Obama Fundraising Shows Focus on New Technologies While superPACs are turning out to be some of the biggest moneymakers this election season, President Obama, so far, has stayed old school. He is raising funds for his traditional campaign committee, Obama for America, and a party fund that he can use.
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Obama Fundraising Shows Focus on New Technologies

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Obama Fundraising Shows Focus on New Technologies

Obama Fundraising Shows Focus on New Technologies

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Those numbers from President Obama show that he's doing quite well raising money the old fashioned way. There's his own campaign committee and the DNC and all of those donations are regulated and limited in size by the Federal Election Commission.

Here's NPR's Andrea Seabrook on the president's fundraising and spending.

ANDREA SEABROOK, BYLINE: In the last three months of 2011, the Obama campaign raised $68 million. Compare that to the Romney campaign's $24 million and Gingrich's under $10 million raised over the same quarter. The numbers come from new disclosure reports filed to the Federal Election Commission. The president's campaign committee, Obama for America, reported it took contributions from more than half a million people in that quarter, 200,000 of them brand new donors to his campaign. Now, that's looking at a candidate's fundraising prowess.

Another important measure is how a campaign is spending its money and that's where Mr. Obama's numbers get really interesting.

CLAY JOHNSON: You know, they spent a million bucks in the quarter, basically, on technology.

SEABROOK: Clay Johnson is the author of "The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption." He says he's not surprised to see that the Obama campaign spent about as much on Internet ads as it did on postage, more than $2 million.

JOHNSON: Now, the online advertising and the postage, that's about either getting new people into the campaign or convincing people to donate, but the million dollars and a quarter on technology is about creating infrastructure.

SEABROOK: The campaign spent close to $400,000 on software and Web hosting. It reports spending more than $600,000 on computer equipment, more than $43,000 at Apple stores just in October, November and December. Johnson says that's evidence that Team Obama is ramping up a broad digital campaign and that would make sense, given how his campaign operated in 2008.

JOHNSON: It's interesting to watch what candidates experiment with because the things that are successful are the things that are going to be super big the next time around.

SEABROOK: For example, then candidate Barack Obama announced his hotly anticipated V.P. pick via text message. The move was so popular it drove people to sign up to receive campaign texts.

This time around the campaign reports it's already spent $65,000 on text messaging last quarter alone, or Johnson remembers playing X Box in 2008, one of those race car driving games. He veered around the track and, swoosh, he passes a virtual billboard advertising for the Obama campaign.

Voters in Iowa saw a taste of that kind of digital strategy on January 3rd. Anyone who looked at the main Iowa newspaper for a little research before heading out to the caucuses saw the Obama campaign getting into gear.

JOHNSON: They bought the Des Moines Register front page, basically, and used it as an attack on all the Republican candidates on the Iowa caucuses day.

SEABROOK: Another clue to the Obama campaign strategy this year are a few payments it made to a small tech company called Square. For a look at that, Johnson and I head down to Chinatown Coffee near NPR's headquarters.

JOHNSON: I'll have just a medium latte.

JOSH CARLSTON: You want that for here or to go?


SEABROOK: Barista Josh Carlston(ph) taps on the slim screen of an iPad, then takes Johnson's credit card.

CARLSTON: I'm just going to run it through on the little square card reader right here.

SEABROOK: The card reader is a one inch square, the size of the base of a Hershey's kiss. It generates its own power by the swipe itself in moments, processing the credit card transaction and shooting the receipt to Johnson's email.

The Obama campaign says after trying out Square last quarter, it's buying hundreds of them this year, vastly reducing the time, money and effort it takes to raise and process donations and potentially turning every volunteer into a digital fundraiser.

Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington.



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