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In 2008 Campaign, Money Isn't Everything

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In 2008 Campaign, Money Isn't Everything

Election 2008

In 2008 Campaign, Money Isn't Everything

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This week on MORNING EDITION we're looking at what fuels the race for the presidency, campaign money. And today we're looking at money given directly to the candidates.

We've called Tony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College in Maine and author of "Campaign Finance Reform: Beyond the Basics." He helped us to answer this question: is it unusual at all that the two remaining leading Republican contenders are John McCain - who had a lot of money, burned through it and ran out of money virtually - and Mike Huckabee - who's never had a lot of money.

Professor TONY CORRADO (Government, Colby College): One of the most interesting things about money in politics this year is it's showing us how many of the old conventions about how money is important are really up for challenge. And the Republican race is a great example. The candidates like Huckabee, who really had very little money, and John McCain, who had to borrow money to get through New Hampshire, really looked like they were going to be spent out of the race. But once the voters started to make their choices, they came roaring back, even though they were outspent in some cases 10 or 15 to one in some of these states.

INSKEEP: Nevertheless, nobody seems to be acting as though they think money doesn't matter anymore.

Professor CORRADO: No, that's certainly the case. In fact, one of the things I think that has been the focus is how much money the Democrats are raising. And that's why I think there'll be a lot of pressure now on the Republican side to start raising as much money as possible for John McCain.

INSKEEP: How are Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama fundraising bases different?

Professor CORRADO: Barack Obama has developed a much broader fundraising base. He has over 650,000 donors, which means in the days ahead, that he has more people he can ask for additional contributions. And many more people who can still give him campaign gifts, because they haven't given the maximum amount.

Hillary Clinton, for example, in 2007 half of her donors gave the maximum amount of $2,300. That's one of the reasons why we have seen him out-raising her during the months of January and February.

INSKEEP: I want to ask one other thing as you help us to track the money here. We've heard a lot of commentary about different demographic groups in the election. What if we break down the country by economic groups? Is it possible to say that corporate America is going for a candidate or that people of a certain income are going for a particular candidate?

Professor CORRADO: Most of the money, especially the bulk of the money that comes from these larger contributions tends to come from a very small elite -the top one percent in terms of wealth, especially in that crucial early stage of the race when things are still up for grabs - before Iowa and New Hampshire. You know, it tends to be the banking and finance industry. It tends to be attorneys. It tends to be individuals on the Democratic side in the entertainment industry or in the oil/gas industries on the Republican side that give a lot of the money because that's where the money is.

Now, what we're seeing is, as the race kind of opens up and as you move into more of a general election context, much more of that small donor money coming in. so the share of the big money will come down.

INSKEEP: Can you describe some of the perks that the campaigns have offered or that their fundraisers have offered to get people to fundraising events and to donate?

Professor CORRADO: Well, you know, one of the wonderful things about this year is that it's been so innovative. We've seen this year things like make a major contribution to Hillary Clinton and get the chance to workout on the bike with Bill Clinton in the morning. We've seen raffles where candidates have said to their online donors, make an online contribution today and you will be eligible to, you know, take a trip to New Orleans with one of the candidates to see the devastation that has occurred down there.

And I think my favorite have been the way that Ron Paul has used symbolic events to get people to give to his campaign. you know, having a special deliver a money bomb on Guy Fawkes Day or celebrating the Boston Tea Party with a big online fundraising effort, which has really I think in some ways made the online fundraising game fun to watch and fun for many of the people involved.

INSKEEP: Tony Corrado at Colby College. Thanks very much.

Professor CORRADO: Thank you.

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INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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