately, Obama's donors were being asked to donate to Hillary Rodham Clinton as she scrambles to reduce her massive campaign debt before she becomes secretary of state and federal ethics rules limit her fundraising, an Obama adviser said Thursday night.
At the beginning of November, Clinton owed $7.5 million to vendors from her failed presidential bid, according to campaign finance records. Obama cannot use his leftover cash to help his former rival.
But his surplus could prove to be a political asset. Obama could contribute to members of Congress, whom he will need on his side to support his agenda. He could also donate it all to the Democratic National Committee, or save it for a 2012 reelection effort.
Also Thursday, Obama met with California Congressman Xavier Becerra to discuss the job of U.S. trade representative.
Becerra, a Democrat just elected to his ninth term representing Los Angeles, is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and an ally of House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.
He has fought for labor protections in trade agreements, leading opposition to the Central American free-trade pact because he thought it was too weak in that area.
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