Election 2008


A Los Angeles-based group called Californians for Obama has raised nearly $10,000. Only trouble is the presidential candidate hasn't seen one cent of it. Most of the money's has gone to the Californians for Obama founder - a guy named Emmett Cash III. Carla Marinucci wrote about Cash and his organization for the San Francisco Chronicle. She joins us now from Berkeley.

Welcome back to DAY TO DAY, Carla.

Ms. CARLA MARINUCCI (San Francisco Chronicle): Thank you, Alex.

COHEN: How did you find out about this group, Californians for Obama?

Ms. MARINUCCI: Well, Emmett Cash raised some eyebrows earlier this year, and even last week, opening campaign offices in San Bernardino, in Bakersfield in California. The problem is the Obama campaign doesn't have campaign offices in those cities. And looking into it, he had founded an organization last year that was unauthorized, unofficial - he said an independent supporter of Barack Obama. The problem is his Web site looks like the Barack Obama Web site and a lot of voters, and maybe donors, apparently thought he was affiliated with Barack Obama's campaign.

COHEN: Yeah. This Web site has got a picture of Obama on it. And one of the first things you notice is an ad on the site for a cruise to Mexico shared with powerful and power-filled women. I don't know if I even entirely understand that distinction. Carla, can you tell us a little bit about this cruise?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MARINUCCI: This is one of the many fundraising things that Mr. Cash had going for Californians for Obama - a $2,000 cruise to rub elbows with women like Eartha Kitt, Maya Angelou, Congresswoman Diane Watson. The problem - we contacted Eartha Kitt's representatives - she's going to be performing at the Carlyle Hotel during the days of this cruise.

COHEN: Whoops.

Ms. MARINUCCI: Maya Angelou is a supporter of Hillary Clinton. That also raised a few flags, in our view. You know, he says he made it clear that he was an independent group, he didn't speak for the campaign. It's in very small print on the campaign Web site - his campaign Web site.

COHEN: Carla, you actually got a hold of Emmett Cash III on the phone. What has he have to say for himself?

Ms. MARINUCCI: He says he has done nothing illegal, that he's a supporter of Barack Obama and he wanted to help Obama's efforts in California. It is interesting, though, that Mr. Cash was a registered Republican until just last month, we found out from the Los Angeles County voters registration offices. This is legal, Alex. Independent committees are up and running all the time in politics. And in the presidential campaign of 2008, the Internet has been a bonanza for fundraising, particularly for Barack Obama. This, I think, is an example of maybe the nasty underside of the Internet in campaign fund raising -that is, voter beware, donor beware. If you're going to donate to a presidential campaign, you'd better go to the official Web site and do it because there are apparently a lot of folks out there who want to do some fundraising on their own.

COHEN: Carla Marinucci is the political writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Thanks so much, Carla.

Ms. MARINUCCI: Thanks for having me.

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