ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
Many organizations are strapped for cash this summer but not President Obama's campaign for re-election. It pulled in $86 million in the second quarter, according to the campaign committee.
SIEGEL: That is a massive amount of cash compared to the Republican presidential candidates, and we'll hear about their finances in a moment from NPR's Don Gonyea.
First, NPR's Peter Overby sizes up the Obama war chest.
PETER OVERBY: Fifty-five percent of the 86 million went to the president's re-election committee, Obama for America. Most of that money came from small donors. Forty-five percent went to the Democratic National Committee. Mostly from the big donors that President Obama has been wooing at fancy events this spring.
The Obama operation prefers to emphasize the grassroots side of things. That's what campaign manager Jim Messina did in an email sent to supporters early this morning.
Mr. JIM MESSINA (Campaign Manager, Obama for America): 552,462 people made a donation to this campaign in the first three months, more grassroots support at this point in the process than any campaign in political history.
OVERBY: Messina also talked about what the money buys for the campaign.
Mr. MESSINA: The most concrete example are field offices. We have already 60 up around the country with many more on the way.
OVERBY: That sunny presentation took on a sharper edge in a conference call with reporters. Here's Messina again talking about the 86 million figure.
Mr. MESSINA: This should end any chatter about our grassroots base. Our people are back and energized, and there's a new generation of supporters who have joined our organization.
OVERBY: And campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt noted that the Obama fundraisers don't take money from political action committees or registered lobbyists in Washington.
Mr. BEN LaBOLT (Press Secretary, Obama for America): Given the lack of grassroots enthusiasm surrounding some of the Republican candidates, it will be interesting to see to what extent they are relying on special interests and Washington lobbyists to fund their campaigns.
OVERBY: None of the campaigns, not President Obama's, not any of the Republicans', has disclosed its donors yet. Official reports have to be filed by midnight Friday. The campaign released a chart showing it has more than twice as many donors now as it did at this point in Mr. Obama's first campaign.
But political scientist Anthony Corrado says the Obama campaign is doing something else too, which may be even more significant.
Mr. ANTHONY CORRADO (Political Scientist): Setting up a joint fundraising operation this early on is a real break from the past.
OVERBY: He's talking about the extraordinarily tight arrangement between Obama for America and the DNC. He says it's important for three reasons.
Mr. CORRADO: First, the president can take much larger contributions at the party committee than he can in his campaign committee.
OVERBY: It's a difference of $30,500 versus just 5,000.
Mr. CORRADO: Second, those larger contributions are made on an annual basis.
OVERBY: So now, it's up to $61,000 per donor versus 5,000.
Mr. CORRADO: And third, the party can finance much of the voter identification, voter registration, voter turnout activity.
OVERBY: Things that otherwise would cost Obama for America tens of millions of dollars.
Republican veterans of the fundraising wars sounded resigned today but not daunted.
Mr. JAN BARAN (Campaign Finance Lawyer): Our experience tells us that President Obama is the grand champion of political fundraising.
OVERBY: This is campaign finance lawyer Jan Baran.
Mr. BARAN: And I think the Republicans accept the fact that whoever is the nominee is likely to have less money than President Obama.
OVERBY: A clear picture may not come till late winter, when the GOP primaries produce a nominee.
And, even then, Mr. Obama and that Republican will have to contend with the conservative American Crossroads, the liberal Priorities USA and other outside money groups that promise to spend millions in the presidential campaign.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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