By Daniel Politi, Today’s Papers, Slate Magazine
USA Today leads with an analysis that shows “independent political groups” have spent $17.3 million in the first three months of the year, which is more than double what was spent during the same period in the 2004 presidential contest. The vast majority of that money has helped Democrats (around 80 percent), although, of course, that’s seen as a result of the drawn out battle between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. “We can expect to see much more money,” a campaign finance expert said.
The top beneficiary of the spending by independent groups has been Obama. Between Jan. 1 and March 31, $7.4 million was used to help the Illinois senator, most of which came from a labor union. Comparatively, independent groups have spent $5.4 million to aid Clinton’s candidacy.
In related news, the WP off-leads a look at how, despite Obama’s claim that he has created a “parallel public financing system,” he still relies on rich bundlers for much of his money. The paper doesn’t deny that Obama has raised lots of money from small-time, individual donors and points out that about half of his money has come from donations of $200 or less. But for the other half of the whopping $240 million he has raised, Obama has, just like the other contenders, relied on rich, well-connected people. Seventy-nine bundlers have helped raise at least $200,000 each, and much of it came from typical Democratic donors, such as Hollywood stars and trial lawyers. But Obama has also managed to get newcomers into the bundling game, including many who had never made a contribution to a presidential campaign.
In other news from the campaign trail, everyone points out that Sen. John McCain switched his position on how much the government should help homeowners who are having trouble keeping up with mortgage payments. He had been criticized for taking a largely hands-off approach and saying the government shouldn’t “reward those who act irresponsibly.” But yesterday he put forward a plan that “included a heavy dose of policy more typically associated with Democrats,” says the WSJ. The plan would aid homeowners who are having trouble making their payments, but McCain insisted that it won’t help speculators and investors.
The LAT notes inside that “a long-standing Philadelphia ritual” involves political candidates handing out “street money” to Democratic operatives in the city who then mostly give it out as a sort of payment to the “foot soldiers” working to get out the vote. It’s perfectly legal, but it seems Obama’s campaign is telling local leaders that it won’t pay up. Neither Clinton nor Obama is publicly talking about whether they’ll hand out the money. But some ward leaders say that Obama’s campaign has made it clear it won’t pay up and are warning that this could hurt Obama’s chances in the April 22 primary. “It’s our tradition,” a ward leader said. “You don’t come to someone’s house and change the rules of someone’s house. That’s just respect.”